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The workshop agenda was described by the moderator Mr Luca Belli, Centre for Technology and Society at Fundação Getulio Vargas, to understand what is going in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) countries in the field of digital policy and ICT development; what are the key priorities of governments; and what should be expected in next 5-6 years.
Belli passed the floor in BRICS alphabetic order to Mr Benedicto Fonseca Filho, Ambassador, Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Fonseca reassured participants of the willingness of Brazil to actively engage in joint initiatives for international cooperation in capacity building, research and development, also Business to Business (B2B) cooperation. Fonseca stressed the importance of regional strategies for international cooperation, especially in the Mercado Común del Sur/ Mercado Comum do Sul/ Ñemby Ñemuha (MERCOSUR) region.
Mr Rashid Ismailov, Ministry of Telecommunications of Russia, continued to develop the international cooperation argument, emphasising the need to organise comprehensive projects instead of splitting resources among random pinpoint initiatives. Further he focused on four major components of Russian digital policy:
Ms Tatiana Indina, Silicon Valley Innovation Centre, spoke on the impact of Internet governance in Russia on business and civil society. While remarking on some positive influence on spurring information and communication technology (ICT), and innovation diffusion into business and daily life, she noted the negative effect of the growing regulatory basket, especially laws on critical information infrastructure, data localisation, and virtual private network (VPN) use restrictions. Enforcement of these laws paralysed the work of several companies; particularly LinkedIn is now blocked for noncompliance. Compliance is very costly. As for civil society, she introduced the results of an independent survey that depicts a negative discourse in Russian mass media and television (TV) regarding the Internet. The Internet was portrayed as a potentially harmful technology for society as it can be used in a destructive manner. Indina concluded with a proposal to adhere to two basic principles: to try to adopt the least restrictive laws, and to make such restrictive laws applicable to a smaller number of people.
The representative from India, Ms Elonnai Hickok, Centre for Internet and Society, India, provided an update on Indian policy in the field of digital identification based on biometrics for authentication purposes. Also, India has been creating different types of infrastructure – a set of open application programming interfaces (APIs, a national cloud MeghRaj, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology at governmental level. In addition, India is a country of growing startups which benefit from leveraging tax duties. Finally, Ms Hickok told about the opportunity for revision of the surveillance regime in India, as well as of its blocking system.
Mr Fang Xingdong, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ChinaLabs, gave a prospect on bottom-up and top-down approaches to digital regulation in China. The former is market dominated while the latter is government-led. He noted that innovation only happens in the market place, although government is responsible for security issues. Successful development can occur only due to the combination of these two approaches. Mr Xingdong remarked on the challenges that China is facing now in promoting its innovations at global level. He also mentioned an ambitious project to document the 50 years history of the Internet in order to learn lessons from the past to make a better future. In conclusion Fang said that ‘BRICS nations’ cooperation is essential in the next decade: 40% of the users come from BRICS countries. In the next decade we may have 60% of Internet users coming from BRICS nations’.
Finally, South African representative Ms Alison Gillwald, Research ICT Africa, stressed the acute problem in South Africa: ‘the system of innovation and the national communications strategies and frameworks have been sadly separated. There has not been adequate integration of the innovation framework consistent with the communication policies and strategies’. She expressed hope that government will consider inputs from society to execute evidence-based ICT policymaking. Referring to the BRICS cooperation, Gillwald noted that in face of Internet balkanisation countries should work more on greater representation, rather than stepping back to create their own national networks.
By Ilona Stadnik