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IGF 2020 – Day 11 – WS259 Building Inclusive Digital Economies in Emerging Markets

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the virtual Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), from 2 to 17 November 2020. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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>> So please understand that this is recorded under the United Nations rules and regulations, participants or attendees please should use the Q&A to ask their questions and answers will be given to you.  The moderator will call on you, and signify by raising of hands.  Thank you so much.  Enjoy the session.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you so much.  And thank you everyone who has joined us, my name is Anna Kompanek, and I'm the will director of the global programs at the Center for International Private Enterprise or CIPE.  We are based in Washington, D.C., but work with organizations around the world, in all time zones, or most of them.

We have an excellent and eclectic panel today.  And our topic is building inclusive digital economies in countries around the world.

The topic obviously has been very important and taken seriously and advanced many countries for a number of years now, however, the COVID‑19 pandemic has brought much greater ‑‑ even much greater attention to this issue.

Bringing possibilities for recovery and growth during and after the pandemic, but also highlighting in many respects amplifying the preexisting elements of digital divides, such as differences in access and connectivity, levels of skills and also existing legal and regulatory framework in a given country, as well as the issues of compatibility of those frameworks, between countries, Regions and globally.

As we seek to advance the digitally driven economic growth and seek ways to make it inclusive, that is our topic today.  That is the conversation we want to bring also to IGF.  And I'm very pleased to introduce our panel, who will help us do it today.

We'll have Juliet Nanfuka who is the research and communications officer at the collaboration on Internet, ICT policy.  And Juliet is joining us from Uganda.

Then we have Rainer Heufers who is the founder and the executive director of the center for Indonesian policy studies or CIPS and I learned as of last week, CIPS is the winner of the prestigious freedom award which is has been awarded ‑‑ given to an accomplished think tank by Atlas Network.  It comes on the heels of your excellent work on removing the trade barriers on the food market.  And next we have Mary Rose Ofianga who is joining us from the Philippines.  Rose is a member of IGF MAG and both Rose and Juliet are open Internet leaders.  They are part of a program that CIPE and two of our organizations launched jointly a few years ago.  They were in the initial cohort of our program, working on various issues to advance Internet freedom around the world and I have a link in the chat here if you are interested to read more.

Last, but not least, we have Nicole Primmer who is senior policy director at the business and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development at the OECD joining us from Paris.

Welcome, everybody.  Thank you so much.  It's very nice to have you here.

Let's go straight to our first question and a very basic question.  I will ask each panelist to briefly introduce the work related to promoting inclusive digital economies, starting with Juliet.  Juliet, go ahead.

>> JULIET NANFUKA: Hi, Anna.  I had to all the panelists and the attendees.  Great to be in this shared space with y'all.  My name is Juliet, I work with the collaboration and the national ICT policy in eastern South Africa.  It's a mouthful.  And this is an area that we are really excited about, the area of digital economy, because it echoes what we want to do as an organization, and that is to promote effective and inclusive ICT policy in east Africa.

So while we have been doing that since 2006, we have more recently, through partnering with CIPE come a bit more aggressively and more intentionally into the world of digital economy, but we have been looking at some of the trends shaping the digital economy, and the accessibility through are the lens of financial regulations that more recently have emerged in a couple of countries in East Africa.

And this is potential regulation through content.  One would have to patron a website or to pay to register and freely run the website.  We see that as a restriction but also the form of censorship.  And it does have an impact on digital economy in the sense in that it's restricting the freedom that one has to more readily be online.  In Tanzania, it's a $3,000 cost to simply be online.

We also noticed or did a bit more work around the social media taxation that emerged in Uganda in 2018 and it's been seen in other countries, active, more readily ‑‑ or more readily considered.  So it's something that we have been tracking, including its detrimental effect to digital inclusion for women more especially, for persons with disabilities, and the topic of persons with disabilities have also been doing a whole lot more work in that area as well, through the lens of what is the telecommunications sector doing to enable their community to be more readily online to readily engage in terms of content, economic opportunity and education online.

They are providing assistive technologies or not?  And what are the gaps?  What needs to happen to bring in or to broaden digital a bit more digitally inclusive economy or digitally inclusive online arena for more than the current community that we have online.

But also, we have been working alongside CIPE on developing a roadmap to ‑‑ to reform with regards to the digital landscape in the continent.  This is something ‑‑ a journey that began at the Forum of Internet Freedom that we host annually in Ghana and it's been bringing together various stakeholders in person and more recently online to help shape what future of digital economy in Africa looks like.  Who are the players?  Who is currently in the community?  And who is being left out?  Where does the digital economy currently stand and where should it go?

We are quite excited on the way it should go and it's great to be part of these conversations in seeing who else is doing what in the areas, but also looking for areas of collaboration, which is at the core of what we do, especially when we look ‑‑ look at it through the lens of multi‑stakeholder collaborations which is fundamental in our opinion to the establishment of the really successful digital transformation in the continent.  So it's an exciting time at the moment, which I will save for future, later questions.

Right now the continent is in the phase of multi ‑‑ of metamorphosis and I believe we are at the right place to shaping the part that it should take.  Thank you.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you so much, and indeed we will have the opportunity to talk about ways to collaborate and act in a multi‑stakeholder way.  Let me turn it over to Rainer.  Go ahead, tell us all about your work.

