ICC hosts meeting at CeBIT on challenges facing ICT growth

  • 17 March 2007

In a first-ever meeting on the sidelines of CeBIT, the world’s largest information technology trade fair of its kind, ministers and CEOs agreed today to increase collaboration to accelerate the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) as engines of economic growth.

The roundtable discussion was sponsored by the German Ministry of Economics and Technology, ICC, CeBIT and ICC Germany. ICC member companies participated through ICC’s newly-created initiative to communicate business priorities on ICT and Internet issues, Business Action to Support the Information Society (BASIS).

The meeting attracted an impressive array of panelists, including: Michael Glos, German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, Kan ‘ichiro Aritomi, Japan’s Vice-Minister for Policy Coordination of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and Tarek Kamel, Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, along with the CEOs of SAP and NRC, Henning Kagerman and Bill Nuti, respectively. Marcus Wallenberg, Chairman of ICC and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, and Vice-Chairman of Ericsson, moderated the panel.

ICTs are important drivers of innovation, employment and economic growth everywhere. These technologies help raise efficiency in business processes and increase access to markets, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. Not only are ICTs drivers of economic growth, they represent a large and growing share of economic activity. For example, computer and information services were the fastest-growing exports in the services sector from 1995 to 2005. What’s more, the share of these exports from developing countries rose to 20% by 2003, from 4% previously.

“Business and government have important roles to play in furthering ICT growth. Business has an essential function as a major investor in research and development and in the network and infrastructure,” Mr Wallenberg said during the discussion. “To have the necessary incentive to invest, business relies on governments to foster an environment where intellectual property rights are protected and the legal system is predictable.”

Other necessary conditions for business to increase investment are for governments to create a competitive playing field and provide incentives for entrepreneurship and innovation.

By working together, government and business can produce the most effective legal, policy and regulatory frameworks to facilitate a safe and unhindered flow of information and the spread of knowledge. More collaboration is also the key to addressing global threats, such as cyber security, and to building up promising technologies and business models in the developing world, where the largest share of growth in ICT is expected. For example, the next billion Internet users will largely hail from the developing world.

With this in mind, a BASIS meeting in March will explore concrete ways to boost ICT use in the developing world.

“Initiatives which pool the resources of business, government and NGOs will be an important component of any efforts to deliver the benefits of the information society to many more citizens in these countries,” said Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and CEO of TAGI and Chair of ICC’s commission on E-Business, IT and Telecommunications as well as BASIS.

The group also discussed ways to train, educate and attract the most qualified ICT staff, another important challenge to develop and integrate ICTs into the fabric of the economy.

Panelists agreed to take up the critical issues raised in Hanover in discussions with government agencies, business and civil society when they return home, to ensure that policymakers and legislators have the most updated information to make effective decisions.