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Increased Internet access to boost economic growth, forum

afrol News, 16 November - Business leaders to the UN-linked Internet Governance Forum (IGF), taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, send a strong message yesterday, saying the future of the Internet is everyone's concern and could boost economic growth.

As a gateway to abundant resources that can help raise global living standards, the continued evolution and success of the Internet is essential, the business leaders said in their message.

Addressing over 1,000 participants during the opening ceremony of the forum, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Secretary General Jean Rozwadowski said: "Harnessed appropriately, the Internet has an important role to play in helping to address an array of challenges ranging from economic recovery to climate change."

Mr Rozwadowski went on to underscore that a holistic, but distributed, approach to Internet governance was the only way to ensure that the right decisions are made. "No one group can or should address Internet governance issues alone," he said.

Business is a major investor, innovator and developer of Internet technologies, infrastructures, applications and services that enable users to reap the benefits of the Internet.

Subramaniam Ramadorai, Chair of the ICC initiative Business Action to Support the Information Society, and Vice Chairman of Tata Consultancy Services, stressed that developments in networking and mobile technologies and applications must be underpinned by investments in infrastructure and increased technical literacy. They must also be supported by informed policy frameworks at national level that promote innovation.

"Regulatory frameworks should avoid hampering a company's ability to compete, which in turn slows innovation," Mr Ramadorai said during his opening speech at the forum. "In India we have seen that when policies and regulation support the ability of companies to compete, innovation and entrepreneurship thrive," he added.

The meeting also noted that around the world, partnership programmes and initiatives are helping people in cities and rural areas extend use of the Internet for their economic and social benefit, further noting that business is a key partner in these efforts.

Research by the World Bank published in July this year revealed that a 10 percent increase in high speed Internet connections leads to a 1.3 percent growth in the economy - data that supports ICC's belief that informed policy choices that enable connectivity and new pathways such as mobile Internet access are a very powerful way to extend economic opportunities.

Herbert Heitmann, SAP Chief Global Communications Officer, and Chair of the ICC Commission on E-Business, IT and Telecoms said: "Many of us already take the opportunities and efficiencies of the Internet for granted. However, there is still a huge untapped potential in this market, one which holds the key to future economic growth on a global scale."

The economic impact of mobile access to the Internet has been most significant in some of the most rapidly developing parts of the world, according to research published earlier this year by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

For example, the use of mobile technology in a fishing village near Pondicherry now allows fishermen on land to access optimal fishing zone information, which they use to alert their colleagues out at sea - increasing the day's catch up to 10-fold.

Meanwhile, the radio taxi industry across urban India has also experienced 50 percent annual growth in the past few years, as a direct result of equipping drivers with mobile phones and using GPS to track cars, according to the ICRIER report.

Another study, commissioned by Nokia Siemens Networks, shows that increased access to broadband in the US has accounted for 10 percent of recent productivity growth. The report, published in February this year, adds that if the US had five more broadband lines for every 100 people, the country's GDP would be 0.5 percent higher than its current 2009 level.

"Mobile access to the Internet provides people, even in the remotest areas, access to vast resources of knowledge and information, and makes best practices available to everybody," said Lauri Kivinen, Head of Corporate Affairs of Nokia Siemens Networks.

"It also broadens the geographic scope of potential markets, increases choice in the marketplace, and provides access to goods and services that may have been previously unavailable or unknown," he added.

Business believes that effective Internet related policies create an environment that enables innovation and development, attracts investment, helps build infrastructures for future users and spurs economic recovery and growth. Informed policy frameworks are pro-competitive and consider issues such as the free flow of information, data protection, and security.

ICC BASIS is a strong supporter of the IGF that will take place over the next three days. The forum was set up three years ago as an open platform for businesses, governments, civil society and technical organizations to discuss Internet policy issues.

The IGF enables the development of Internet related policies by allowing participants to among others, share ideas and listen to others' perspectives on an equal footing, exchange best practices and build human and institutional capacity.

The forum's original five-year mandate expires at the end of 2010, and ICC BASIS is publicly backing continuation of the IGF and its founding principles.

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