OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy: Panel on the Economic and Social Benefits of Internet Openness


Speaking Points

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, PC, MP
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Cancún, Mexico

June 22, 2016

Check Against Delivery


Good afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to be here today in Mexico and contribute, along with others, to the OECD's exemplary work on the digital economy and Internet policy‑making.

Let me start by thanking all of the participants in this important and timely panel discussion on the economic and social benefits of Internet openness for being with us today. We are fortunate to have so many distinguished speakers from government, including Ms. Signe Bāliņa from Latvia, Ms. Alejandra Lagunes from Mexico, Mr. Lawrence Strickling from the United States, Baroness Lucy Neville‑Rolfe from the United Kingdom, and Mr. Roberto Viola from the European Commission.

We are also joined by our accomplished colleagues from business, including Ms. Caroline Atkinson and Mr. Hernán Fernández; from civil society, Ms. Mishi Choudhary; and from the Internet technical community, Mr. Göran Marby. And, finally, we are grateful to our eminent key interveners, Mr. Virgílio Almeida, former prime minister Carl Bildt and Mr. Fredrik Söderqvist.

Thank you all for sharing your time, your insights and your vision with us today.


The economic and social benefits of the Internet are beyond measure. It is a fundamentally open, global and decentralized platform.

This is why we need a bold, collective vision for reinforcing an open, secure and interoperable Internet—first and foremost as a vibrant platform for innovation, economic growth and social inclusion.

Some say we are experiencing a new industrial revolution. Change is taking place at an exponential rate.

As policy‑makers, we must therefore be ready to adapt to this reality and anticipate change, while remaining imaginative in our approaches to Internet policy‑making.

As the minister responsible for leading the development of an innovation agenda for Canada, I believe the ability to innovate will define success in the modern economy—an economy where an open Internet serves as the digital backbone.

Just a few days ago I launched an engagement on innovation that features six action areas:

  • promoting an entrepreneurial and creative society
  • supporting global science excellence
  • building world‑leading clusters and partnerships
  • growing companies and accelerating clean growth
  • competing in a digital world
  • improving ease of doing business

At its core, I see innovation as a mindset.

It's daring to think boldly; to do something smarter, faster, better; to improve the status quo; and to improve quality of life in whatever ways possible. Fundamentally, we're trying to find solutions to big problems. So that also means social innovation.

Within the context of an open Internet economy, preserving multi‑stakeholder innovation is crucial, and this demands moving beyond individual interests to see the collective opportunity.

Framing the Panel

During today's panel, panellists and key interveners will speak about their experiences with Internet openness in promoting entrepreneurship, trade and social well‑being.

Key topics will include privacy and the suitability of legacy frameworks for grappling with issues like network neutrality, the sharing economy and the digitization of working life, as well the role of venture capital in building connectivity.

We will hear about some of the challenges that policy‑makers and technologists face. But where there is challenge, there is also opportunity.

One of the pressing questions for nations is how to seize this opportunity and how to do so in a global context where the world economy is weakened with tepid demand and persistent volatility in financial markets.

Setting the Right Economic Conditions for the Digital Economy

In fact, concerns about rising inequality are driving us to look at ways of leveraging technology and innovation for social good.

A whole‑of‑society response is vital, requiring a fundamental shift in thinking, and key to this is the advancement of digital economies across all sectors.

Setting smart industrial policy will help companies focus on adopting ICTs [information and communication technologies] in order to digitize from concept to design to production.

In fact, firms are embracing technology like never before, including in traditional sectors where new technology is enabling them to achieve their full potential. For instance, entire economic sectors are being affected by the Internet of Things.

We now also see the increasing importance of additive manufacturing and the potential for new growth in the development of clean, blockchain and quantum technologies.

The open Internet has enabled entrepreneurs to succeed, like Canadian company Shopify with its global e‑commerce software.

For all these reasons, the Canadian government is investing in an innovation ecosystem that includes networks and clusters for digital infrastructure and clean technologies.

Setting the Right Conditions for Innovation on an Open Internet

As Internet stakeholders, we are influencing the future by making policy decisions and taking action in the present. As fellow Canadian Leslie Daigle has remarked, "Current policy choices can, literally, make or break the Internet's future."

The Internet has evolved into a powerful commercial and social technology as a result of it not being subject to one particular interest or stakeholder group.

This reflects its open and distributed architecture. But this openness is under pressure.

So what are the core measures against which we can assess change?

The World Economic Forum white paper on Internet fragmentation proposes the idea of "permissionless innovation."

Positively, there has been foundational work carried out to increase knowledge and build consensus around the nature of the Internet. For instance, the OECD Principles for Internet Policy Making continue to provide first‑rate and lasting guidance.

In this respect, I would also like to congratulate the Global Commission on Internet Governance. Though I was unfortunately not able to attend the release event here in Mexico, the Commission has made a major contribution to the advancement of a shared vision for the future.  

Internet Multi‑stakeholder Cooperation and Collaboration

Multi‑stakeholder innovation will continue to be pivotal in formulating effective policy and achieving an ambitious shared vision for the future Internet.

In this, the private sector, academics, civil society and the technical community all have a decisive role to play.

As for the role of governments, I would argue that this is where the greatest adaptation must occur because governments—through effective public policies—have an essential role to play in cultivating a fertile environment for social and economic innovation.

Closing Remarks

Clearly, Internet openness is essential to spurring innovation in the current and emerging economy.

There is a convergence of views around the need for multi‑stakeholder governance and innovation in preserving the Internet's openness and in further extending its reach.

We must make a concerted effort to increase diverse participation and cooperation, all within a suitably agile policy environment, and this ministerial meeting is an excellent example of how such exchanges can be cultivated. But more is needed.

Only with a bold and inclusive collective vision can we innovate to meet challenges and positively shape what comes next.

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