>> RAINER HEUFERS: Thank you, Anna, and thank you very much for inviting me to this panel.  It's a pleasure and honor to be here.  I'm representing the Center for Indonesian Policy centers.  Don't be deceived that you see a German speaking here.  The only foreign face here.  I feel Indonesia.

We have a slogan that says Indonesians should be free to prosper and this freedom means that people need to be able to engage in the economy.  It means that they need to be able to actually build their own wealth and as what Juliet just said about her continent, we also face the situation like that in Indonesia, where there are regulations.  There are hurdles that make it harder for people to actually access the Internet for their own eCommerce and visions.

I want to share the screen briefly and just show you two slides.

Just hope you can see that now.

So we are a nonprofit policy think tank in Jakarta, seeking these economic opportunities for low‑income Indonesians but I'm sharing with you the one image on the right‑hand side, showing how eCommerce is jumping in this country of 270 million people, just last year it grew by 11% to a size of $44 billion and much more is expected by all estimations.

An interesting thing is that during this crisis now ‑‑ so you can see that so many new consumers are entering the market.  You can see that more than half are not from the urban areas.  We see a major drive into the digital sphere.  You see healthtech and edtech really coming to the forefront, but it bears risks and we need to make sure that the place remains open, while we also address the risks for the consumers.

Just giving you another image here.  Hold on.

Yep.

So that's basically what we are doing.  We are a think tank.  We are a policy or think tanks and we work with policy papers and policy briefs and they cover various areas.  We have been looking into the Fintech sector the Indonesia which is adopting very much the Chinese model of epayments has really penetrated the market here which is working quite well.  Again, comes with risks and we looked into this in the paper ‑‑ the top paper I mentioned, there which was done in cooperation with CIPE.  And we are looking into food safety issues because as Anna mentioned just now, we are working on food security issues.  We are looking to food safety because since everybody is now ordering food online, there are new challenges for food safety and we have been looking into this.

Digital consumer rights.  We have a landscape that's so scattered with overlapping of different agencies and ministries and we are looking into these issues.  Co‑regulation is coming out very soon.  We believe that everybody needs to be in constant dialogue on issues and also entrust other players than just the government to actually enforce certain regulations.

Women entrepreneur was something that I was reminded of when Juliet was just talking, because we see at the moment there's this drive to regulate the digital space, and when the government tries to regulate that, they would ‑‑ in Indonesia, they would request everyone to have a license to actually sell online, but getting that license is complicated for micro enterprises, and most micro enterprises are run by women.  So they would suffer from licensing requirements and other things, which we are addressing in this paper.

We have other policy briefs.  I don't want to talk about all of these, but you see that we are addressing most of the relevant issue in this area.  So so much for introducing CIPS, the Center for Indonesia Policy Studies.  Thank you so much for having me.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: We will go deeper on a number of topics that you mentioned.  Rose, over to you.

>> MARY ROSE OFIANGA: Hello, everyone.  Again, I'm Rose.  I'm a community builder for tech community here is located in the southern part of Philippines.  I'm also an entrepreneur and environmentalist.  And so as Morgan mentioned and Anna mentioned, I'm also a member of the IGF MAG and democracy leader.  And as a community builder, I organize community events and capacity building for the tech start‑ups.  So we can promote the digital entrepreneurship in solving specifically social and economic problems in the CP.

So as part of our community activities with the coaching the mentoring under the entrepreneurship and the government‑funded incubation program.  And we have people who want to build their online presence.

Right now as an entrepreneur, I have seen how important it is to be connected to the Internet, and also to know how to optimize and leverage the power of the Internet to innovate and solve social problems and come up with digital solutions.

Apart from that, in this ‑‑ right now, especially during the pandemic, we know how important it is for businesses to connect with the Internet to grow our business, and achieve our business goals, especially for micro and small and medium enterprises.  Imagine those businesses that are in traditional marketing and then suddenly we have to shift the digital platforms because of pandemic and now we have seen mainly businesses have closed and there's a risk for bankruptcy and business failures.

So during this time, I think it's the best time to ask our governments, our ‑‑ you know, our ecosystem how resilient our economy in doing business, using Internet platforms.  Right now in the Philippines there's a typhoon, which is far from us, fortunately.  So it's like pandemic and there's also a disaster at the same time.  So it's a matter of asking how resilient are we in using our digital platforms?  Do we have the right infrastructure to connect those people who are now affected by the quarantine and the disasters at the same time.

So right now, as we ‑‑ we shift to digital platforms, we do webinars and online coaching and mentoring, just to cope with what is going on right now.  There's a lot of organizations here in the Philippines in general who are providing free webinars and free conferences, even many people are reaching out to entrepreneurs to do coaching and mentoring to help them build their ‑‑ their ‑‑ our online presence, and to help reach our market even though there's a lot going on.

Hopefully we can share more about what is going on here.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you so much, Rose.  Nicole?  Go ahead.

>> NICOLE PRIMMER: Thank you, Anna, and thank you, everyone.  It's really great to be here.  I'm with a senior policy director at Business at OECD.  We are the official industry representative for the organization, and I also want to share my screen just to give you an overview of what we do.

Excuse me.

Okay.  Is that working okay?

Okay.  Great.

We are located in Paris, and as you know, OECD is an organization of 37 of the developed countries in the world, but, in fact, the OECD is functioning as ‑‑ to develop guidance for the world globally.

