APEC Convenes Symposium on the Internet Economy

APEC SpeechBuilding on the discussions at the Multistakeholder Dialogue on the APEC Initiative of Cooperation to Promote the Internet Economy held in Beijing on August 18 last year, there is now an initiative before APEC to launch an Ad-Hoc Internet Economy Steering Group during the Philippine Presidency. The Pacific Economic Coordinating Council (PECC) took the occasion of the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM2) in Boracay to organize a Symposium on the Internet Economy on May 18, bringing together government, business, and the academic community to discuss a possible work plan for the Steering Group as part of its mission to promote action and encourage collaboration across the APEC fora.

The symposium was keynoted by APEC 2015 SOM chair Ambassador Laura del Rosario and was divided into three sessions. The first dealt with the role of the Internet in empowering inclusive growth and featured presentations on online education in the rural Philippines by Department of Science and Technology official Bettina Quimson. Quimson spoke about how the Internet is allowing students in remote parts of the Philippines to get their high school diplomas, and was followed by Vietnamese entrepreneur Nguyen Hoa Binh, who introduced his e-commerce start-up “We.Shop”, which facilitates cross-border purchases by consumers without access to credit cards while saving them sometimes as much as 40 percent over local prices for electronics, housewares and other goods.

Capacity gaps and differing economic levels pose a threat to innovation and growth

Waseda University Professor, Toshio Obi was also part of Session One and reported on how Japan is using the Internet to deal with the issues of an aging society. He listed areas where the Internet is making a difference for elderly Japanese including transportation systems, continuing education, social participation, and pension management. Professor Obi pointed to the Internet’s potential role in supporting development of ICT preventive health models using Big Data for medical collaboration and education, building smart homes and cities, providing the infrastructure for telehealth business models, meshing human with robotic capabilities as part of future challenges for researchers, government, and business to address.

Session Two looked at the Internet as a driver of new business. Nina Teng from Malaysia spoke on the experience and outlook of “Grab Taxi” a taxi livery start up, while Light Lim from Taiwan spoke on how “cloud-sourcing” can be not just a fundraising model but also a recipe for innovation. Lin Jones from the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) introduced a two-part ground-breaking study that attempted to measure the contribution of the Internet to US economic growth. She reported that digital trade contributed 6.3 percent to US GDP growth in 2012 and that 24 percent of online sales in the US went abroad in the same year, evidencing the growing reach of the Internet. US productivity also grew from 7 to 10 percent and real wages from 4 to 5 percent in same time frame as a result of the Internet economy.

KICIS Executive Director Jim Foster was a presenter in the third session, speaking on barriers to the Internet Economy. Director Foster argued that capacity gaps and the diversity of languages, cultures and economic levels of development in the region are obstacles to innovation and growth on the Asian Internet. These difficulties are compounded by increasing assertions of national cyber sovereignty. Director Foster believes that the way forward is to look to lessons learned in promoting inter-Asian trade by promoting greater engagement on Internet policy issues at economic fora such as APEC. Absent this engagement, there is a risk that the Internet in Asia may fragment, losing its global scalability.

APEC must act quickly in the face of rapid change

May-Ann Lim of the Asia Cloud Computing Association reported on two new studies measuring the impact of cloud computing growth on APEC economies while Dr. Hayun Kang of the Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI) assessed the challenges in creating a privacy framework to support economic growth in Korea. Stephen Cutler of Omnipay highlighted cybersecurity challenges to cross border trade flows.

Dr. Peter Lovelock, Director of the Telecommunications Research Project Corporate (TPRC) concluded the program by citing five areas for attention by APEC economies on the Internet. They included:

  1. Scalability and the Internet – how small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region can take advantage of both.
  2. The consequences for traditional businesses and national economies of the “disintermediation” driven by the Internet.
  3. The enormous potential presented by the emergence of a digital economy where it is “data” not goods that create new economic value.
  4. The appearance of a cross-sectorial economy where interconnectivity is blurring the lines between traditionally vertical economic sectors.
  5. The challenge of “protecting” individuals and societal values in a cross-jurisdictional world.

PECC Secretary General Eduardo Pedrosa has been the driving force behind the organization of the symposium. KICIS participated in the May 18 program representing the Association of the Pacific Rim Universities as Secretariat of the APRU Internet Economy Initiative. The Initiative works to involve the academic community throughout the region more closely with businesses and government as they develop approaches to facilitate the the Internet Economy on a national and regional basis.

PECC Announcement: PECC Symposium on the Internet Economy

Slide Presentations:
Jim Foster, Executive Director, KICIS
Nguyen Hoa Binh, CEO & Founder, Peacesoft (Vietnam)
Toshio Obi, Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University
Nina Teng, VP Public Affairs, GrabTaxi
Light Lin, Founder, Flying V.cc
Lin Jones, International Economist, U.S. International Trade Commission
Hayun Kang, Director & Research Fellow, Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI)
May-Ann Lim, Executive Director, Asia Cloud Computing Association
Stephen Cutler, Chief Compliance Officer, OmniPay