Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) hold tremendous potential to create economic opportunity, address social challenges and include everyone in the digital economy. In just a few years, the Internet and related technologies have gone from being mere tools to supporting the foundation of the entire global economy. As an editorial in The New York Times today noted, about half of the world’s population had mobile phone service last year, while one-third of all people used mobile networks to connect to the Internet. Countries that can better leverage the Internet to serve their needs will prosper.
Everybody stands to benefit from the Internet. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has pioneered the multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance, ensuring that governments, businesses, members of the technical community and civil society are engaged in dialogues about how the Internet is managed. It is crucial that policymakers understand the role the OECD plays as a forum for building consensus around principles in the ICT space, helping to inform policies that both tap the transformational potential of the Internet for economic growth while ensuring that the benefits of that growth are distributed deeply into society.
To that end, USCIB partnered with the OECD and the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) to host the ICT conference “Promoting Inclusive Growth in the Digital Economy: The Evidence and Practice Base,” to highlight the OECD’s role in framing policy discussions about the future of the Internet. During this day-long conference, sessions focused on why the ICT sector warrants engagement with all stakeholders, how to enable the benefits of digital innovation across all sectors and what the best ways are to promote trade, inclusion and trust in the digital ecosystem.
“Never has a strong business role in this area been more important than now,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson in his opening remarks. “It’s important for business executives and government officials to recognize the unique role OECD plays to involve all stakeholders to tap the potential of the Internet.”
Many speakers weighed in on the OECD’s role in shaping the digital economy, including Andrew Wyckoff, the director of the OECD Directorate for Science and Technology, Christopher Painter, U.S. Department of State coordinator for cyber issues and Houlin Zhao, secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union.
Over 100 representatives from government, business, the technical community and the OECD attended the conference. Keynote addresses included an overview of Mexico’s national plan to scale up its ICT infrastructure by Raul Rendon Montemayor, director general for innovation, services and domestic commerce at Mexico’s Ministry of Economy, as well as a review of U.S. efforts to protect privacy and data security in an increasingly connected world by U.S. Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill.
“Basic consumer protection principles apply to exciting new technologies,” Brill concluded. “We need to keep consumers front and center.”
Ensuring multi-stakeholder engagement
The OECD stands at the precipice of a global conversation about connectivity that has brought 3 billion people together. During the conference keynote luncheon discussion, deputy assistant secretary of state Daniel Sepulveda, who will serve as vice chair of the OECD steering group for the 2016 Digital Economy Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico, talked about how to ensure that this new connectivity fosters innovation, lifts people out of poverty, increases the productivity of workers, raises wages, and supports the interconnectivity of supply chains.
Sepulveda reiterated that the multi-stakeholder Internet governance model pioneered by the OECD is necessary because it produces better outcomes. He also warned that there is no guarantee that the Internet will evolve in a way that will allow all stakeholders to use it safely and equally. To achieve the twin goals of fairness and safety, governments must embrace the OECD’s principles on digital inclusion and data privacy so as to maximize the benefits of the digital economy.
Participants agreed that private sector opportunities to invest, good infrastructure and cross-border data flows are essential for leveraging the Internet’s transformational power to address economic challenges and raise living standards. The OECD’s multi-stakeholder model has much to be admired, and even though key challenges remain – such as how to properly organize the participation of stakeholders to tap their particular expertise – the best defense of the multi-stakeholder governance model lies in the current resilience and dynamism of the Internet.
The conference ended with a warning about the dangers of forced localization requirements as they relate to the flow of information from one country to another.
“Leveraging the benefits of the cloud doesn’t mean it has to be in your country,” said Joseph Alhadeff, vice president of global public policy at Oracle and chair of BIAC’s Committee on Digital Economy Policy. “The utility of the technology is worth more than its physical location.”
View conference photos (Flickr)