(No.142) Inclusive innovation for development: The contribution of the Internet and related ICTs

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Workshop Theme: 
Internet Governance for Development [IG4D]
Theme Question: 

IG4D Thematic Cluster 2 “Enabling Environment”, Question 1 and IG4D Thematic Cluster 3 “Infrastructure”, Question 1

Concise Description of Workshop: 

Innovation including in the area of the Internet economy plays a central role for development. A challenge many governments face, however, is to ensure that innovation is inclusive, i.e. to ensure that the benefits are shared more evenly across different societal groups and different geographical regions to improve overall social wellbeing. Concerns of widening inequalities are at the top of many governments’ agendas, with poverty more acute in developing countries. So far, policies to support innovation have not been sufficiently connected to debates on addressing resulting social challenges and welfare.
The Internet and related information and communication technologies (ICTs) have the potential to play a pivotal role in helping achieving more inclusive innovation and development. The Internet economy can contribute towards inclusiveness in various ways: for example, the Internet economy can help entrepreneurs and small businesses engage in innovations by i) helping them access information at lower cost and by ii) providing a platform for new businesses opportunities (such as mobile applications). ICTs and mobile technologies in particular can improve the everyday life of people in lower income groups by providing them with information that can help increase their negotiation power on markets (e.g. giving information on sales prices of agricultural products) and by connecting them more widely to services that were previously unavailable (such as mobile banking). However, the magnitude of overall positive impacts of the Internet economy on inclusiveness is as yet unclear. Moreover, at the same time general concerns over access to the Internet economy (“digital divide”) and skills needed for effectively using ICT persist.
The OECD is currently undertaking a project on inclusive innovation for development which includes a specific focus on the role of the Internet and ICTs. The workshop will present the results of an analysis of the opportunities the Internet economy offers for inclusive development by increasing access, developing skills and promoting applications and their use. Participants will discuss main findings in relation to Internet governance issues and the policies that need to be put in place including best policy practices in order to achieve more inclusive innovation (e.g. infrastructure, skills and innovation policies). Expected outputs of this workshop include proposals on how different stakeholders including governments, entrepreneurs, the civil society and the Internet technical community can jointly find the most effective Internet and ICTs levers and respective policies towards inclusive development.
The discussion will be organized around the following main topics:

  1. The impact of the Internet and ICTs on inclusion vs. exclusion
  2. Initiatives in support of inclusive development
  3. Areas where action has to be taken: Enhancing positive effects and reducing negative impacts of the Internet and related ICTs
  4. Policy needs including potential needs for other complementarities


Organiser(s) Name: 

OECD together with The Internet Society (ISOC), The Business and Industry Advisory Committee
to the OECD (BIAC) and with contributions from the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC)

Previous Workshop(s): 

Organisation of several workshops and the OECD Open Fora during the last years.
Overview and reports: http://www.oecd.org/sti/interneteconomy/oecdresourcesoninternetgovernance.htm

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 
  • Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director, Association for Progressive Communications, Civil Society (confirmed)
  • Anne-Rachel Inne, COO, AfriNIC(confirmed)
  • Alice Munyua, Chair, Kenya Internet Governance Steering Committee, Government of Kenya (confirmed)
  • Siri Oswald, Program Officer- Global Development/Global Libraries, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (confirmed)
  • Rohan Samarjiva, founding Chair and CEO of LIRNEasia (confirmed)
  • Representative from business working on innovative Internet and ICT solutions for inclusive development (confirmation pending but expected soon)
  • Verena Weber, Economist/Policy Analyst, OECD (Moderator) (confirmed)


Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Taylor Reynolds, Senior Economist, OECD (confirmed)
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
The majority of participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was mentioned briefly in the presentations and discussions
Reported by: 
Verena Weber, OECD, [email protected]
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

Summary of workshop no. 142 on Inclusive innovation for development: The contribution of the Internet and related ICTs"
The OECD invited experts and stakeholders to discuss the contribution of the Internet and related information and communication technologies (ICTs) to inclusive innovation for development. This workshop (no. 142) was held on 6 November at 4.30 pm. The background information is available at http://wsms1.intgovforum.org/content/no142-inclusive-innovation-development-contribution-internet-and-related-icts.
The expert panel included:

  • Wesley Chi Cheng, Director, Huawei Consulting, Central Asia and Caucasia Region
  • Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director, Association for Progressive Communications, Civil Society
  • Anne-Rachel Inne, COO, AfriNIC
  • Siri Oswald, Program Officer- Global Development/Global Libraries, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Rohan Samarajiva, founding Chair and CEO of LIRNEasia

Verena Weber from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) moderated the session.
The OECD introduced the workshop with the presentation of recent findings of an OECD report that has monitored developments in the deployment and use of the Internet and related ICTs in emerging and developing countries since 2008.[1] In terms of inclusive innovation, there are two important categories of tools that support inclusive innovation:  infrastructure including networks but also equipment operating on the network and applications.
Developments on the infrastructure and device layer: Fast growth in mobile subscriptions
On the infrastructure layer, significant progress has been made to equip people with mobile communication. There were only 700 million mobile subscribers worldwide in 2000 but this number grew to 6 billion in 2011. This growth has helped narrow the digital divide with respect to access to mobile phones. When it comes to access to mobile broadband, however, emerging and developing countries fall behind. Although the number of subscriptions to mobile broadband is rising in emerging and developing countries, people in developed countries are picking up subscriptions at a much higher rate than in developing economies which means that the digital divide is growing in terms of access to mobile broadband. As a consequence, potential innovators in developing economies have fewer tools such as mobile broadband connectivity available to them, and just as importantly, a much smaller market to address that includes people with mobile broadband.
Developments on the application layer: Although multiple new applications have been launched during the past years, many do not survive in the medium or long run and there are problems with scaling existing applications
On the application layer, multiple applications in areas such as health, education and agriculture have developed over the past years. Findings of the report indicate that the main benefit coming out of these applications is the provision of access to information that especially disadvantaged groups did not have before. Although diverse innovative applications have appeared over the past years, there are some challenges that must be addressed in order to promote inclusive innovation. First, many of these projects start well but do not survive over the medium to long term. The second challenge relates to scale. Many interesting applications are tied to a specific region or need but start small and remain small. Small scale projects are still good but scale should be increased in order to amplify the impact of successful applications. Based on these findings of the report, expert panelists reported on their experience, both on the infrastructure and the application layer before starting a discussion about policy needs.

[1] The report will be shortly available on the OECD website: www.oecd.org/sti/ict


Conclusions and further comments: 

Affordable Internet access key for inclusive growth
Panelists highlighted that affordable Internet access was a key to inclusiveness. On the application layer, many small projects failed in Indonesia because access was 48 times more expensive than, for instance, in India. When people have more access to the Internet, more initiatives and innovation can develop which is correlated with economic growth. Participants also pointed out that affordability needs to be considered along the whole value chain, from access to networks to the cost of devices. In addition, costs can be further brought down if servers are directly located in emerging and developing countries avoiding expensive transmission costs across long distances.
Local content and the replication of successful small projects crucial for access to information and inclusive development
On the application side, experts emphasized that improving access to information is one of the key levers for more inclusive development and pointed to the important role public libraries have in these areas. Local content is also a key factor for inclusive access to information. Participants pointed out that developing countries could benefit a lot from online content already available in developed countries but that the translation of this content is pivotal for its dissemination, in particular for disadvantaged groups of the society. Regarding the challenge of scaling up projects, experts noted that up-scaling might not always work and proposed that successful small projects should be replicated rather than scaled up. In addition, pilot projects should be given enough time to develop which has to be considered when funding such projects.
Main roles for policy makers: from “e-government to good government”
When it comes to infrastructure, panelists proposed that policy priorities should be the allocation of spectrum, spurring low-budget mobile broadband pricing models and the deployment of IPv6. On the application layer, panelists highlighted the importance of private-public partnerships to increase the uptake of services and the access to information. In addition, governments should look at the content already available online and in libraries. Overall, panelists concluded that a holistic approach targeting the whole Internet ecosystem is necessary to spur inclusive innovation and pointed out that governments have to move from “e-government” to “good government” which also includes fighting corruption, ensuring accountability and providing resources for education.