Internet Economy: Generating Innovation and Growth


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at OECD High-level meeting on the Internet Economy


OECD Conference Centre, 28th June 2011

(As prepared for delivery)
Ministers, Distinguished representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the OECD High-level meeting on the internet economy.

This event is very timely. Just a few weeks ago, at the OECD 50th Anniversary Ministerial Meeting, Ministers underscored the role the OECD needs to play in promoting innovation, encouraging transparent governance, and creating inclusive and green growth.

Ministers also approved our updated Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and called upon countries and businesses to support the freedom of expression, assembly, and association online. As you will discuss over the next two days, these freedoms go hand in hand with the establishment of a vibrant Internet economy.

The Internet already connects 2 billion users worldwide and it continues to grow rapidly. Governments, corporations, the Internet technical community and civil society have to work together so we can make the best use of this amazingly powerful communication tool. As the place where countries meet to develop and agree common principles on the most relevant policy issues, the OECD is ideally placed to provide you with a forum for your discussions.

Our working methods are also especially relevant for the challenges you face. The valuable input of advisory groups from industry, labour, and other sectors informs everything the OECD does. Similarly, the Internet would not be a global success without the multi-stakeholder process supported by the private sector, civil society, the technical community, and governments -- all performing their appropriate roles.

The OECD specialises in advancing norms and best practices that become global standards, without necessarily being legally binding. The Internet has always thrived in this sort of light-touch, flexible public policy environment.

As discussed in our recent Communications Outlook, the internet provides a key platform to support growth. This has also been recognized by the G8 leaders who in their Deauville declaration stated that: “The Internet is a driver of innovation, improves efficiency, and thus contributes to growth and employment.” And at times of strong fiscal pressures in many countries, the potential of mobile, and Internet, technologies to generate significant savings makes them a very critical enabling tool.

But the appropriate policies and regulations need to be in place if we are to seize the opportunities that the Internet provides to us.

One area where more needs to be done is Broadband access. Further economic growth will depend on the ability to access and use high-speed networks for new developments such as smart applications and cloud computing. Countries will have a crucial role in developing and promoting broadband access and obtaining national coverage at high speeds.

We must leverage broadband to improve innovation in health delivery, education, intelligent transport systems and in smart electricity grids. At the OECD, yesterday, a working group of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission met to discuss broadband and science. It is important to realise the important role of the Internet in undertaking research and scientific co-operation. We must also improve on metrics so that we can better benchmark progress and understand the impact of the internet on our lives.
Let me now touch on another important subject.

As policy-makers, we certainly feel that we have to find a way to curb wrongdoing on the Internet. The challenge is to achieve this outcome without disrupting its openness and the economic and social development it enables. While we need to protect intellectual property, for example, maintaining the low entry barriers ensured by the Internet and its flexibility is also a key priority. This is essential for allowing the creativity, the new technologies and the creation of new businesses that our societies need in order to prosper.

This high-level meeting is a unique opportunity to strengthen global principles to create a reliable, resilient and innovative Internet environment. We need to put in place the right flexible framework for companies and governments to operate under. As they undertake new initiatives with respect to access to information, its distribution, portability, and the use of platforms and networks, they need the right guidance. I trust that the Internet Policy-making Principles you will adopt at the end of this meeting will play a positive role in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Over more than thirty years, the OECD has established many of the norms that still define the global Internet economy today. The 2008 Seoul Declaration, for example, recognised the Internet as a critical general technology enabler that affects all sectors of the economy and influences social and political life.

The OECD is ready to continue to inform debates on the Internet economy. We just released a report on the need to reign in international mobile roaming charges. Next week, we will publish a report on M-Government – highlighting the potential of mobile technologies for economic and social progress in the delivery of public services, improved operational efficiencies and better citizen engagement. You can count on us.

I look forward to a lively and fruitful discussion.
Thank you.


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