Governments must act faster to help people make greater use of the Internet, OECD warns

By on 28/06/2016 | Updated on 24/09/2020
21 June 2016 - OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy: Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity. Cancun, Mexico.

Governments around the world must act faster to help people and firms to make greater use of the Internet and remove regulatory barriers to digital innovation, OECD general secretary Angel Gurría has said.

Opening the organisation’s 2016 Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last week, Gurría told ministers and high-level officials from almost 40 countries that national legislation and policies in everything from education to investment were not keeping up with the rapid pace of digital innovation.

Countries should address a slowdown in investment in internet and communication technology (ICT), extend high-speed Internet infrastructure and improve digital skills in order to narrow the gap between digital “haves” and “have-nots,” he said.

“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,” he told the conference “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.”

Digital transformation efforts around the world crossed a critical threshold in 2013 as high-speed Internet reached 80% of people in advanced economies and smartphone shipments overtook conventional mobile phones.

This has unleashed a boom in mobile computing accelerating e-banking, e-commerce and digital platforms for services like ride-sharing or home rental.

But Gurría said this has reached a point where it is urgent to collectively assess how to best exploit these opportunities.

Four billion people still have no Internet access, and the United Nations has made it a global goal to connect them by 2020.

Too few businesses are adopting advanced digital technologies like supply chain management tools that can boost efficiency and innovation, he said, adding that less than 30% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in OECD countries use cloud computing.

Prices of access to digital infrastructure and data and concerns over security risks and privacy rights are factors discouraging investment.

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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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