10 August 2015

Ambassador Sepulveda Remarks at Conference on the Information Society

Remarks for the Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean:

Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Mexico City, Mexico
August 5, 2015

Remarks As Prepared (emphasis added):
Thank you Coordinator Lagunes. The United States is honored to share this podium with you and our dear friends from ECLA, Brazil, ICANN, ISOC, and the EU. We appreciate the opportunity to hear your perspectives and share ours. As we collectively strive to seize the opportunities that the digital economy creates and address the challenges it poses, we believe that we must use a 21st century approach – collaborative, cooperative, and multistakeholder in its orientation.

Across the borderless Internet and the borders between our nations, we are all working to make the most of the digital revolution for our children and our people. We believe it is an enabler of progress and human development as well as the latest example of how human ingenuity, when left free to invent and explore, can change our world for the better, making all of us more productive, more informed, and more connected than ever before.

The Internet is a general purpose technology, like the combustion engine, railroads and electrical generation. That is, Internet-based technologies and services are not isolated ends in and of themselves. All sectors benefit and grow and are transformed by those technologies.

A recent McKinsey study addressed the question that Alicia (ECLAC Executive Secretary) posed -- who is capturing the value the Internet generates? Well, according to that study 21% of GDP growth in mature countries in the next five years came from connecting to and using internet digitalization not producing it. And 75% of the value from Internet digitalization actually went to traditional industries other than the four or five specific Internet companies some commentators choose to focus on.

So, net/net the Internet is making everyone who is connected to it better off, not just the platform developer using the platform.

Nonetheless, like every leap forward in technology, the information and communications technologies and networks that enable the global Internet have created a complex mixture of opportunities and challenges – from job creation to privacy concerns to the return to intellectual property creation, the apps economy, the Internet of Things, e-commerce, the sharing economy, and new technologies unforeseen and little understood are changing the relationship between people and their governments, employers and employees, and buyers and sellers of goods.

We must seize the opportunities that the digital economy creates and overcome new challenges together, through cooperation and collaboration, mutual respect and civil discourse.

The United States values the partnerships that we have all built together across the Americas and we strongly believe that this region can and should lead the world in promoting and protecting the free flow of commerce, speech, and association that the modern global communications system enables and facilitates.

At its core, this region is committed to democracy and freedom. And a healthy information society is the key to the preservation of those values and the promotion of shared prosperity.

As we discuss over the next few days the positive impact, challenges, and opportunities of the digital economy, as well as the future of the Information Society, let us remember how far we have come in a very short time.

Consider the facts:
  • There were 309.5 million Internet users in Latin America in 2014, amounting to 51% penetration. That’s an 8.5% growth rate from 2013 to 2014.
  • The number of people in the region who regularly went online via a mobile phone increased 25% from 2013 to 2014. And,
  • By 2018, there will be 378.3 million Internet users in the region bringing Internet penetration to 60%.
The degree to which the region is embracing policies that drive broadband infrastructure expansion and increased private investment in networks and innovation is a testament to this community and an example of what is possible for people around the world.

We have work left to do. Too many people in the region are still on the wrong side of the digital divide and too many lack the skills and opportunity to make the most of the access available to them. We can do more and we can do better. And together we will.

But that does not diminish what we have achieved to date. We are committed to progress. We are committed to working together. And we recognize our responsibility to contribute to inclusive growth and development built on open networks, open societies, and an open, interconnected, global Internet.

The Americas have stepped up and become a leader in Internet issues. From NETMundial in Brazil and our work together in CITEL to prepare for the ITU Plenipotentiary in 2014, to the Internet Governance Forum in Brazil this year, the Freedom Online Coalition conference in Costa Rica next year, the OECD Ministerial and the IGF next year here in Mexico, we are together creating an open, collaborative, and inclusive space for problem solving and open dialogue.

In November, Brazil will host the annual Internet Governance Forum where a major theme will be “Policy Options for Connecting the Next Billion” and there we will continue to exercise and hone the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. This annual gathering, the IGF, has over the past few years grown in stature, in the diversity of participants, and in substance. And at the ten-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society this year, we must ensure that the mandate for the IGF is renewed, so the community can continue to invigorate it as the premier, global, multistakeholder forum for international dialogue on Internet issues for the decade to come.

More than any specific policy or the future of any specific firm or any special interest, we are advocates for the preservation of open, inclusive, and multi-stakeholder processes for examining and addressing questions and constructing policies for the digital economy. We live in an age where the key ingredients for innovation and growth are cooperation and collaboration, flexibility and ingenuity.

Governments that have not embraced multistakeholder processes for Internet governance and policymaking have invariably missed out on the creativity and dynamism that industry, civil society, and the technical community bring to bear.

Traditionally intergovernmental institutions that have incorporated stakeholders into their process and proceedings often note and emphasize the benefits that stakeholders bring to the conversation, reaping benefits and producing better outcomes. Institutions that exclude nongovernmental participants will remain subjected to rigid procedures, bureaucracy, captured by incumbents and political stalemate.

Governments and communities need the participation of the multistakeholder community because non-governmental stakeholders bear the largest share of the burden towards inventing and implementing solutions. It is this community that operates, interconnects, uses, and builds on the ICT platforms. They are the subject matter experts, and they are the ones driving the evolution and growth of the Information Society as providers, creators, and users.

Governments should take steps to empower their citizens to participate meaningfully in that evolution and growth, and the multistakeholder community should encourage those efforts. Policies should likewise respect human rights and social groups that are too often excluded from participating in the Information Society, including women, minorities, and rural and poor communities. But in meeting these challenges, we should always guard against unintended consequences or the concentration of power and authority in the hands of any one stakeholder group.

When the history is written about the 21st Century, it will tell a story of how collaborative, cooperative and multistakeholder approaches drove innovation that launched the digital economy. The Americas is leading that story.

Thank you and I look forward to working with you during the Ministerial.

Source: US Department of State

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