From E-Commerce to the “Internet Economy”

From the President’s Desk:

By Peter M. Robinson

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

If you’re like me, in the last ten years you’ve probably gone through at least five or six laptops or personal computers, and a similar number of cell phones and mobile devices.  For a few people, trading up to the latest model can be a hassle.  For others, an opportunity.  For still others, an obsession (think iPhone).  But we all have to do it, to keep pace with the new features and services technology brings us.

Back in 1998, ministers from OECD member governments met in Ottawa with the heads of other international organizations, industry leaders and representatives of consumer, labor and social interests to discuss the emerging area of electronic commerce.  In what has come to be seen as a watershed event, participants sought to clarify their respective roles, discuss priorities, and develop plans to promote the development of global e-commerce.

At the time of the Ottawa ministerial, the Internet was still quite new for most of us, and e-commerce was viewed of as a distinct form of economic activity.  Ottawa’s success and lasting legacy were anchored in the forward-looking, high-level policy principles adopted there.  Indeed, it is those policy principles that have had an important role in the continued evolution of the Internet and its economic and social importance.

Since 1998, we have seen the development of a true “Internet economy” – a vast increase in access and participation on the web for social, creative and commercial purposes.  New applications have sprung up: the Internet is a platform for voice and data communications, computing, dissemination of video, social networking and an incubator for emerging business models.  It has become a key driver of innovation and a means for conducting all commerce – rather than a unique type of strictly “e-commerce.”

In 1998, we were moving from client server-based systems to Internet-based systems and witnessing the emergence of the Web as a commercial medium.  Now we are seeing the emergence of Web 2.0, which forms not just a significant business evolution but, perhaps more profoundly, a social revolution based on social networking.  This in turn is providing openings for entirely new business models.  IBM, for example, now holds business meetings in the popular Second Life platform.

How can we keep the innovative process moving forward, and broaden it to encompass more of the world?  These are questions the OECD will again take up, at next June’s ministerial in Seoul on “The Future of the Internet Economy.”  OECD members and other key actors – including high-level participants from the business community – will assess the state of the Internet economy and look forward to tomorrow’s challenges.

The Seoul ministerial will focus on three key themes: convergence, of networks, of technological platforms, and of business models; creativity, including support for innovation, cultural diversity and freedom of expression; and confidence, including measures to build trust and security on the Internet, while ensuring its continued accessibility for the data flows that fuel commerce and so many other activities.

Business will have a number of opportunities to interact ministers and other top officials, including at a BIAC-sponsored stakeholder meeting, ministerial roundtables and various social events.  Ministers from several non-OECD member states (including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as well as Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Chile, Israel, Singapore, Thailand and Senegal) will also be invited.

USCIB, through close cooperation with the U.S. government and BIAC, has sought to encourage the OECD to build upon the success of Ottawa.  Strong company representation in Seoul is essential to ensure continued adherence to the fundamental policy and regulatory principles that have fostered the Internet’s remarkable growth in the past decade.

Carefully crafted policy and regulatory frameworks will ensure that the Internet – and the applications, businesses and services that operate over it – can continue to flourish in the coming decade as well, so that people everywhere can participate more fully in our increasingly integrated global society.

Mr. Robinson’s bio and contact information

More on USCIB’s Information, Communications & Technology Committee


Previous postings from Mr. Robinson:

Business and Human Rights, Revisited (Spring 2007)

The Internet’s Continued Growth Requires Careful Choices (Autumn 2006)

Securing the Promise of Nanotechnology (Summer 2006)

Making Progress in the Fight Against Fakes (Spring 2006)

What makes all this innovation possible?  A lot of things have contributed to the rapid development of information technologies and the Internet these past ten years.  One key factor has been good policy choices on the part of governments, many of which have opted wisely not to inhibit the growth of Internet-enabled innovation.  And a crucial forum for discussing Internet policy options has been the OECD.

Staff Contact:   Barbara Wanner

VP, ICT Policy & Managing Director, Washington Office
Tel: 202.617.3155

Barbara Wanner directs USCIB’s work on information, communications and technology issues. She works with members and government officials on a wide range of international business issue that include advocating for the continuation of the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and for policies aimed at promoting the stability, openness and innovative flexibility of the Internet. She represents USCIB members’ interests in several international forums, including the UN, APEC and the OECD.
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