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Internet Governance Forum 2015: Opening speech by ICC BASIS member Hossam Elgamal, Joao Pessoa, Brazil 9 November 2015

Internet Governance Forum 2015: Opening speech by ICC BASIS member Hossam Elgamal, Joao Pessoa, Brazil 9 November 2015

My name is Hossam El Gamal, I am an Egyptian entrepreneur, who founded several ICT-based SMEs, and I am also a board member of the African ICT alliance that gathers the business community from over 20 African countries. I am on the IGF MAG and I am part of the leadership of Business Action to Support Information Society, an initiative led by the International Chamber of Commerce, known as ICC BASIS.

I’m pleased to have this opportunity to share my perspective as an SME and an entrepreneur from a developing country.

Rapid changes in ICTs and Internet connectivity have made it possible for SMEs with minimal infrastructure investment to scale up and to trade across borders, entering the global economy.

The kinds of connectivity benefits for SMEs include:

  • Reaching customers and diversifying markets
  • Accessing timely market information,
  • Creating new opportunities and means to innovate,
  • Bringing more women entrepreneurs into the marketplace,
  • Realizing agility and responsiveness to market vulnerabilities
  • Crowdsourcing ideas and funds for specific projects
  • Access to Internet and mobile banking services,

In short, ICTs and the Internet are helping SMEs around the world to become more productive and more commercially competitive than ever before.

And this is of great benefit to all the society.

Still more needs to be done from a policy perspective to ensure better access that is competitive, stable and secure.

Micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises are vectors for job creation – particularly for women and for youth.

And because 90% of all companies around the world are SMEs and 60% of all of the world’s employees are employed by SMEs, more must be done to engage the SME community, particularly in developing economies.

Every effort should also be made to enhance the capacity of women to access and use the Internet. According to one study, enabling Internet access for another 150 million women and girls has the potential to open up a market opportunity between 50 and 70 billion dollars that would support developing economies.

Bringing the next billion online to benefit from the information society requires, among other things:

  • Policy support for swifter access,
  • Reducing ICT investment risks,
  • Enhancing capacity building
  • Facilitating local business innovation,
  • Encouraging local content creation and
  • Strengthening institutional capacities.

Also international multistakeholder policy support is necessary to address cyber security and privacy to maintain a stable, secure and trusted Internet.

There are many great stories to tell about the potential of the Internet and how it has changed lives of people in developing countries.

We can speak of health and the mobile applications saving lives from epidemic diseases in Nigeria,

Or the Telemedicine local solutions providing consultations and diagnoses, improving care to patients in remote underdeveloped areas in Egypt.

We can speak of education and examples of local e-learning platforms and content made available to bridge the knowledge gap and improve equality through access for the least developed regions.

The Internet enables also funding alternatives such as crowdsourcing for innovative solutions and creating an advanced and healthy ecosystem for young entrepreneurs.

Much has been achieved to date but there is certainly more to do ahead to connect the next billion and beyond.

The IGF is so meaningful to the business community, including SMEs.

At this forum, we have a unique opportunity to engage in candid and constructive discussions with governments, the technical community, academics and civil society, all contributing valuable perspective.

This method of dynamic and substantive exchange must be safeguarded so that every stakeholder, including small business, can further harvest the benefits of connected ICTs.

At this crucial juncture in the history of the IGF, we must encourage efforts to bring Internet access to all global citizens – improving cultural and linguistic diversity, expanding local content and developing tools that promote access for those with disadvantages.

Getting more SMEs and Startups from Developing countries engaged would certainly give opportunity to discuss challenges first hand, as well as local industry success stories. This will help to better shape policies to enable the Information Society in Developing Countries and to achieve the sustainable development goals.

I very much look forward to working with all of you to advance on these important topics. I wish you a most enriching IGF and thank you again for this opportunity to address you today.