A business at OECD, we have the industry and employer federations of the OECD countries but also a number of non‑OECD countries.  We have over 30 policy groups.  We're enabling businesses of all sizes and really focused on growth economic development and social prosperity.

As we just heard, what is the focus at the moment obviously is how we can develop effective policy responses to COVID‑19, across all of these policy areas to ensure that we are resilient and that we have both resilient response, and inclusive response, but also looking forward to the recovery.

Over the past several months with the onset of the pandemic, we have been developing policy briefs across all policy areas, trade, investment, tax, digital, employment, et cetera, trying take a holistic and integrated approach to these issues.  And obviously, digital is a theme across all of these issues, whether it's trade or tax or investment.  It really has been the source of both economic and social continuity in the crisis, and we have been focused on all elements of the digital ecosystem to make sure that we can reinforce the elements needed to ensure that we have the inclusiveness in this content ‑‑ the continuity and the crisis.

We recently at OECD participated to their annual meeting with OECD ministers, and issued a report on our ‑‑ which is available on our website, focusing on strengthening international coordination to recover from COVID‑19.

And from the business community, we were advocating at the top line really this emphasis on international cooperation in coordination, the need for a whole of government policy approach, open markets for trade and investment and importantly, public and private partnership.  We want to emphasize that we need to be working more closely than ever on issues to respond in this current crisis.

Just a brief overview of our work on digital.  We have a committee on digital economy policy.  You see at the top of the page just a general objective of the committee, working to advance the responsible use of digital technologies looking at mitigating challenges of COVID‑19, and importantly, again focused on resiliency and informing timely government actions.

And as we heard from the earlier speakers, we are very much focused on ensuring that we have the appropriate governance and regulatory frameworks in place from at all levels from the local to the international and ensuring that they are connected up so we can have the inclusive growth that we need and at this moment, the inclusive recovery that we need.

As I mentioned, digital policy, as you well though, it's cross cutting.  Literally, it is the major issue featuring in all of our work across disciplines and that's one of the great strengths of the OECD is that you have an organization that's focused on both evidence, ensuring that we have evidence‑based policies but also bringing together in a multidisciplinary way experts from across the various policy disciplines to make sure that we have a very integrated approach and holistic approach to policy making.

In our work on digital, we have worked with OECD in something that's called the OECD going digital project.  This, again, is developing an integrated policy approach and they have also developed something called the going digital toolkit, which allows countries to benchmark their performance across different policy areas.  Importantly, we work with OECD to develop the instruments.  As you may know, OECD is setting standards for digital economy policy, that we hope will benefit far beyond the OECD membership and there's some core disciplines such as privacy, digital security risk, broadband connectivity, et cetera.

And on the horizon, obviously is the issue of data.

And in this case, this is ‑‑ from the OECD perspective, but also from our perspective, again, working across committees to reinforce the different agencies and stakeholders that need to contribute to this work, and in the context of the COVID‑19 crisis, OECD has also set up a policy hub on COVID‑19 and digital to which we can participate.

And then finally, just to note on the previous slide, we have been developing a number of policy briefs specifically focused on COVID in the digital area we have recommendations, general policy recommendations which I will point to later, and then focused on connectivity and digital security.

And just as a last statement, we are dealing at the very high level of policy making, but it's our members, whether ‑‑ whether it's the member organizations or the companies that belong to those organizations that are really on the ground, you know, having impact and working with the other stakeholders and colleagues like yourself to implement the recommendations and the guidance that they are working on at OECD.  So thank you.

Thanks.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you so much for your remarks.  Just a note to the audience on how the rest of the session will go.  So we'll go for a couple of rounds of questions, moderated by me and in the meantime, to our online participants if you have questions, please type them into chat and we'll be happy to get to them towards the ‑‑ in the second part of the session.

But let me kick things off.  So let's dig a little deeper on something that was already mentioned in the remarks by some of you which was the impact of COVID‑19 pandemic, in particular on small businesses, on entrepreneurs, and the global south.  And in that context specifically, how can the digital economy support their survival and eventually the recovery?  Rainer, could I go to you first?

>> RAINER HEUFERS: Sure.  Thank you.  Thank you, Anna.  Yes, indeed.  We're facing an unprecedented crisis, at least in the last couple of decades.  So the fact is that we had surveys in Indonesia that showed almost all micro enterprises have lost revenue, about 50%, actually, of their revenue during the crisis.  So that's ‑‑ that's really a profound change.

That puts them at much risk.  There are horrible estimations that show up to 60% could really go out of business.  So, I mean, this is really a dramatic scenario that we are facing for micro enterprises?  Why is this?  Obviously, this is because of the restrictions that they are facing.  That is social distancing.  That is necessary to fight the virus.  But obviously, many of them live off tourism, office workers that would go and they would sell things to them from lunch to transport, to we don't know what.  Entertainment, general services, et cetera.  So the service sector in general is really badly hit.

And in countries like Indonesia, many emerging countries, it's really the informal vendors and businesses that thrive in these settings and are now affected when people stay at home, work from home, and have things delivered online.

So the solution obviously as we are talking here in the governance forum, the digital governance forum is how can they go digital to participate in the boom that I was talking about earlier.  And that's a complex question, obviously.  Because we have to first of all, think about the entrepreneurs themselves what does it mean?  Does it mean marketing their goods?  Does it mean advertising them on Instagram or any other local platform?  Sometimes it's just that.

