Leveraging business expertise to foster an enabling environment for the digital economy

17 Dec 2017 11:30h - 13:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The session, moderated by Ms Carolyn Nguyen, from Microsoft, featured a discussion on the efforts needed to ensure an enabling policy environment for the digital economy.

The chair of the session, Ms Ellen Blackler, from The Walt Disney Company, USA, talked about the importance of the private sector’s role in the deployment of Internet related infrastructure, and the creation of solutions and innovations which address the many areas of development articulated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Nguyen then divided the session into four rounds: technical, social and cultural, economic, and governance aspects.

Mr Jivan Gjorgjinski, Macedonia, began the technical round talking about the importance of the interaction between different stakeholders in  making policy. He highlighted that a climate of legality is essential for the technology environment, but it is necessary to balance this with innovation. For him, legality is different from law, as it also includes frameworks and best practices.

Mr Omar Mansoor Ansari, TechNation, Afghanistan, presented some indicators about the business sector in Afghanistan. In his country, the main challenges to foster an enabling environment are the connection cost, digital literacy, the lack of local content, the gender divide, and the unfavourable policy and regulatory environment. Ansari talked about some projects that are helping overcome these challenges such as Safetya, an online safety platform, and Techwoman, which aims to empower women in Asia.

Reinforced the importance of bringing technical experts to policy discussions from the start, Ms Jennifer Chung, DotAsia, Hong Kong, agreed with Ansari about concerns over capacity building. For her, it is crucial that people understand the available technological solutions.

Referring to social and cultural aspects, Ms Hoda Dahrug, from the Egyptian government, said that government will not be successful alone in enabling the environment for the digital economy; it is also necessary to bring the business sector along with it. The infrastructure of the Internet is still a major challenge in Egypt, and cultural aspects are also in question. Egyptians are very proud of their culture and believe that the use of technology could destroy it.

Mr Bobby Bedi, Kaleidoscope Entertainment, India, said that people’s main motivation for using the Internet is entertainment. However this is changing in India because there is increasing content in more than fifteen local languages. Bedi said the affordability of cell phones is allowing inclusion for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Mr Charles Bradley, GPD, UK, talked about the framework developed in England to empower society to influence policy-making towards better outcomes, including discussion about the use of universal access to funding for the inclusion of those who are not connected. In closing, Bradley considered the use of private data for the public good.

Referring to economic considerations, Mr Robert L. Strayer, USA, said that 7% of GDP comes from the Internet sector, and this will increase in coming years. Strayer said that economic institutions have benefited from the Internet because it is now easier to have a bank account and save money. On the other hand, people are more concerned about privacy. He said that concerns between privacy and security is a false dichotomy.

Ms Dominique Lazanski, GSMA, UK, talked about the release of the GSMA report about connectivity. She said that although market competition is desirable, companies understand the spectrum of the role of government in regulating some aspects. Lazanski concluded that companies need a constant and consistent regulatory framework that can be applied internationally.

In the round on governance considerations, Mr Juuso Moisander, Ministry of External Affairs, Finland, talked about the importance of governments working together with industry to ensure the development of countries. He shared the Finnish experience in public-private partnerships and the start-up environment. Moisander finished his speech talking about the value of having guidelines and global standards for the digital economy.

Ms Ankhi Das, Facebook, India, began with some problems that India faces in the digital economy, such as digital literacy. She talked about the situation in India where there aren’t privacy laws. The government has implemented a unique ID system for social benefits control, but this has increased concerns about privacy in the country.

by Nathalia Sautchuk Patrício