Promoting digital inclusion and closing the ‘digital gap’ between a handful of highly industrialised economies and the world’s many emerging markets and developing economies will require an innovation-oriented mind-set that seeks out new approaches to regulation as well as to traditional challenges such as infrastructure funding, service delivery, and taxation of ICT goods and services, according to delegates at ITU’s Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR-15), which was held this week at the Stade de l’Amitié in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.
The event welcomed around 400 senior international policy makers from over 60 countries, representing the world’s information and communication technology (ICT) regulatory authorities and leading tech companies. Strategies to accelerate digital inclusion to leverage the growth potential of emerging economies and developing markets were a key focus of discussions.
The topic ‘Mind the Digital Gap – Regulatory Incentives to Achieve Digital Opportunities’ focused on a wide range of pressing regulatory issues, including mobile payments; network sharing models; taxation and the digital economy; the ‘Internet of Everything’; regulation and broadband uptake; and ways that regulatory frameworks can help promote accessibility for all.
Houlin Zhao, secretary general at the ITU, emphasised the importance of fostering the growth of technology-based small and medium enterprises in growing each country’s national digital economy. He also urged countries to invest in youth through education and ICT training. “Young people are natural innovators, and today’s youth are also ‘digital natives’ – using ICTs to solve problems and create useful new services comes naturally to them, so they can become major drivers of socio-economic change.”
“Far-sighted governments should look to ways of harnessing this energy and creativity to transform their economies through ICTs and help bridge the digital gap,” he added.
The GSR, world’s largest specialised gathering of ICT regulators and policy specialists from the public and private sectors, was chaired this year by Lin Mombo, president of Gabon’s ICT regulator, the Autorité de Régulations des Communications Electroniques et des Postes (ARCEP).
The event was co-hosted by ITU and ARCEP, under the patronage of His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of Gabon.