Sometimes they would produce goods that they need to be delivered.  Then there's the big question of payments.  So we are talking about a complex question here and to what extent is the business digital?  100% or just partially?  Just to give you a little idea from my side on the programs that try to deal with this ‑‑ I must say I'm very skeptical when it comes to government programs here because we often see that the administrations are not really quite familiar with how companies work, what entrepreneurship needs to really provide the guidance.

So the best is the cooperation and I just want to highlight one program that we have in Indonesia.  There is this right share company Grab in Southeast Asia and particularly in Indonesia also, and they have these so called grab assistance.  These are drivers who help you go shopping for you.  So you basically ask them to go somewhere and buy your groceries and bring them back.

Now, Grab has cooperated in a couple of districts of Indonesia with the local governments to make sure that traditional markets would be part of that.  So the drivers would not go to the big supermarkets.  They would go to the traditional vendors and that way, I think there are 26,000 vendors included in that program.  So that's a way how the government can cooperate with the big business, the online business to actually help the smaller businesses to be able to participate in the economy.  I think that to me is something that should be further discussed.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you so much.  And indeed, that's a great example of thinking outside of the box and trying to come up with solutions that are more inclusive than, perhaps, just usual thinking on those issues.

Let me turn over to Rose.  Rose, you already began telling us a little bit about the situation in the small business in the Philippines in the context of the pandemic.  Can you expand on that?  And also give us the digital economy perspective of what kind of needs are you seeing?  What kind of programs or trainings do you find most useful?

>> MARY ROSE OFIANGA: Thank you, Anna.  I think as Rainer presented, the small businesses have lost their profit and we already know that we see much of the affected businesses through the quarantine to get the people to go out and the business as usual.  So there are closures of several businesses, especially those who are brick and mortar shops and those in the tourism and the entertainment industry.

Yes, this business had to play off employees and working hours became limited, right?  And their risk of ‑‑ as I mentioned, the business failures.  So we notice the urgent need for the traditional businesses to shift their business model online, to continue to do the businesses with their customers and clients.

So for some, this has been a challenge because they were not ready for digital transformation, and their business model was not designed to reach out to the digital customers.  And it was business as usual, and I mean for some business as usual for them, because, again, their business models were designed to be a digital platform.

In our city, because people have to survive from losing their job or closing their businesses, we have to look for another alternative to survive and make a living, and it became a good thing, sort of, because I have ‑‑ as I have observed, people in our community and our locality became more entrepreneurial.  Every day people are selling whatever they think they can sell online extent that you can already order fish and eggs, you know, and these are, sold by your neighbors that you couldn't imagine selling whatever online.  Almost all of my friends want to learn how to create social media ads for their products online and even myself, I learned how to sell ground coffee on Facebook, because I ran out of ground coffee.  Before I used to buy ground coffee.  I have to source it from the local market, otherwise I won't have my usual coffee energy.

So one of the realizations that I had was there were big companies, like in other parts of the world, big companies are closing out.  They are stopping their operations like airlines, transportation, hotels and restaurants, but on the other part of the world, there are people who are thriving during the pandemic.  These are the micro enterprises and I think Rainer mentioned this already.  Those people who are selling basic goods and services are thriving in the local economy.

And the access of the Internet has become a necessity for everyone, not just ‑‑ it becomes a utility.

And because it's the only way to reach out to the market, and if we don't have any other choice, but to go online with the go digital, but the question is how capable and proficient are these businesses to use digital technologies?  And that becomes one of the challenges for those who are not able to come up.

I could see two types of businesses, those businesses that are connected to the Internet, but they do not have enough skills to maneuver or navigate their business in the digital market by using the digital tools.  To be honest, it's not easy and it gets overwhelming if you have to learn all of these things at once, given the urgency of the matter, right?

And second, there are also businesses who are having the difficulty building their business online because there's no good Internet connectivity in anywhere location.

So these businesses are the ones who are left behind in terms of switching out to their new market.

So it is two kinds of businesses.  I can see that there are different solutions.  One is the capacity building to help them navigate their business online and reach out to the digital market.  And then the skills that they need to reach out to their market and to really compete for their existing, you know, markets who are already in the digital platform.

But also this is a costly thing.

It becomes costly for them to keep them trained and people who can do the job for them.  All throw, there are freelancers but there's a balance of should we get revenue or more people to do these things for us.

The second thing is better access to the Internet.  Of course, this has been a long discussed issue.  At least in a simple manner, they can connect to the potential marks and clients at least on social media or any platforms that are free to ‑‑ to pose their products online.  So the eCommerce platform is very useful to the micro enterprises who are just starting their business online and it is very important that we de ‑‑ the design of the platform is easy to use and navigate and secure.

But also for the people to be able to use the digital platforms when they are connected to the Internet.  And of course as mentioned by our colleagues.  So the digital security is another issue that is arrived from the eCommerce platforms.  There are many being developed right now and some of them are not secured, if not most of them, so while collecting data from online customers.  So apart from that this micro businesses are online sellers are just using the social media and they have our personal information for everything transaction, like our addresses, our mobiles, names.  They have all of our information, where to find us, you know, and there is no existing regulation to make sure that this online sellers are making sure that our data are secured and our privacy is being protected.

