This June, in Cancun, Mexico, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will hold a minister-level meeting that will set the common ground of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) policy for the next decade within the richest countries in the world. It’s the 2016 OECD Ministerial meeting on the Digital Economy (the 2016 Ministerial) organized by the OECD once every 8-10 years.
Like its predecessor in 2008 in Seoul, South Korea, the 2016 Ministerial will discuss broad economic and societal issues, including the Internet of Things, digital convergence, privacy and data security, and the digital divide. At the end of the meeting, it is expected that the OECD and its members will adopt the Cancun Declaration. In it, the OECD lays out the future goals that will guide policymaking of OECD member countries and countries that look for the OECD’s guidance.
By working as a member of CSISAC – a civil society membership-based advisory body to the OECD – and by providing comments to the U.S. delegation to the OECD, Public Knowledge is actively participating in the Cancun preparatory process and urges civil society from both developed and developing worlds to closely follow the preparation of the 2016 Ministerial and to join CSISAC. PK has also joined the preparatory committee of this year CSISAC’s Civil Society Forum, a stakeholder meeting endorsed by the OECD that will take place in June 21st.
Public Knowledge is actively participating in the Cancun preparatory process and urges civil society from both developed and developing worlds to closely follow the preparation of the 2016 Ministerial. The Cancun Declaration will drive the ICT policy development through major timelines of our century — specifically the years 2020, 2025, and 2030. These years are significant because governments around the world have vowed with the United Nations (UN) to bring the next 1.5 billion people online by 2020 (Connect 2020), to review their efforts of building a people-centered, information society by 2025 (WSIS), and to use ICTs as an essential tool to achieve and support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Since the impact of the Cancun Declaration might last for several decades, the Cancun Declaration should be properly aligned with the UN’s future goals so that the world will not lose this valuable, timely opportunity. For instance, the next five years is a crucial period to lead the world into a true information society, which supports the interconnected world to achieve social, economic, and environmentally sustainable growth and development for everyone.
To achieve these goals, PK believes that the Cancun Declaration should incorporate, at least, two points. First, the OECD should recognize its proactive role in expanding the participation of all countries, particularly developing countries, in the digital economy. While the growth rates within developed countries have decreased, developing countries have increasingly contributed to the global economy since the 2008 crisis and now make up 60% of the global GDP. Home to 85% of the world’s population, these developing countries have become major engines of growth, so bringing this population on board with OECD members will contribute to harnessing the full potential of ICTs for all.
Second, the OECD should adopt an approach centered around people and human rights in ICT policy discussions, in order to help achieve symmetric commitments from countries across international organizations. Many UN projects have adopted a people-centered approach, and the OECD should follow suit. For example, governments around the world recently agreed that people are at the center of ICTs and development, when they reaffirmed the vision to build a people-centered, inclusive, and development-oriented information society, where everyone can create, access, utilize, and share information and knowledge. As for human rights, scholars have found that human rights actually contribute to market growth and societal well-being, and the recognition of human value creates a focus on participation, consultation, and accountability. It is therefore logical to devise future policy that primarily helps people connect with each other to fully reach their potentials as consumers, creators, and innovators.
In less than six months, the OECD will adopt the Cancun Declaration, and its impacts will soon reach outside the OECD, given the economic and social influences of the OECD members and partners. Recognizing the timeliness and significance of this OECD meeting, Public Knowledge calls for the attention of broad-based civil society to the 2016 Ministerial.