USCIB Members Enrich Discussions at Internet Governance Forum

4625_image001USCIB co-organized two workshops at the 8th Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which took place October 21-25 in Bali, Indonesia, enabling USCIB members and other stakeholder groups to make important substantive contributions on Internet governance, mobile telephony and use of the cloud in emerging economies, and the economic engine of digital trade.

At the IGF, some 2,000 participants from business, government, civil society and the technical community participated in nearly 250 workshops aimed at exploring such varied topics as the principles of Internet governance and the multi-stakeholder model of governance, the Internet as an engine for growth and sustainable development, and human rights, freedom of expression, and free flow of information on the Internet.

Mobile communications’ expanding reach

On October 22, Jacquelyn Ruff (Verizon Communications), moderated a standing-room-only workshop on “Mobile & Cloud Computing in Emerging Economies.” It featured commentary from speakers representing a broad cross-section of regional and stakeholder interests, including Verena Weber (OECD), Rohan Samarajiva (LIRNEasia) and João Barros (University of Porto, Portugal). The session focused on the developmental promise for emerging economies from mobile telephony and cloud computing capabilities due to their enormous potential in the next five years, when 90 percent of the world population is expected to have access to mobile coverage.

Key points raised at the workshop included:

  • Cloud computing services can be provided in emerging economies at a low cost and an energy-efficient way. However, cloud computing services can only be used if an Internet infrastructure wired or wireless broadband is in place providing a low latency and robust Internet connection to cloud users.
  • Greater efforts have to be made to connect more individuals, businesses, and government agencies to the Internet, so that developing countries can benefit from cloud computing. Another major infrastructure challenge is the lack of electricity or a reliable electricity supply in many regions to move content to the cloud and to run computers.
  • Trust among nations was also underlined as crucial for cloud computing development. Ultimately, though, the customer is key, along with technology, bandwidth, electricity and the need for redundancy or remote location as sources of confidence.

Spotlight on trade barriers

The following day, Richard Beaird (Wiley Rein) moderated another well-attended discussion on “Global Trade, Local Rules, & Internet Governance.” It featured commentary by Joseph Alhadeff (Oracle), vice chair of USCIB’s Information, Communications and Technology Committee, as well as Ruff, Samarajiva, and Sam Paltridge (OECD). The panel focused on the importance of supporting internet-enabled economic growth and how the erection of trade and regulatory barriers can impede such developmental benefits.

Workshop highlights included:

  • The proliferation of smart phones has caused an exponential rise in the use of data, but some solutions aimed at upgrading local telecom networks to meet these demands – adaptations of the sending-party-networks pays (SPNP) approach – work at cross-purposes by creating  unnecessary barriers to content-sharing across borders and operators.
  • Market-driven solutions remain the best approach. In an analysis of phone calls (frequency and duration) made from the U.S. to Africa and India, it was found that the traffic to India has increased tremendously over the last 10 years. This is due to the competitive market forces in India that have driven down termination rates, which at the same time have increased in Africa. Such actions create barriers for communication and trade in Africa.
  • The digital ecosystem is complex and overlapping. A change in one element creates a reaction and possibly a constraint on another aspect. While localized strategies may seem beneficial to an economy (or are security- or capacity-driven), they may in fact have negative effects on innovation and contain an underlying constraint.
  • Active multi-stakeholder discussions are of utmost importance to break the silo effect and create necessary agreements and polices from the trade world that support digital products.

NSA surveillance revelations

According to Barbara Wanner, USCIB’s vice president for information, communications and technology policy, the controversy surrounding revelations of unauthorized surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency informed much of the commentary of the IGF, particularly in light of new reports of NSA surveillance of countries such as France and Germany. She said that, in the wake of the NSA revelations, Brazil’s recent proposal to host a meeting in May 2014 to consider new ways of Internet governance dominated formal program discussion at the IGF as well as informal “hallway” consultations.

In an October 24 meeting with members of the International Chamber of Commerce’s BASIS (Business Action to Support the Information Society) initiative, which includes USCIB, Brazilian officials said that the conference would include all stakeholders. A goal they would like to see is the development of a set of new principles for governance of cyberspace.

Details concerning the Brazilian initiative changed and evolved throughout the IGF week – and likely will continue to evolve in the coming weeks. ICC-BASIS, USCIB, and other business participants are still assessing what the May conference will mean and how to shape its development. Click here to read more about ICC’s presence in Bali on the ICC website.

Staff contact: Barbara Wanner

More on USCIB’s Information, Communications and Technology Committee


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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