And apart from that, there's logistics issues as well, because here in our city, we have curfew and a limited number of days that we can go out.  So there have been, like, people are making sure that their basic needs are met.  And so the employment ‑‑ the employment are down and people are using Internet but the Internet connectivity or the speed of the Internet is not improving because we still have the same infrastructure.  It's not easy to add up additional infrastructure just because it's pandemic, right?  So the speed of the Internet is the same.  So many people are using the Internet.

So ‑‑ well, here in the Philippines, we just have to do what we can do, and as a community builder and with the community, we just continue to provide online trainings and reach out to people who need mentorship.  We share ‑‑ we share information online and we have groups on social media, where we can ‑‑ where we can share information and share free trainings and in terms of regulations with the government, we noticed that, you know, selling event plans are being regulated now, because even plants, you can find it online.  People are, like, getting plants wherever they can find it in the forest and put it in the pot and sell it for like $100.  The government has noticed that one and they are trying to regulate all of these things.

And even those who are selling online that have no business registration from the department of trade and industry, they are also tracking that and they make sure that people who are selling online has business registration.  So myself, I had to register my coffee business so that it will be legit.

So, yeah, that's it for me.

Thank you.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Great.  Thank you so much, Rose, and actually your remarks lead us very nicely into the next question I wanted to explore with the panel, and that is the question of regulation or lack thereof, too much, too little.  So the ‑‑ another issue that has been exposed is also not new, but comes down to the policy barriers that participants or aspiring participants in the digital economy face, that may prevent in particular the smaller businesses, the businesses owned by women, from being able to do business online.

Nicole, I would like to turn to you and see what insights from your research on the policy issues you may have.

>> NICOLE PRIMMER: Thank you, Anna.  I wanted to point to two programs that we're engaged with, with the OECD and also with our other business colleagues.  And the first is a program that was launched last year at the OECD with the support of business at OECD addressing digital for SMEs and really, the objective is to ensure that we can address some of the barriers that SMEs are facing, whether it's gaps in digital connection or more.  The project was launched last year.

It aims to first of all, as OECD focuses on to develop a basis of analytical research, to get a good database on this particular issue, working with business partners, second of all to create a network in order that SMEs can share experiences and bridging between large and small companies and finally to set up a network and a policy dialogue.

It's a new project.  SMEs are not new to the OECD but this particular project is new.  Obviously with the onset of the pandemic, in 2020, the focus has also shifted on towards SME digitalization in response to the COVID‑19 crisis.

I wanted to just point to some of the work that is ongoing, looking at the impact of lockdown and disruptions on supply chains for SMEs and GPCs and this is one particular barrier, which we have raised in our recent discussions with the organization that one of the challenges that the pandemic has imposed is, in fact, this fragmentation of global value chains.

So this, in particular, will impact the smaller businesses where the capacity is less, also in the digital front.

The ‑‑ we all know and as you mentioned, there's been a significant rise in eCommerce with the onset of the pandemic.  So, again, the ‑‑ the project looks at the impact of how SMEs are participating in eCommerce, and what our regional and sectoral issues that they are facing and what are the specific barriers.

They are also, in terms of sharing SME experience, as a mention, the project is quite new.  I'm giving you a vision of what is ahead, as opposed to what is already identified, but they are looking to develop an extensive database for SME digitalization and data experiences and for many, many years in the work of OECD, the focus has been on the digitalization and how do SMEs also globalize.  I think this project brings together those two objectives very well and allows us to more concretely see what technologies can be in place and then what are the policy recommendations that we need to ensure that we can both digitalize at the local level but also as necessary expand cross border.

There will be a ministerial coming up that will be addressing these issues that will be hosted by Korea, and that will be organized, of course, in the context of the ‑‑ the virtual context that we are all living under.

I also wanted to mention that we're, of course, very focused on education and training.  This is obviously a fundamental issue and a significant barrier for not only firms, but also for individuals.  And in our work, we are focusing on both skills and competencies for digitalization, and being ‑‑ ensuring that, you know, our curricula today, they are focusing not only on what we call modern disciplines such as technology and entrepreneurship, but also to make sure that we have the soft skills that are necessary for individuals and for firms to thrive and be competitive in the current economy and also in the recovery ahead.

With that we support and work with an organization called Gan Global which is a really interesting organization that's focused on work‑based learning.  It's a business‑led initiative, and OECD is also a partner, together with the ILO, but it's really looking at promoting and advocating apprenticeship and looking at the classic skills such as skills mismatch, and ensuring that we have access to the quality skills.  And I raise that because in this particular situation, of COVID‑19, and in digitalization, I think that this particular initiative has taken on even more importance.

Beyond our OECD community, what the Gan has done is set up a number of global networks.  Presently there are 17, in Oceana, and Europe, and several other regions and these are really where we get into the hands on the ground, country approaches to promote work‑based learning.  And that is ‑‑ we also want to say that in this environment, you know, we need to break down some of the ‑‑ also the barriers in terms of apprenticeship and approaches to acquiring the skills we need beyond the traditional approaches.

So those are just two of the initiatives and we'll be really happy to continue working with you as the SME project develops.  Like I said, it's in just its first year of launch, but I think it's really April example of a very pragmatic approach coming out of OECD that business supports and also an approach that will go beyond the OECD membership itself.

