OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy: Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity - closing remarks


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

23 June 2016

Cancun, Mexico

(As prepared for delivery)


Minister Guajardo, Dear Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:


Let me start with a few words in Spanish.


La Reunión Ministerial de la OCDE sobre la Economía Digital ha llegado a su conclusión. Han sido tres días de intenso trabajo y aprendizaje, porque en realidad las actividades vinculadas a la Ministerial empezaron el martes. Quisiera antes que nada agradecer a todos los participantes por su apoyo y contribución activa. Quiero agradecer en particular al Gobierno de México por su generosidad en el recibimiento que nos han dado en Cancún. También quiero felicitar al Presidente de esta Ministerial, el Secretario de Economía de México, Ildefonso Guajardo, quien presidió esta reunión de manera tan exitosa.


I also want to thank the Vice Chairs – Canada, the European Commission, France, Korea, and the United States. The Ministerial's success owes a great deal to your vision, your commitment and your support.


And I thank all of you, who have come from far and wide to roll up your sleeves and help us work collectively to chart the way forward for the digital economy. Your efforts here in Cancun, and in the many months that have led up to it, have made this Ministerial possible – and very successful. 


But before I enter into substance I want to take this opportunity to celebrate with you all a historic event: the ceasefire agreement being signed today in Havana between the Colombian government and the FARC, ending more than five decades of armed conflict. This is a remarkably important achievement for Colombia, for the whole of Latin America and for the world.


No technological or digital progress can take place in our continent if we do not have peace, but neither can growth, investment, jobs, skills, education, innovation, trade and democracy thrive in the absence of peace. This great achievement by President Santos shows us the power of perseverance and dialogue to attain even the most difficult goals.


On its way to full membership of the OECD, the culmination of the peace negotiations with the FARC enjoys the full support of all our Member countries, who will continue to help Colombia map the “peace dividend” of this historic deal. ¡Felicidades Colombia!


This Ministerial meeting provides an excellent roadmap


Over the past days we have addressed so many issues – you can see in the word cloud behind me how far our discussions reached. This has been crucial to shaping a pro-active, ambitious and innovative digital agenda, at the OECD and beyond.


The signature of the Ministerial declaration by 41 countries plus the EU is a major milestone. We now have a forward-looking roadmap for understanding how digitalisation is transforming our lives, how we can best make use of it, and how we can help those in danger of being left behind.


This is an excellent start – but it is only the beginning. We must use Cancun as a springboard to keep the momentum going. We are now at a point of broad-based, technologically-induced structural change that will recast economies and societies.


Decisive policy action is needed to put the Cancun roadmap into action


The Internet, and the constellation of technologies that surround it, is the most inclusive technology we have ever seen. Thanks to dramatic price declines, the Internet had spread to almost 44% of OECD households by 2003, just a decade after its commercialisation. And today, this 21st century technology is used in places where 20th century technology like roads and cars is lagging and even 19th century technology like electricity is sparse.


We should not be satisfied until all are online, but already we have a critical mass for truly transformational change: greater transparency in government, improved consumer empowerment and a greater awareness of our relationship with the environment.


I see two keys to success. First, we need to engage our citizenry and for that, we require leadership from the top, such as that exhibited by President Peña Nieto. To this end, I applaud the efforts of the UN at WSIS +10, the Chinese and Germans at the G20 and the Japanese and Italians at the G7 to make this a headline agenda item. The OECD will support you in these efforts to bring this issue to the attention also of other leaders.


Second, we need to shed an analogue legacy that no longer works. Our policy makers must become proactive agents of change, not reactive barriers. To support this pivot, we need to analyse the digitalisation of economies and societies from a whole-of-government perspective.


We used to say: “follow the money.” Well, today, we need to “follow the data” and we need to rethink all our policies, from tax to trade to transportation, from this perspective.


The OECD is uniquely positioned to do this and I commit it to undertake this rethink, to help you take a whole-of-government approach to digital policy making.


The transformation won’t be easy


This will be a massive undertaking. It will require the active engagement of all stakeholders and all countries assembled here in Cancun.


It will also require a vast improvement in our evidence base. We have infinite detail on agricultural products, which constituted less than 4% of total value added in 28 of 34 OECD countries in 2014, but have no idea about the composition, flows or stocks of data which now empower economies and societies.


We need a commitment from governments to invest in this capability, and a commitment from firms, NGOs and gateway institutions to work with us to put the data that flow through their servers into the public domain, so that we can construct evidence-based policies. This is in everyone’s direct interest and we have no time to waste.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Señoras y Señores:


La digitalización de nuestras economías, de nuestras sociedades, de nuestras culturas, es un proceso continuo e irreversible. Tenemos que sacarle el mayor provecho. Tenemos que transformar la digitalización en un instrumento de inclusión. La OCDE está llevando el nuevo concepto de “productividad incluyente” a las agendas nacionales e internacionales; ahora queremos ser pioneros también de una “digitalización incluyente”.


Trabajemos juntos para que esta agenda, para que sus agendas señores Ministros, se conviertan en la piedra de toque del desarrollo de nuestros pueblos. Trabajemos juntos para transformar estos acuerdos en crecimiento inteligente, innovación y prosperidad social, con mejores políticas digitales para una vida mejor. ¡Cuenten con la OCDE! Muchas gracias. Thank you all.