Session: Open Forum
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The OECD Open Forum meeting follows the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy: Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity, held in June 2016 in Mexico. At the time, ministers, the business community, civil society, labour and the Internet technical community discussed how to seize the benefits of the digital economy and its potential trade-offs, covering the following themes: Internet Openness and Innovation; Building Global Connectivity; Trust; and Jobs and Skills in the Digital Economy.
Following this, the OECD adopted a declaration focused on preserving Internet openness, improving access and the speed of broadband connection and empowering people with the skills needed for everyday life. The declaration also invited stakeholders to improve evidence-based research for digitalisation and to provide information for policy-makers.
The Open Forum takes on the results of that meeting and of the Ministerial Declaration, with the aim to work on the outcomes and main obstacles for implementation. The forum was moderated by Mr Vincenzo Spiezia (OECD), while speakers included: Mr Raul Eduardo Rendón Montemayor (Mexico), Clarissa Estol (Argentina), Anders Hektor (Sweden), Nevine Tewfik (Egypt), Joe Alhadeff (Business Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD-BIAC), Marc Rotenberg (Civil Society and Information Society Advisory Committee - CSISAC, Tarek Kamel (Internet Technical Advisory Committee to the OECD – ITAC), and Anna Byhovskaya (Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD -TUAC).
As described, digitalisation is considered from a social perspective that requires acknowledging the connection between technological change, digital diffusion and inequalities. The main aspect addressed, lies in the global consensus around the declaration. When taking into consideration the economic aspects of the digital dimension, the panel outlined the role of digital transformation for driving economic opportunities and social empowerment, also creating challenges for regulatory systems in both – the developed and developing world. Furthermore, the changing nature of innovation emerged as a relevant aspect of the digital environment, which is not only taken forward by organisations but also by individuals. As outlined, society relies on an organizational and an individual dimension; an aspect that needs to be taken into consideration to grasp the nature of the digital economy.
Nonetheless, there are specific areas at the economic level that require attention, such as loss of employment; non-standard forms of work; increasing productivity, specifically in the ICT sector; addressing inflation; creating wealth and taxing economic activities within the regional context.
Despite the need to work on those issues, the Declaration is seen as successful in terms of social dialogue. Civil society played a relevant role in the discussion prior to the preparation of the document. In this area, panellists outlined the representation of this stakeholder group through the CSISAC (Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council), established at the last Ministerial conference held in Seoul in 2008.
The Cancun Declaration was described as a roadmap to navigate the digital transformation. The latter includes 9 recommendations focused on the technological and user levels. From the user level, trust emerged as an essential feature for guaranteeing the transformation of the digital economy. Moreover, challenges require taking into consideration the interests of a larger community; provide improved education, literacy and employment opportunity.
Panellists discussed the role of the multistakeholder approach to address the issues and challenges related to the digital economy and specifically, the need to distinguish between a multistakeholder platform and a multistakeholder decision making process. In this context, the panel outlined the role of the OECD from a multistakeholder perspective. As described, the organisation has well-defined constituencies and allows participation from civil society.
The second part of the Open Forum addressed the steps that need to be taken when looking forward. The panel highlighted the need to produce evidence-based research for understanding the challenges and means to preserve the global Internet, and to measure the benefits and side-effects of the digital transformation, while also creating practices to mitigate risks. The discussion needs to address civil society needs’, involve all actors and communicate the results to a broader public.
As outlined, transparency and prioritisation as well as proposals of smart regulation are necessary to allow and support the implementation of the Declaration. Horizontal projects emerged as a suitable way to address the issues related to the digital economy. In this area, Mr Vincenzo Spiezia briefly introduced a new OECD project in this area called 'Digitalisation of the Economy and Society', whose aim is to create a whole-of-the government approach for digitalisation starting in 2017 and ending in 2018.
by Alessia Zucchetti, Internet Society Uruguay