>> PARTICIPANT: Excuse me, Ms. Chair, can I ask you to give me the floor.  I'm from Russia, my name Anna Nestrerova.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Yes, our issue is time.  We will take some questions ‑‑ questions and answers at the end, but if you have a really short intervention, maybe just one minute.

>> PARTICIPANT: Okay.  Okay.  I can wait.  No problem.  Okay.  Thank you.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Back to the policy issues, and, again, encouragement to everybody in the audience, if you have questions or comments, the best way to make sure that everybody sees them is to put them in the chat, because simply, we will not have enough time to yield the floor.

Back to the policy issues, Juliet, I know you are ‑‑ well, you are based in Uganda, but you work across Africa.  So your view really is continent‑wide.  Tell us what barriers do you see that, in particular, impact SMEs and women in access to commerce from the policy perspective?

>> JULIET NANFUKA: Thanks.  Thanks for the question, Anna, and for the contributions from the other panelists.  It's been very interesting listening.

So across the continent, we see different levels, for example of affordable, of Internet penetration.  So different countries have been met with different dynamics, however, in the current, across them all, of course is the gender dynamic, where we see women more disproportionately ‑‑ disproportionately affected than male counter parts.

But courtesy of the pandemic as has been mentioned earlier, everything came to a standstill.  But largely online went on without feeling the pinch of the shutdown.  But when we look at countries such as Uganda, which are very based in the agricultural sector, which is very informal and a bit removed from the digital economy, we saw two‑tiered dynamic, where there was a bit of an exploitation of the farmers because they are unaware of the market that has been placed on their prices because of the shutdown, the lockdown, rather, but at the same time, there was an emergence of a bit of digital literacy amongst some who saw the opportunity and were able to tap into it.

But this was, again, very much along gender lines the second point I'm talking about, those who were able to tap into the digital opportunity.  And this played itself out across the continent, the countries which have a bit more of a larger informal sector.

So ‑‑ but putting agricultural sector aside, there was still an emergence of other online opportunities that were explored which to some extent policy supported but also did not support.  We thought that the online tax would be removed, but it stayed.

And we saw it apply to NetFlix, and to YouTube channels, those kind of dynamics were coming up where in other parts of the world, people are generating an income by uniting a YouTube channel, by running ‑‑ by running a YouTube channel, by running an Instagram account.  Here not so much.  But also adding to that is some of our policies do not readily accept the interactions between the banking systems across borders and this was that dynamic.  For example, PayPal, may not be readily available here for all, as it is in other parts of the world.  So there's been a lot happening at content generation level and the economic level and also perspective policy level.

Uganda introduced just this past December, the data protection and privacy act, it's definitely been a Godsend because we saw during the pandemic, there was the call for the bike riders, we call them border, borders to collect the data and the phone numbers of all the passengers.

This is me handing over my phone detail to a complete stranger where no idea of where he's taking then and how we would store them but there's a gender dynamic in that respect, because some people's data, contact details are collected and then suddenly strange men are calling them, especially the women received such calls.

So while there was some policy progressive steps were made during the pandemic.  Ideally with such a law, we should not be imparting our information with every random person to catch a ride, and especially someone that we simply picked up on the street because we stop the bikes and hop on to them.  That's an issue that emerged.

At an affordability level, there was no reduction to or no position made on the removal.  Social media attacks which previously had seen 5 million people drop the internet.  In this would be an opportune time, instead welcomes them back on and encourages them to pursue online.  Some parents, paying a social media tax is not on their priority, especially when their jobs are the risk and when their health was uncertain.  That small policy shift could have done a whole lot more for a country like Ugandan than if it was removed than keeping it on.  So while people have largely worked around it, it still remains a monkey on the back, considering that we are going into eel elections ‑‑ elections, including the states are using social media.  So we see a bit of a Jekyl and Hyde.  We don't like social media, but we want you to use social media.  So those are some of the dynamics that we have seen.

Also the content production level as mentioned at the start of the session.  Across the world we have seen a whole lot more content being generated, massive amounts.  We have been seeing TikTok videos and accounts created on a myriad of topics.  YouTube channels being created which are challenging the media, as we come to know it as NetFlix emerged with a new breed ‑‑ or a different breed of content.

But in some countries we have been witnessing restrictions to the use of such platforms such as YouTube.

We have been seeing restrictions to the content that is ‑‑ that people would like to share on platforms and this comes in the form of the state saying you must pay the state in order to be online.  Your content must go through the state first before it is posted online.  Those are some of the dynamics affecting countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, amongst others during the time of COVID.

Some of these policy notes were in place before the pandemic, but their presence became a whole lot more felt during the pandemic.

Nonetheless, we see the production of growth in the content, and so there's still an opportunity in that area, as much as there is with regards to digital economy.

So some of the things we have been following and Rose mentioned it, the plant community, which has taken on a mind of its own, as you can see behind me.  I'm living in a forest.

But what does that mean in a country like Uganda, which is removed from some of these conversations but has just as much economic opportunity.  We have the field.  We have the climb and the soil and everything.  But we are so far removed.

It also brings into question, the issue around ease of trade within the continent and beyond.

While it's much easier for some to trade beyond the continent, it's not as easy within the continent.  So some of those policy conversations have, you know, come up a whole lot more now than they were previously, especially when the ships stopped traveling, suddenly some entities didn't have access to the service that they are producing or supporting and yet right next door there's a supplier available to do it and these are some of the discussions that we have been having as part of the work alongside CIPE on interregional economy, what should that look like through the lens of digital transformation?  What are the opportunities that should be exploited in that respect?

