All delegates agreed that the Internet has a critical role to play as an engine and facilitator of economic growth, especially in the developing world.
The conference agreed that to achieve the broadest and deepest possible benefits to growth from cyberspace, access, in terms of both physical infrastructure and training and skills, must be broadened so the widest possible group of people can share what it has to offer.
Delegates agreed that cyberspace must be secure and reliable so that it is trusted as a medium for doing business, and innovators and content providers are confident their discoveries will be appropriately protected to encourage investment. There was strong support for the principle that in the cyber market we must promote a competitive environment which enables a fair return on investment in network, services and content.
At the same time speakers called for cyberspace to be free from government and commercial censorship, consistent with international legal obligations, so that the free availability of information can drive strong incentives for the highest standards of accountability and national governance.
Delegates called for cyberspace itself to have the latitude to evolve and innovate naturally to create new opportunities and benefits in the future. This was also a strong theme of the online debate running alongside the Conference. There was general support for free and fair competition through transparent policy making, standards development and regulatory processes.
Delegates called for the removal of unnecessary barriers to trade in cyberspace. Only then will the full benefits of online cross border trade and globalisation be realised.
The Conference recognised existing work on the Internet and growth, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Principles for Internet Policy Making agreed in June 2011 and work in the Council of Europe, ASEAN, APEC and other organisations, including private sector initiatives such as the development of principles for User Generated Content. Focus should be on building upon existing work, rather than revisiting discussions or creating new institutions.
The Conference strongly welcomed the role the Internet can play in giving the unheard a voice, improving access to education and healthcare, reducing poverty, and driving progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Delegates called on developing countries, the private sector, donors and international development organisations to work together to ensure we harness the Internet’s economic and social dividends.
The Conference called for global efforts to close the digital divide through the provision of development support on ICT. The goal must be to ensure the Internet is increasingly accessible, affordable, safe and reliable, so as to drive equitable and sustainable economic growth. Delegates expressed support for the objective of, and the work being taken forward by, the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission in seeking to increase access to broadband communication in the developing world. The key was promotion of open and competitive markets.
In developing existing work such as the OECD Principles, many delegates agreed it is critical that all those with an interest are engaged – business and civil society as well as governments, and from developing as well as developed countries. Only in this way will the interconnectedness of the Internet be properly reflected. The goal of further development of policy-making principles in this context should be to help promote and protect the global free flow of information, ideas and expression, to encourage investment and entrepreneurism, and help the development of cross border services.