Business expertise is essential for a thriving digital economy – ICC BASIS tells policymakers at IGF 2017

  • 17 December 2017

The 12th Internet Governance Forum kicks off today in Geneva. On the eve of Day One, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Business Action to Support the Information Society (BASIS) initiative hosted a multistakeholder session to encourage greater understanding of the mutually reinforcing role businesses and other relevant stakeholders can play in ensuring the benefits of ICT are both widespread and empowering for citizens.

Convening business, governments and other stakeholders the session explored  how to ensure effective and future-orientated policy approaches for the digital economy.

Businesses in developed and developing countries contribute expertise and experience to support the digital economy in multiple ways. This includes through capacity building, education initiatives, promoting innovation, public-private research and development partnerships and improving understanding of how ICT works in practice. But to reap the benefits that information and communication technology (ICT) and private sector activity have to offer, policymakers must create legal and regulatory frameworks that encourage investment and support innovation.

Ellen Blackler of Disney and a BASIS member said: “I think our conversation today has shown that an enabling environment for the digital economy goes well beyond ICT policy. That is the challenge we all face; to recognize linkages. To drive the digital economy forward you need to have the broad view.”

Dominique – “The IGF should be the place to discuss issues. With many new fora emerging there risks a dilution of the discussion. The IGF needs to retain its position as the best place to bring all stakeholders together.”

The IGF is a multistakeholder event seeking to convene all stakeholders to discuss policy issues pertaining to the Internet. It comprises four official days of interactive discussion on the efforts needed to ensure and an enabling policy environment for the digital economy. The pre-event brought together business leaders and government representatives both familiar with and new to the IGF under the theme: Leveraging business expertise to foster an enabling environment for the digital economy.

Macedonian diplomat Jivan Gjorgjinski, a Senior Advisor in the Multilateral Affairs Directorate in the Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Over 15 years, we have seen a lot of interaction between stakeholder groups and they have gotten to know each other better and are in interested in the others positions. We’ve come to a moment, where it is seen how important it is for them to create the next steps together.”

Businesses large and small participated in the multistakeholder session which highlighted how private sector activity and investment in ICT infrastructure, content and services are key to spreading meaningful access and addressing and advancing all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Carolyn Nguyen of Microsoft who moderated the session said: “Realising the SDGs and the potential for digital transformation requires a sustained level of investment from governments, industry, international organisations, development banks and other institutions. We’ve learned that without growth, investment is not sustainable and by consequence realization of the SDGs is seriously hampered.”

Participants from the technical community and civil society shared their respective expertise and experiences on the social, technical, economic and governance factors that contribute to leveraging ICT for societal benefit in developed and developing countries.

Rob Strayer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy said: “Extended use of the Internet and evolution of technology in last few decades has produced tremendous economic growth. This growth has also brought challenges in terms of social structures, political processes and connectivity around the world. Some nation states have responded by disrupting service, which punishes small- and medium-sized businesses the most. We got to where we are today through a multistakeholder model of robust, inclusive engagement to solve problems.  Going forward the greatest threat is likely to be a tendency to think of things as a centralized, top down structure as the best solution to challenges.”

The recent ICC policy statement on ICT, Policy and Sustainable Economic Development was shared at the event as a useful tool for policymakers seeking to understand how to leverage ICT for the SDGs.

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