So generally, there is a lot that is happening and we are on the right past with the introduction of data privacy regulations in more countries with more conversation around cybersecurity but also the conversation on issues such as continent regulations because all of them are interrelated with each other and they cannot be seen in isolation.

So as much as it's been a difficult time, it's also a time of opportunity that we need to utilize a whole lot more and keep in mind of what is happening in other countries.  A country like South Africa behaves differently than a country like Congo with less Internet, but many more resources that should be tapped into to support the economic development of the country.

So I think we are sitting at the cusp of opportunity, but our regulations and policies are holding us back, and that's where the excitement actually is. We need to get beyond this.  Thanks.  Thank you so much.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: We are running short of time, and let's combine a couple of things, perhaps folding the one question that I see in the chat, and then Ms. Nesterova, ask your question or make your remarks, but very, very briefly, please.

>> PARTICIPANT: Thank you very much, Ms. Chair.  My name is Anna Nesterova, I'm are from Russia, and I'm the founder of national BTB platform and I would like to briefly just highlight the economic situation during COVID pandemic 19 Russia and just a few words about eCommerce as one sector that can contribute to an inclusive economy during the COVID‑19 emergency.

You know many lockdowns implemented across the world have required consumers to explore online purchase and options, you know?  In Russia, for example, more than three months of lockdown from March until the beginning of June, caused the eCommerce sales to exceed 10% of total retail sales.  Nowadays eCommerce is also supported to be one of the drivers of SMEs development and in the framework of pandemic online trade has become a life preserver for micro and small and medium enterprises all over the world and in Russia also.

In addition, eCommerce is a way to support the SMEs in a remote and rural areas.  This is an opportunity to improve the standard of living in regions and it helps small and medium sized enterprises participate in the global economy by reducing transaction costs and understands the geography of the suppliers.  And eCommerce breaks the barriers as it also provides opportunities of cooperation with international economies, across the globe.

Finally, it is fast, cheap, convenient and allows enterprises to conduct business notion and conclude construct and discuss will deal details online.  Also with the development of digital economy access to etools becomes the placing for the active involvement in the mechanic process of whole population, including women and having access to the Internet, women should be able to use all modern tools for personal and professional development.

And one of the goals of the economic empowerment of women is to engage female enterprises using these digital tools which can be one of the additional sources of growth.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you so much.  I'm afraid ‑‑ I think we all agree with the very valid points you made.

But I want to make sure we have time for the last final round of intervention from our speakers.  And, again, feel free to speak also to that particular aspect of eCommerce as an empowerment tool.

I wanted to make sure that we had time to touch on two things.  First a multi‑stakeholder dimension of local and regional or international collaboration that you have seen or that you would recommend or that we key as possible to advance the digital economy from the policy perspective or through other interventions or approaches.

And Nicole, in particular, when I turn to you, perhaps you can also address the question that came through chat, which has to do with the nature of the OECD itself, and maybe you can explain a little bit better the distinction between being ‑‑ OECD as a membership organization, versus OECD as sort of a global player and standards and research organization and also how it's not just government focus but there's input through your organization, for instance into how the OECD operates.

And then as I give the floor to all the panelists, at the conclusion, I would like to ask based on our discussions in our own capacity or on behalf of your organization, is there a commitment that you could undertake during the next year to pep achieve some of the goals that we ‑‑ that the IGF supports in terms of digital economy inclusion?

So first, let me turn to Rose.

Thoughts on multi‑stakeholder collaboration and then any commitment that you would like to make.

>> MARY ROSE OFIANGA: Yes, I think one thing that has to be considered is to activate the policy that will provide guidance for the local business communities that are going digital to make sure that they are also consumer protection policy and that is streamlined and having a good site and payment quickly and with proper terms and conditions at the same time, to protect the ‑‑ I think fear in the Philippines we have consumer rights law, and ‑‑ but I think we have to strengthen that one and protect the sellers' rights as well.

As business entrepreneurs we are also, like, we are giving up our investment and it's very important for us to have a ‑‑ and ecosystem that would help us thrive in this digital environment.  And the sect thing that is very important and Nicole mentioned this.  Mentioning that the integration of this is very important and I want to see a policy that will integrate with the primary education, I think from the primary education and not just the entrepreneurial and the soft skills that are needed to thrive into the digital environment.

The last one I want to point out is the second to the affordability of the Internet connection because right now in suburb or urban areas we are highly impacted with the COVID, pandemic, especially with the education.  We transition our education into online.

As a mother, I have seen how it is very ‑‑ how it's difficult and challenging for mothers to teach their kids because the teachers aren't around them and the teachers won't be around to teach the kids and the areas not connected to the Internet, they have to learn on their own.  They have to depend on their parents to each them.  We call it the modular education, which I think really impacted the quality of education, if we are not online.

So aside from the entrepreneurial community and the economy, I think we have also to think about how we can maintain the quality of education that we are transitioning to the digital.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you so much.  Rainer, go ahead.

>> RAINER HEUFERS: I believe there needs to be multi‑stakeholder dialogue on all levels.  We have a good example in Indonesia.  We have 50% of people unbanked.  Epayments are incredibly important to financial inclusion.

