June 24, 2016Michael Sutherland-Shaw
If governments don’t take advantage of the Internet, they could be missing out on huge economic and social benefits of the digital economy, according to the OECD.
Earlier this week, at the 2016 Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said countries need to address the lack of investment in Internet and communication technology (ICT), high-speed Internet infrastructure and improving digital skills to stay on pace with global innovation.
“Too many countries are taking a 20th century approach to a 21st century technology that is moving faster than any other the world has seen,” argued Gurría. “The Internet is profoundly transforming the way we live and work, but we could be getting a lot more out of it. The longer we dither on the digital economy, the less benefit we will get out of it as societies.” (Read the speech)
According to the OECD, digital transformation hit its peak in 2013 when 80% of people in advanced economies had access to high-speed Internet and smartphone shipments overtook conventional mobile devices. Mobile computing has since accelerated e-banking, e-commerce and digital services like ride-sharing or online home rental.
However, there are still four billion people without access to the Internet. If the United Nations (UN) has its way, by 2020, that number will be history.
Making it a global goal, the UN is pushing for more businesses to adopt advanced digital technologies like supply chain managements tools that can boost efficiency and innovation. For example, less than 30% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in OECD countries use cloud computing.
In addition, while 27 of the OECD’s 34 member countries may have a national digital strategy, increased consultation across borders is needed to help resolve issues such as security, privacy and regulations barriers to peer-platform businesses or services like tele-medicine.
So what happens next? What does a world with open and accessible Internet look like?
According to the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG) “One Internet” report, an open and accessible Internet should generate several trillions of dollars a year in economic benefits.
Conversely, a fragmented Internet would weigh on investment, trade and GDP, as well as on the right to free expression and access to knowledge.