The G20 Digital Ministers’ meeting in Düsseldorf agreed on a roadmap for joint policies for a digital future. “This is a great success,” said Minister Zypries. The meeting sent out “the signal that we want to shape the digital revolution together, for the benefit of all people”.

One in two people in the world are connected to the Internet. Trade and businesses are dependent on the Internet. Therefore, the federal government has declared digitalisation to be one of the key topics of the German G20 Presidency.

At the end of the two-day meeting, the G20 Digital Ministers presented a joint plan as an international framework for action. It includes a programme with various targets to be achieved by the G20 in the coming years.

The G20 Digital Ministers met in Düsseldorf under the banner “Digitalisation: Policies for a Digital Future”, to discuss the opportunities and challenges of digitalisation with international experts from politics, business and civil society. The meeting was held in preparation for the G20 summit on 5 – 6 July in Hamburg.

High-speed Internet access for all by 2025

All people around the world should have access to the Internet by 2025. This is the target agreed on by the ministers at the end of their meeting. High-speed Internet should allow everyone to participate in digitalisation and the opportunities it provides. “Digitalisation must include everyone”, according to Minister Zypries.

The G20 nations want to ensure expansion of the broadband networks. This is the only way in which digital applications can be implemented at all. High-speed Internet is one of a total of ten key policy areas for which the G20 sees an urgent need for action, to drive digitalisation globally.

Digitalisation requires international standards

The ministers want to ensure the creation of similar international norms and standards worldwide as far as possible, to enable the different systems to interact with each other. This applies to Industry 4.0, online security, or even automated driving.

“In this way, not only can new intelligent products and business models be developed, but also new value-generating networks, across country and company borders,” emphasised Zypries.

Digital commerce without national models

In their concluding declaration, the G20 nations agreed to create inclusive growth and more employment through digital commerce. This also includes constructive cooperation of the G20 in negotiations with the WTO. Thinking of digitalisation in terms of national models is the primary error one could commit here, cautioned Zypries.

The agreements reached at this conference should serve as a roadmap for the coming years. Argentina, which will assume the G20 Presidency in 2018, has already announced its intention to build on the decisions taken in Düsseldorf.

Source: G20 Germany

Image: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Full text of the declaration

1. We, the G20 Ministers responsible for the digital economy, met in Düsseldorf on 6–7 April 2017 to discuss how to maximize the  contributions that digitalisation can provide to the economy.

2. Recalling the 2016 G20 Digital Economy Development and Cooperation Initiative, we recognise that the digital economy is an  increasingly important driver of global inclusive economic growth and plays a significant role in accelerating economic development,  enhancing productivity of existing industries, cultivating new markets and industries and achieving inclusive sustainable growth and  development. We recognize that freedom of expression and the free flow of information, ideas and knowledge, are essential for the digital  economy and beneficial to development, as reaffirmed in paragraph 4 of the Tunis Commitment of WSIS.

3. Reaffirming the principle in the G20 Digital Economy Development and Cooperation Initiative commitment to a multistakeholder approach to Internet governance, which includes full and active participation by governments, private sector, civil society, the technical community, and international organizations, in their respective roles and responsibilities. We support multistakeholder processes and initiatives which are inclusive, transparent and accountable to all stakeholders in achieving the digitally connected world.

4. In this respect the G20 countries recognise the importance of the High Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the overall review of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society by the UN General Assembly, where the international community reaffirmed its commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

5. The impact of digital transformation on our economies and lives is already vast and continues to grow, however, in many respects remains unknown. As digitalisation can transform organisations and markets it can create challenges for inclusiveness, labour markets and structural adjustments that may need to be managed through appropriate domestic policy settings and international cooperation, for example sharing of best practices. We take note of the debate on taxation taking place in the Finance Ministers’ track. Digitalisation and an open, secure, reliable, inter operable and truly global Internet are enablers for inclusive economic growth and provide us the tools to address societal and global challenges, including disparities arising from the widening wealth gap, for a more sustainable future.

6. Today, with only one in two people in the world connected to the Internet and underrepresented or disadvantaged groups facing particular challenges, we need to intensify our efforts towards bridging all aspects of the digital divide so that everyone has the opportunity to reap the benefits of the digital economy.

7. G20 countries take note of work by international organisations such as the IMF, ITU, UNCTAD, the WTO, the World Bank and the OECD on the digital economy including the OECD Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy adopted in June 2016.

8. In 2016, in Hangzhou, G20 leaders proposed to collectively leverage the opportunities as well as address challenges of an increasingly digital world, in order to enable a thriving and dynamic digital economy that drives inclusive global growth and benefits all. The G20 Task Force on the digital economy, first adopted in Hangzhou, has taken forward the G20 Blueprint on Innovative Growth, ensuring continuity and consistency with the G20 Digital Economy Development and Cooperation Initiative and the G20 New Industrial Revolution Action Plan, and mindful of potential synergies with other G20 work-streams. Under the current German G20 Presidency the first digital ministerial process has been set up, signifying the importance of digitalisation in the global agenda.

