WSIS 2017 – Moderated high-level policy session 10

14 Jun 2017 09:00h - 10:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]

Moderator Ms Dominique Lazanski (Public Policy Director, GSM Association) opened the session by welcoming participants and panellists, then proceeded to give an overview of the discussions.

Mr Jean Philbert Nsengimana (Chairman of the WSIS Forum) kick-started the discussions with a presentation on key issues in the digital economy. He discussed how e-commerce and digitalisation had transformed trade, and mentioned that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNACTAD) had recently held an e-commerce week where the number of participants had risen to 1000 compared to the previous year’s attendance figures of about 300 participants. He pointed out that while the uptake of e-commerce and digital trade was very low in most developing countries, the digital economy was deepening and expanding in many directions.

Asked whether broadband infrastructures contributed to economic growth and attracted investment, Mr Guilherme W. d’Oliveira Martins (Minister of Planning and Infrastructure, Portugal), stated that reports developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) were very clear about the impacts of broadband on economic growth, job creation, consumer benefits, and efficiency. Guilherme mentioned that, as an EU institution, the European Commission had presented a connectivity package and a digital society strategy. He highlighted the three aspects of this package. The first aspect is a Commission proposal on access regulation that focuses on regulation with a view to enhance infrastructure availability by fostering competition.  The second aspect is an EU scheme to support public authorities who want to work on giving free access wi-fi to citizens. On this, the European Commission had proposed investing €120 million to give all interested local authorities the possibility to offer free wi-fi connections to their citizens. The third and final focuses on supporting 5G connectivity.

Mr Keng Thai Leong (Deputy Chief Executive, Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore) expressed the need to have governments put in place regulatory policies. He added that governments need to create an environment to facilitate innovation and allow them to succeed or fail. This, he said, would allow an experimental environment that would result in the creation of regulatory sandboxes that would harbour innovation.  Leong stated that this would result in some exceptions to certain regulatory rules, and allow governments to try out some of this innovation. 

On his part, H.E Mr Julian Braithwaite (Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, United Kingdom) talked about two agendas: domestic and international. On the domestic agenda, he remarked that it was vital to focus on connectivity infrastructure. Braithwaite reiterated that this would help reach areas left behind in terms of digital access. He also emphasised that creating an enabling environment would largely unlock the potential of the digital take-off. In regard to the international agenda, Braithwaite drew attention to the challenge of harmonising digital signatures for cross-border transactions.

Mr Fadi Chehadé (Senior Advisor, World Economic Forum (WEF), Switzerland) touched on the issue of data integrity in the age of big data. He mentioned that there were 21.9 billion devices today, and this figure was expected to jump to 100 trillion by 2030. He stated that engineers of the Internet of Things (IoT) were mostly not concerned with the safety of IoT devices. Chehadé cited the case of Internet bots that were used to shut down the Internet in some parts of the United States. He concluded by stating that WEF had brokered a protocol that would bring insurance companies, technologists, and businesses together around some safety standards geared at making devices insurable.

Asked what regulators should to do facilitate the Digital Economy, Dr. Yury G. Grin, (Deputy Director General, Intervale, Russian Federation) suggested that the answer to this was to be cooperative and proactive.  He added that the private sector needed stable and clear regulations.  

by BonfaceWitaba