In the elenders ‑‑ I'm sorry, I'm talking about elending, they needed handful data from their customers.  Maybe not the phone numbers to call the women afterwards but they needed other data.  They wanted the contacts.  They want the GPS data.  They want to know how many social contacts would you have and they would call your friends later in your contact, in your address book to say why has this person not paid us back?  So very embarrassing social pressure.

So they went beyond what was okay and beyond what was allowed then abused the data to a certain extent.  But they need the data for credit worthiness.  This is a real dilemma.  Therefore, what you need is a proper dialogue where business players come together with go of the players and also with civil society and academics to figure out what is necessary and we are exploring very much the area of the regulatory sandbox, where you can try out certain things in a safe environment and Singapore passed the data protection act after applying regulatory sandbox even in the area of data protection and so I believe that this is something that's really worth while exploring on the national level.

On the international level, I know we are running out of time.  The Indonesian president has idea hub.  It's in the G20 in Argentina and the Indonesian government is pan pushing this with Italy and Canada and their unicorns and their governments on how to foster the sharing economy.  And we need something on the national and international level.

And I have an idea for CIPE, because CIPE, I believe this could be an interesting topic where think tanks can inspire each other with the experience that we have in different countries.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Great.  Thank you.

Nicole, over to you.

>> NICOLE PRIMMER: Thanks, Anna.  I wanted to pick up on the point that Juliet said.  That as challenging as it is.  COVID is putting a lens on the most challenging barriers and issues discussed but our goal is to come out of this stronger and doing things better and as we have been discussing in a more inclusive way.  Thanks for those positive comments as well.

Just on multi‑stakeholderism.  In the community on digital economy policy at the OECD, they really pioneer on this particular point and in 2008, after ministerial, there was a decision by the leadership to include both civil society, and the Internet technical community on the committee itself.  Generally, we just have business and the trade unions and in some cases consumers.  I think this has really reinforced the work on digital so.  We can take a truly multi‑stakeholder approach so you have trade unions, technical community and civil society which is really the hardest job to bring across the very, very diverse civil society community to that work but we work very closely together.  We are well coordinated and I think it strengthens the quality of the instruments coming out of OECD and I wanted to mention we recently in September just held a round table on regulatory stand boxes and one was the Singapore personal data protection commission, and this was a very concrete, I think discussion.  We appreciated going out beyond the OECD countries and coming into the conversation and we had the deputy commissioner as one of our speakers and this is one of the more concrete projects we will be taking forward.

Finally, to the question in the chat, yes, the OECD has 37 countries at the moment.  But in it is truly a global organization, working not only with other international organizations and the international financial institutions, but within the OECD itself, you have programs, for example, called the global forum programs where whether it's on competition or digital security or taxation, you will have 100 plus, 150 plus countries around the table.

If we look at the current project only digital taxation, for example, that is being taken forward under the G20, we have an inclusive framework with 137 countries on equal footing.  So yes, it is a challenging issue on one hand, but OECD has made sure that its outreach is broad, and what we are looking for as well from business is to make sure that that evidence base is truly representative and legitimate for the many issues that we are addressing.

Thanks.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you, Nicole and last but not least, Juliet, your closing thoughts on multi‑stakeholder collaboration at the level of your choice, plus any comments that you see and contributing to the outcomes that you want to see.

>> JULIET NANFUKA: As the same suggests, we are all about collaboration.  It's something that we truly try to push through in all that we do.  Unfortunately, its not always returned.

But nonetheless, it's an ongoing journey.  We are seeing more collaboration, in not all issues but on issues such as data protection collaboration which we contributed to all the way up until the enactment of the law and we still continue giving feedback to the eventual law that was passed.

We are working on the regulations and it's good to see the multi‑stakeholder collaborations and the commitments taken a bit more responsibly positively than they previously where.  We have various regulations that have passed without any consultation whatsoever.  Often to the detriment of the community online and often those indirectly related to the community online.  So we still have a long way to go on that.  And that is at the international level, not only in Uganda but other countries as well.

Nonetheless, there's a bit more ‑‑ at least much more stakeholder involvement today than this was a few years ago.  We also see it at platforms where we share spaced such as the forum which CIPE has attended and more recently we have been seeing more interest from state entities in attending this forum, but previously they kept their distance.

It gives us access in the use and perceptions in areas such as the African continent free trade agreement.  It comes into force ‑‑ it was supposed to come into force this year but due to the pandemic, it's been pushed out to January.  We see that as a fantastic opportunity to engage in the multi‑stakeholder level with all the actors involved and there are many more today than previously.

I have been mentioned content creators have become a very key part of the digital economy they are driving trends and conversations in the same way that the media has been doing all along.  So we are keen on seeing much more interaction at the national, regional and international level as something as excites as the African continent free trade agreement, which has been the largest of its kind.  It's exciting to be actively and more intentionally pursuing a more inclusive society at an offline and online arena.

So that is something that we are fully committed to and something that we look forward to continue doing.

>> ANNA KOMPANEK: Thank you so much, and many thanks to all the panelists and to the audience for your patience.  Clearly, we ‑‑ we're past the time, which is a good indicator that the topic has richness to it and I'm sure we could have spent another hour at least talking about it.

Thank you all once more for your contributions.  Thank you for your questions and we look forward to continuing that conversation through other channels.

Take care, everyone.

>> JULIET NANFUKA: Thank you very much, all.

 

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