Digital economy

OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General


17 June 2008, Seoul, Korea


Mr. President, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Korean: Ahn young hah shim knee kah (Korean formal greeting – bow of 1-2 seconds)


It is a great honour to open this OECD Ministerial meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy, our first OECD Ministerial held in Asia.

It is a pleasure to do it in Korea, a country where information technology and the Internet are playing a prominent role. It is the country with one of the highest “broadband connectivity” in the world.

Financial markets have been hit by the sub-prime crisis, energy and food prices have soared, growth is slackening. At times like these, we tend to focus on the short-term and retract into our national shells.

But it is exactly at periods like these when policy-makers need to do the opposite – we need to look forward, comprehend the fundamental structural changes underway and reposition ourselves to take advantage of opportunities. 

Ten years ago the Internet and ICT policy were mostly seen as an infrastructure issue. Today the Internet Economy is increasingly relevant to us all. The integration of ICT into virtually all aspects of business activities and social interaction is creating a digitally-enabled economy that is generating growth and prosperity.

The Internet has become a technology that like electricity, transforms everything we do:

  • how we conduct business;
  • how producers and consumers relate;
  • how we innovate; and
  • how we interact with each other and our governments.

OECD helps countries improve their economic performance and social well-being.

With 25 years of experience working on ICT issues and a growing capability to promote the dialogue between developed and developing countries, OECD can be an ideal platform to convert the Internet into an effective tool to make the world economy work better.

The Internet is already an amazing social and economic force. There are about 1.3 billion Internet users in the world. The Internet Economy accounts for some 20% of OECD’s GDP. Global trade of ICT goods accounted for nearly 2 trillion US dollars in 2006. The Internet is where future growth lies.

But precisely because the Internet Economy has become a leading engine of economic growth, we need to secure its future and policy-makers cannot afford to be complacent.

There are a number of “pressure points” that arise in relationship to the Internet economy. The stresses on the system are not by and large of a technical nature. The issues are really about economics, politics and devising the right approaches to better use the Internet to its full potential. We need to work together to guide the future development of this platform for growth, innovation and social interaction.

How can we harness this tremendous tool to improve the world we live in? How can we promote convergence, creativity and confidence – the topics of this meeting?

Let me try to sketch some ideas to help answer this question.

First of all, we must measure and assess the real dimensions of this development on the basis of reliable statistics, so that our future policies are based on a solid footing. Despite many years of analysis, almost on a daily basis the Internet keeps on surprising even the experts in terms of its economic and social impacts.

We must better understand the use of the technology, convergence and related regulatory implications.

Today’s users upload some 10 hours of video per minute into YouTube. More than 300 million people are communicating with Skype; while Facebook, MySpace and Second Life are virtually transforming human relations, opening both opportunities and risks. These are the new arenas where social change is taking place.

Second, our public policies have to adapt and react to these realities.

We must gear our education policies towards the use of Internet. Ensuring that societies take full advantage of the ICT revolution will require that the large majority of citizens are skilled to participate in the digital economy. Promoting new forms of civic engagement and empowering consumers will be crucial.

It is equally essential to support the Internet as a platform for education and innovation; an open platform that drastically lowers the barriers to creativity, experimentation and collaboration. For example, extensive broadband research networks are essential for scientific co-operation. Also sensors and networks will have increasing economic and social impacts.

And we must promote competition while at the same time protecting and securing this critical infrastructure. Cyber-criminality has become a multi-billion dollar industry; and it will keep growing if we don’t stop it.  Protecting privacy is increasingly a concern as personal data has become the currency of the Internet economy.

But let me introduce one last but not least important factor: inclusiveness. To connect the next several billion of Internet users in the coming years and allow them to reap the related benefits, we must make faster inroads into narrowing the digital divide among and within countries. 

The Internet can also be better used to address other global challenges of increasing complexity and urgency such as ageing societies, climate change, and preventing the impacts of natural disasters.

We must turn this Ministerial into a historic meeting; it must provide a great impulse to our quest for making the Internet a catalyst of human progress. It is about the formulation of a common vision that can guide us.

We cannot and must not leave these developments and policies to chance. Too much is at stake.

The adoption of the Seoul Declaration on the Future of the Internet Economy by countries participating in this meeting will be an important starting point that must be backed-up with action: with decisions, policies and change.

A new, more open and inclusive OECD, can play an important role in making this change happen.
Thank you very much  >  "Kahm sahm knee dah".


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