Information flows across borders at an unprecedented pace. Few aspects of our lives remain untouched by the digital economy, and new challenges have arisen in this context. Meeting these challenges requires all stakeholders to develop new digital economy policies. From June 21 to 23, OECD ministers and stakeholders gathered in Cancún, Mexico, for an OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy: Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity to move the digital agenda forward in four key policy areas considered foundational to the growth of the digital economy — Internet openness; trust in the digital economy; building global connectivity; and the transformation of jobs and skills.
Toward this end, participants issued the Cancún Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy. Among other elements, the Declaration recognizes that the OECD’s Internet Policy Principles (IPPs), Consumer Protection in E-commerce, Digital Security Risk Management for Economic and Social Prosperity, Cryptography Policy and Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data, serve as an invaluable suite of frameworks to further guide the development of coherent policies for an increasingly digitalized economy.
The Declaration then sets forth nine key commitments, which include, first and foremost, supporting the free flow of information. Other commitments emphasize the importance of stimulating digital innovation and creativity, increasing broadband connectivity, embracing the opportunities arising from emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things and cloud computing, and promoting digital security risk management and the protection of privacy at the highest level of leadership, among other priorities.
Although the Ministerial examined four key policy areas, the issue of restoring user trust in the online environment emerged as a recurring theme across all sessions. During the June 22 opening plenary, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker acknowledged that while digital technologies have become a driving force of job creation, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the 21st century, they also bring new challenges related to cybersecurity and privacy. She urged that countries continue to rely upon the OECD’s IPPs for guidance and avoid “throwing up digital walls” through data localization and other policies and regulations that block legitimate cross-border data flows.
“We expect such policies from authoritarian regimes that want to isolate their people – not from nations that welcome the global exchange of ideas and commerce,” Pritzker said.
During the June 23 closing ceremony, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria described the Ministerial Declaration as providing a forward-looking roadmap for how the digital economy can improve our lives. During the next two years, the OECD will examine in consultation with all stakeholders the “homework” that must be undertaken to prepare for the next phases of digitalization. This will include addressing the “deficit of data” needed to effectively measure the digital economy. Gurria underscored the importance of leadership from the top.
“We all leave Mexico with clear marching orders of policies to promote in our countries [which will mean] rethinking our policies from tax, to trade, to transportation through a digital lens,” Gurria said.
Business Stakeholder Day
During the Ministerial, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD, together with the Mexican business federation COPARMEX, hosted a Business Stakeholder day dedicated to Unleashing the Benefits of Innovation in the Global Information Society. Close to 30 speakers and 300 business and government delegates were in attendance.
In his opening remarks, BIAC Secretary General Bernhard Welschke called for comprehensive measures to foster the growth potential of the digital economy. “Innovation is the key driver of growth for our economies and societies,” Welschke said. Ambassador Pérez-Jácome, the Mexican Ambassador from the permanent delegation of Mexico to the OECD, emphasized that “creating the conditions to foster innovation, investment and labor mobility is crucial to grasp the benefits of the digital economy.” BIAC’s Mexican Vice Chair José Ignacio Mariscal Torroella, also pointed to the importance of the digital economy for the growth potential and role of Mexico in the global economy.
Business participants from a variety of sectors and countries explored framework conditions that create the optimum enabling environment for success in the digital economy and information society: Infrastructure, Innovation, Information flows, Intellectual capital, Investment and Integration. They also drilled down into the innovation element, examining adequate policy conditions to ensure that the innovation capacity, creativity and fruitful ideas can be transformed into useful services and products.
Both USCIB President Peter Robinson and Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg moderated panels, on “Framework Conditions for Success in the Digital Economy” and “Workforce Development and Mobility,” respectively, as did USCIB members Peter Davidson, SVP of Verizon, on “Enabling the Benefits of Innovation” and Dorothy Attwood, SVP of Walt Disney, on “Promoting Trade, Inclusion, and Trust”.
“A clear takeaway was that a balanced policy framework that encourages creativity and innovation, and fosters trust, is necessary to realize the benefits of the digital economy,” Robinson said. “And OECD plays an important role in offering tools and policies to guide governments forward.”
In addition, business stakeholders offered their own views on fostering consumer trust in the online environment through policies aimed at optimizing the benefits of data flows while recognizing security and privacy concerns. Mirroring the Ministerial’s focus on job transformation in the digital economy, speakers provided the business perspective on the challenges of developing and maintaining workforce skills in an ever-evolving global digital economy.
In parallel to the stakeholder conference, the business community in partnership with the OECD and the Government of Mexico developed a 24-hour Hackathon – an app developer contest – that attracted nearly 200 participants between the ages of 18 to 29 from both OECD and non-OECD member countries, who competed in 37 teams of 3-6 people.
The Hackathon, working under the theme “Connected Communities, Connected Lives” provided an opportunity for Ministers and stakeholders to observe the creative process of youth as they cultivated their digital skills and developed apps to address a particular local or global challenge.
Developers competed to win over $20,000 in cash awards, mentorship opportunities and other prizes, for apps targeted towards the categories of Cultural Heritage; Smart Cities; Social Inclusion; and, Entrepreneurship.
This has been an exciting example of public-private collaboration here at the 2016 Digital Economy Ministerial,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson at a special awards presentation for the Hackathon winning teams on June 22. “This contest demonstrated that the potential for innovative talent knows no boundaries.
The grand prize went to the team Nisi Vitae, who created an application that enables a user to quickly and automatically provide all medical information to emergency response personnel when calling for an ambulance. Nisi Vitae also won the Smart City award.
Other category prize winners included Time Stamps in the Cultural Heritage category, who created an app designed to make studying history more immersive for teenagers; VR-ehab in the Social Inclusion category, who created an app that converts physical rehabilitation into a game using an Android Virtual Reality environment and a hand movement detection system; and Autonomi in the Entrepreneurship category, who created an app aimed at increasing security and independence for the visually impaired.
The Hackathon was made possible by the generous support of the following sponsors: AT&T, Cisco, Disney, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Verisign, and the Internet Technical Advisory Committee to the OECD (ITAC).
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“A balanced and comprehensive policy approach is necessary to reap the benefits of the digital economy”, said Welschke at the opening of OECD Ministerial meeting on the Digital Economy in Cancun on June 22. “It is crucial to set the right policy context if we want to leverage the full potential of innovation in globalized and increasingly information-oriented economies, to promote trade, inclusion and trust.”
BIAC participants from a variety of sectors pointed to innovative business models and applications, emerging technologies on cloud computing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things as areas with significant potential for economic growth and social benefit.
BIAC’s business messages and recommendations to the minsters call for policies that are grounded in the OECD’s Internet Policy Principles. Specifically, business advocates policies that: serve to foster business innovation; provide for open, fair and competitive markets; respect intellectual property rights, and effective systems to enforce those rights; encourage the adoption of emerging ICTs; raise awareness of digital privacy and digital security risk and develop tools and practices to manage those risks; and avoid unduly restricting the movement of data between companies on the domestic level and across borders. Skills development also is key for the mobility of workers, their competence and their resilience to labor market change.