ICC highlights getting Internet policy right boosts economic growth

  • 26 November 2009

To spur economic recovery and drive growth, there must be awareness among world leaders to the advantages of getting Internet policy right.

Speaking at a recent ICC Business Action to Support the Information Society (BASIS) workshop, held in partnership with the government of Lithuania, panellists determined that leaders were not fully aware of the long-term benefits and job creation potential of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Responding to a question from Ambassador David Gross, former US Coordinator for International Information and Communications Policy and a partner at the law firm of Wiley Rein, who attended the workshop, Aurimas Matulis, Director, Information Society Development Committee under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania said: “It is easier to convince governments to engage in short-term projects but more difficult to persuade them to invest in projects where benefits won’t be seen for years.”

Countering the suggestion that ICTs contribute to jobless growth only, Joseph Alhadeff, Oracle Vice President, Global Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer said that although jobs in the sector initially required high level skills, the job opportunities further down the line would be considerable. BASIS member Mr Alhadeff outlined the key elements of an environment that enables ICT-driven economic growth. He referred to the six ‘I’ elements – infrastructure, innovation, investment, information flows, intellectual capacity, integration (meaning trade) – that make up APEC’s Digital Prosperity Checklist. The list aims to help economies determine whether their policy frameworks are designed to positively impact the capacity of ICTs to generate value. Mr Alhadeff also brought to light two “I”s that were often stumbling blocks to success; implementation and inclusion.

Desiree Miloshevic of the Oxford Internet Institute gave insight into the effects of the recent economic downturn on Internet Governance and its process according to initial findings of the Oxford Internet Institute Policy Forum discussion paper: The New Economic Context of Internet governance. The survey includes case studies such as the US stimulus bill, which had played a role in job creation and boosted interest in the sector.

While initial findings indicated that there was no immediate evidence that the economic downturn had caused any changes or call for changes in the roles of stakeholders in Internet governance processes, she questioned whether there would be more regulation or more liberalization as a result of the crisis.

Ms Miloshevic said that governments in mature markets tended to use stimulus packages to protect existing industries. She said there was some concern that emphasis was placed on the national rather than the global level. ”The Internet is the oil that makes everything run smoothly,” she said urging governments to support Internet development and recognize it as an essential driver of economies.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Mohamed Elnawawy, Vice President for Corporate Stategy at Telecom Egypt, who demonstrated how the private sector was instrumental in putting in place and maintaining the resilient infrastructures required for success.

Nermine El Saadany Director of International Relations Division, Ministry of Communications and Technology, said that Egypt had achieved 14.6% growth in 2008 and had been able to absorb the shock of the financial crisis because the right Internet and ICT foundations had been laid from the onset. Ms El Saadany said that open dialogue is a must for the ICT sector. “Governments cannot stay in their offices without consulting those responsible for implementing policies,” she said. “We had to think about partnering with the private sector for its dynamism, experience and flexibility.”

Herbert Heitmann, Chair of ICC’s Commission on E-Business, IT and Telecoms, and Chief Communications Officer at SAP moderated the workshop. Mr Heitmann concluded the workshop by saying that though the workshop had highlighted many promising examples of highly flexible regulations stimulating economic growth there was clearly a lot more that could be done to bring other sectors into the loop.