ICTs will play a major role in long-term economic growth

  • 7 April 2009

Information and communications technologies (ICTs) will continue to play a major role to ensure long-term economic growth, the ICC Commission on E-business, IT and Telecoms (EBITT) said today.

“The continued development of the Internet and innovations related to ICTs are primary drivers of the economy, and they will be even more so during times of economic stress and recovery,” said Herbert Heitmann, EBITT Commission Chair and Chief Communications Officer, SAP. “Continued investment to stimulate both supply and demand will be essential to maximizing the Internet and ICTs for economic growth and social benefit.”

In a series of meetings this week, the EBITT commission is considering specific contributions ICTs can make to a global economic recovery, and how best to counter protectionist measures in this sector.

The commission focused on the needs of business to maximize technologies in order to spur economic recovery. It also examined ways of facilitating exchanges between companies from divergent sectors and geographic areas to discuss specific steps they can take in this effort.

The commission also urged all countries to liberalize their telecommunications policies, establish independent regulators for that industry, create a sound judicial system, promote incentives for entrepreneurs, and avoid protectionist measures.

“In times like these, businesses are challenged to respond and react in the most agile fashion and transparency is a must to rebuild trust and confidence and provide clarity about the future,” Mr Heitmann said. “ICTs are providing all this but we need the appropriate policy, legal and regulatory approaches to foster investment in ICT infrastructure, applications and services.”

The importance of ICTs in the global economy is hard to overestimate. The sector has directly contributed an average of half a percentage point a year in increased productivity in the world’s major industrialized countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In the European Union, ICTs are responsible for over 40% of the increased productivity during the past decade. “The reality is that while the benefits of new technologies are often exaggerated at first, they often turn out to exceed initial expectations in the moderate to long term. This is exactly what has happened with the digital revolution,” according to the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD.

Many governments are already examining long-term strategies for ICTs and the Internet, particularly as they enable broader socio-economic objectives and facilitate government’s role in delivering services through e-government initiatives.

Leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) recently endorsed a Digital Prosperity Checklist developed to assist economies to better position themselves to capitalize on the opportunities of the digital economy. ICC has been instrumental in the development of this checklist.

“The Checklist represents a continuing and important consensus process between APEC economies and the private sector to further effective participation in the digital economy,” remarked Joseph Alhadeff, Vice President of Global Public Policy, Oracle and an EBITT commission Vice Chairman. “It provides a compendium of specific actions needed for the broad range of APEC economies to enable ICT to continue to drive economic growth and provide societal benefit.”

EBITT commission members encouraged more countries to see beyond specific sectoral issues to recognize the importance of ICTs and the Internet in advancing all areas of their citizens’ well being, from solutions to addressing climate change challenges and improving energy efficiency to expanding health care options and delivery.

Commission members emphasized several long-standing recommendations including education and skills training; legal, policy and regulatory approaches that promote competition; and innovation and investment as key elements in maximizing ICTs in the current economic environment.

The commission also called for the reduction of barriers to entrepreneurship and the creation of incentives for new business models.

A recent report by the World Economic Forum ranked Denmark, Sweden, the United States and Singapore as the world’s most networked economies largely due to their focus on educational excellence, innovation and extensive ICT access. The report also emphasized the importance of ICTs as a source of both growth and competitiveness, especially in times of crisis.