In spite of being a new technology Internet has changed the lives of millions of the world in a way unthinkable just a few years hence. And what is more remarkable is that it is continuing to do so encompassing all in its wide and deep sweep. How is it going to shape in the future, what will it do to our economy and the society in its rapid stride, its implications and the policies needed for its continued growth will form the agenda of a ministerial meeting to be held in Seoul, Korea between 17-18 June 2008 under the auspices of OECD – The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
OECD had earlier convened its first ministerial conference on e-commerce in Ottawa, Canada, in 1998 when the internet was just beginning to show its potential. Policies with regard to access, privacy, taxation and consumer protection were deliberated upon then and strategic directions were formulated to ensure its progress and to help it become an integral part of our daily lives.
Internet has since then assumed vast global dimensions and is now poised to cover many an uncharted territories never before touched. Newer services and new opportunities are emerging and so is the case with the infrastructure. It too is developing at an amazing pace. Dial up is now no-no, always-on broadband access is in fashion. Wireless devises like laptops and mobiles are also in direct loop of the internet. It is changing the way we do things, learn, educate, do homework, research, business or shopping, playing games, listening music or seeing movies. Blogs, podcasts and interactive sites are changing ways of communication making them more and more interactive. Social networking sites are adding new dimension to it all.
It’s applications are helping in the advancement of scientific research and technological developments, emergence of new businesses and management of health, education, transportation and e-governance. Internet is now needed to move the armies, monitor satellites, manage telecommunications, fly rockets and planes, operate banking and financial transactions, logistics and supply-chain management, monitor health, spread education and supply electricity to homes. Its reach and depth is increasing. Connecting over a billion people today, it is likely to connect tomorrow many billions of people besides objects from refrigerators to recycling bins to internet. Newer applications like radio-frequency identification and sensor–based networks to track and trace everything - from shopping bags to water quality of our reservoirs – are likely to make the internet experience much more deeper and intense.
Notwithstanding all this progress, serious challenges are emerging - privacy and security are likely to be greatly compromised in an internet-centric world order. We are already witnessing severe and sophisticated attacks against consumers, businesses and government agencies from hackers resulting in loss of revenue worth millions in one operation with global ramifications. Such disruptions and attacks can only be warded off by a concerted global action by all those affected. This needs developing policy guidelines cutting across the borderlines of the policy domains. They have to be carefully crafted and coordinated to guide the future of the internet economy and can only be effectively implemented by discussing them at the broadest international level to involve majority of the players of the game.
The Ottawa meeting did the ground work and developed policies which helped internet to develop to the present level despite a few drawbacks like spam and piracy. The meeting in Seoul, Korea also broadly envisages to achieve the same results in concert with its aims to forge a collective vision of a better future economy and society for the entire world. Surely developing a vision for the future of the internet is a right step in this direction and a policy framework for it is the need of the hour. It can be achieved through a coordinated action of all the participants.
The agenda for the Seoul conference in June 2008 on “The Future of the Internet Economy” is being developed around three themes: fuelling creativity, building confidence, and benefitting from convergence. To find more information about the preparation of this conference over the coming months, please visit: www.oecd.org/futureinternet or http://www.oecdministerialseoul2008.org/
More references: Information and communications policy at the OECD: www.oecd.org/sti/ict National Science Foundation/OECD workshop, “Social and Economic Factors Shaping the Future of the Internet”, 31 January 2007: www.oecd.org/sti/ict/futureinternet2007 OECD-Canada Forum on the Participative Web: Strategies and Policies for the Future, 3 October 2007: www.oecd.org/futureinternet/participativeweb OECD resources on policy issues related to Internet governance: www.oecd.org/internetgovernance (OECD Observer, November 2007). DNBhatnagar