In the aftermath of the British vote to withdraw from the European Union, many are still assessing both the political and economic effects of the decision. But there’s also the digital economy, or Internet economy, to consider. The digital economy refers to an economy based on digital computing technologies, and is fast becoming interwoven with our more traditional economy.
In fact, the digital economy was the focus of a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Meeting in Mexico in which a major consensus-point from stakeholders emerged: an open and trusted Internet is necessary for the digital economy to bring innovation, growth and social prosperity.
While there is a common understanding among many countries that an open, unfragmented and trusted Internet is key for the economic and social prosperity, this vision is only the beginning of the journey. To complete that journey successfully, we must keep in mind the core principles that have brought us so far – open global standards for innovation and an open and transparent multi-stakeholder Internet governance model designed for maximum inclusion.
The importance of this choice cannot be emphasized enough, as the global model of governing the Internet impacts entire societies through politics, commerce and culture. The technical, economic, societal and political dimensions of the Internet are closely intertwined and interrelated. Concretely, open global standards provide a platform for borderless trade and an interoperable economy, fostering innovation. Innovation, in turn, relies on users’ ability to freely and openly create, and share information and ideas, reinforcing the foundations of open societies.
We must be cautious with a broad misperception that openness, trust and security are values to be balanced – that we must choose one over the other. Not only is this this wrong – but making decisions based on this will lead us away from the economic and social prosperity we seek.
That mutually-exclusive mindset of openness against security will produce cyber-borders that will inevitably limit the free flow of information, significantly reducing opportunities for all– not least in the developing world.
Today, policymakers have to choose which path to take: one path leads to an open and trusted Internet with the social and economic benefits that it brings, the other leads to an untrusted and increasingly closed-off network that fails to drive growth while potentially infringing on free expression and civil liberties.
While the pace of technological development has only accelerated, advances in mobile and cloud computing platforms, connectivity and automation point toward a future that is radically different from the present.
In order to continue the progress the Internet has unlocked, we must counter diminishing trust in one the most revolutionary tools of our time and this can only come from different stakeholders – with different roles and responsibilities – working together and taking action to protect a free and open Internet.
Constance Bommelaer is Senior Director of Global Internet Policy at the Internet Society.