A Secure Internet as an Engine of Economic Growth


EU Cybersecurity & Digital Crimes Forum

Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Brussels, 31 May 2012


Ladies and Gentlemen:

It’s a great pleasure to participate in this Microsoft Conference on Cybersecurity. Just a few decades ago, the term Cybersecurity would have sounded like the title of a science fiction film or a novel by Isaac Asimov, but today it is a central challenge for policymakers.

The Internet has become one of the most important components of the world economy. It is a catalyst for business activities and effective governance, a major driver of scientific research and development efforts, an amazing source of growth and human progress. But this network, as all networks in the global economy, is also vulnerable to abuse and criminal behavior and it needs a security framework to operate for the benefit of all.

This is crucial, especially at the present, when many of our countries are still struggling to recover from the deepest crisis of our lifetimes, when global economic growth is still hesitant, when government finances are still in disarray, and when we face a strong urge to find new sources of growth that can bring back the lost jobs, the lost projects and the lost dreams. In this environment, the internet economy can provide one of the most important sources of growth.

Internet is an essential infrastructure and a driver of economic growth

When we look at drivers of economic growth we must look at the Internet Economy. Over the last two decades, the Internet has radically changed our lives. But if the Internet began as a tool for improving communication, it is now a critical technology that supports every sector of the economy. 

It is not easy to measure the economic impact of the Internet. But, to give you an example, according to OECD calculations, in 2009 some 12% of the value added of the non-financial business sector in the United States could be attributed to Internet-related activities. EU countries are presently not collecting comparable data. But the OECD is working with the EU to harmonize the collection of data and to provide comparable analysis across countries.

The US figures already confirm what policymakers have been stating for quite some time now: the Internet is both a component of fundamental economic infrastructure and an amazing new source of growth.
What is also increasingly clear is that if we want to make the most of this technology we need to strengthen its security framework. This requires a great deal of international cooperation, openness and multi-stakeholder consultation.

Building Cybersecurity through multilateral cooperation

Our increasing dependence on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) exposes the world to new risks. Large-scale security breaches are becoming more common. Cyber-terrorism is a real menace. Critical information infrastructures that support our financial system, the distribution of energy and food, as well as health and transportation face these risks.

In order to reduce risks to the lowest acceptable level and to forge consensus-based policies that stimulate the Internet economy to the benefit of all, stakeholders - policymakers, civil society, the business and technical communities - need to cooperate and share responsibility.

This is why I commend the fruitful collaboration between the European Commission and Microsoft. Microsoft deserves credit for being a key contributor in the national and international policy dialogue to help shape better policies for Cybersecurity. As today’s Forum demonstrates, Internet policymaking must involve the private sector, which owns and operates the core building blocks of the Internet Economy and develops the products that make it work.

International organisations have a role to play. They help policymakers develop and coordinate consensus-based policies that stimulate the Internet Economy in the interest of all. At the OECD, for example, we provide a forum that brings together representatives from governments from all across the world – including the European Union – to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.

In 2008 the OECD hosted the Seoul Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy, in which over 30 ministers firmly committed to “multi-stakeholder co-operation” in Internet policy-making. I personally thanked the non-governmental leaders for their participation and pledged to formally include civil society and the information technology community in our future work on the Internet Economy. In fact, all our internet policy work benefits from the contributions of non-governmental stakeholders.

Such co-operation is bearing fruit. Policy dialogue is paving the way for concrete policy dialogue. Last December, the OECD adopted a new set of principles that help preserve the fundamental openness of the Internet. These principles place Cybersecurity within a broader framework to adequately address concerns like privacy, children’s security and intellectual property, while preserving the fundamental openness of the Internet.

Indeed, maintaining openness to new devices, applications and services is critical for fostering innovation, creativity and economic growth.

The OECD has more than two decades of experience in promoting ICT security. In 1992 we created the first Guidelines for the Security of Information Systems. We updated these guidelines in 2002, after the widespread adoption of the Internet, to realign the security of information systems and networks to the new reality of openness and interconnectivity. Currently we are, again, updating our Guidelines and we count on your cooperation and support in this endeavour.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Strengthening Cybersecurity is an essential task in our efforts to build a stronger, cleaner and fairer global economy. It is becoming “the new comparative advantage”, as companies and customers move to countries with safer and more reliable cyber-frameworks. But it is also becoming a key element for the recovery of the global economy and an essential component of our global development strategies.
We must work together, through inclusive multilateral cooperation, to strengthen and expand the reach of Cybersecurity throughout the world. No country can be left behind. We need a level playing field and the OECD is ready to help building it.

We look forward to working with all of you to strengthen our trust in the Internet and ensure that this vital infrastructure continues to foster economic growth and improve social well-being.

Thank you very much.


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