As part of the preparatory process of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (to be held in Tunis on 16-18 November 2005) the OECD is collaborating with UNCTAD, ILO and the ITC in organising a WSIS Thematic Meeting on the Economic and Social Implications of ICT. OECD's work on the links between ICTs and economic growth, social development and performance of enterprises that has been carried out under the aegis of ICCP and WPIE will provide some of the fundamental arguments presented at this meeting.
The effective use of ICTs by enterprises can result in greater productivity leading to greater competitiveness and thus sustainable economic growth, a precondition for poverty reduction. ICTs are expanding the possibilities of developing economies to participate in international markets. The Internet is dramatically changing the way goods and services are produced, delivered, sold and purchased. It leads to an ever-growing number of people and businesses connected digitally, ready to participate in and contribute to the knowledge economy. The use of the Internet empowers weak players in the global economy - such as small business owners in developing countries - by providing them with information, communication and knowledge they could not access before. Trade in goods and services is expanding thanks to new technologies. Evidence shows that growth in ICT goods and services trade has been higher than growth in total trade. In addition, ICTs enable trade in other sectors by enhancing market access and broadening the customer base, facilitating customs, transport and logistics. Most importantly, ICTs play an economic role by changing production processes within firms.
To seize those benefits, there are associated costs both in terms of investment (in capital and human skills) and in terms of transformations of labour markets. The use of ICTs is also accompanied by structural changes in production processes. These are often hampered by social conflict resulting from deficient social dialogue. Therefore policies must cope with the structural transformations associated with such changes. The costs of disseminating ICTs and ensuring an orderly adjustment of human resources should form part of any ICT-related policy.
The WSIS Geneva Plan of Action requests all stakeholders to promote development-oriented ICT applications for all. In particular, it calls for action to encourage the use of ICT by SMEs to foster innovation, to realize gains in productivity, to reduce transaction costs and to fight poverty. It identifies a number of areas where action is needed, such as the development of a policy and legal framework to enhance participation by SMEs, and the promotion of the use of e-business and international trade in developing countries.
In response to the Geneva Plan of Action, and as a contribution to the second phase of the WSIS, four international organizations working on the subject of ICT and economic and social development have joined forces to organize this thematic meeting. The meeting will explore the relationship between ICT and development, and identify policies and practices to ensure the adoption of ICT leads to equitable economic growth.