9. We recognize the critical importance of private sector and enterprises in the digital economy as well as of enabling and transparent legal, regulatory and policy environments, and fostering open, competitive markets. Recognizing the importance of enforcing competition and consumer protection laws in the digital economy, which are conducive to market access, technological innovation in ICTs and the growth of the digital economy. Fostering favourable conditions, mitigating potential risks, open labour markets for digital experts and policy environments, mindful of national regulations hereof, and removing unjustified barriers for inclusive digital economic growth are at the heart of the G20’s objectives, including through measures to promote universal and affordable access, expanding infrastructure, improving digital skills, furthering the development of content that meets local needs on a non-discriminatory basis, and creating incentives to continue to innovate, compete and invest in digital business models, encouraging the use of interoperable approaches and relevant international standards taking into account national interests and priorities.

10. G20 countries recognise the potential for the digital economy to contribute to achieving the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This may be possible with a greater availability of affordable broadband connectivity, improved digital skills, and literacy, greater digital entrepreneurship and broader adoption of digital technologies and services as an enabler in other sectors of the economy. We call for cooperation and coordination to maximize the benefits and mitigate potential risks for these global challenges.

11. The G20 countries recognise the vital importance of the principle of multilingualism in the digital economy to encourage corresponding linguistic, cultural and historical diversity underscoring the need for further development of local content on a non-discriminatory basis and services in a variety of languages and formats as adopted by the 2005 WSIS and reaffirmed at the 2015 WSIS +10 in New York. Work on language and translation technologies will help to achieve this principle.

12. We, the Ministers responsible for the digital economy, also recognise that digitalisation touches upon areas out- side of our responsibility and welcome the work of our colleagues including the implementation of the G20 High Level Principles for Digital Financial Inclusion by the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion the G20 Finance track and the efforts of the G20 Agriculture Ministers to highlight the importance of ICT for innovative and sustainable agriculture. We welcome the initiative of the future of work of the G20 Employment Track and also call on other Ministers in our countries to explore the benefits that digitalisation could bring to other sectors.

Global digitalisation – Harnessing the potential for inclusive growth and employment

13. G20 countries will continue to work on the key fields of action outlined in the G20 Blueprint on Innovation and Growth and recognise the strategic importance of harnessing digitalisation to generate prosperity, inclusive economic growth, social and cultural progress and development around the globe. We also acknowledge and support the potential that digitalisation has in creating prosperity and progress around the globe, underline the opportunities that exist, understand the need to balance benefits and risks, and provide for more inclusion. Therefore, it is important to identify obstacles to digitalisation, including those that lead to the further marginalisation of developing countries and widen digital divides as well as identify the practices that are working well.

14. We welcome new innovative digital business models, including like online-platforms and the sharing economy and call on Ministers responsible for the digital economy to consider principles that support investment and innovation, while protecting intellectual property rights. These developments should be accompanied by a sound and balanced system of policy approaches that should be based on supportable evidence and developed in an inclusive and transparent manner. We also encourage the exchange of best practices on boosting investment and financing for micro and small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

15. We recognise that digitalisation is raising new questions surrounding competition. The lines between offline and online business models are becoming increasingly blurred, and there are new competitive dynamics. In many cases digitalisation leads to greater competition, transparency and consumer choice, however, there is also a need to better understand the potential market impact of new business models.

16. The G20 countries recognise that digital infrastructure is fundamental to digitalisation yet not everyone has the same opportunities to connect for access. Digital divides persist across income, age, geography, and gender. Therefore, we reaffirm our commitment made in Hangzhou to the Connect 2020 Agenda’s goal of connecting the next 1.5 billion people by 2020 and will encourage the domestic deployment of connectivity to all people by 2025, in accordance with the respective nation’s strategic and developmental policy frameworks. With regard to improving connectivity infrastructure, we welcome policy and regulation that promote competitive environment in order to encourage private sector investment.

17. We encourage promoting actions for investment in the deployment and development of advanced communications technologies, including 5G and other technologies, recognizing the different levels of development of G20 countries, and taking into account international efforts for harmonisation.

18. Connectivity and digital access alone are not enough to create an inclusive, sustainable digital future for all. We welcome and support the work of the G20 Employment Track which is examining how employment and social policies could be adapted in order to shape the future of work in the areas of skills development and adjustment, social policies and job quality. We also understand that all forms of education and life-long learning may need to be adjusted to take advantage of new digital technologies and to develop the skills required by the labour market. We welcome the G20 Initiative to Promote Quality Apprenticeships and promote skills for a digital world in several areas including vocational training and on the job training (see Annex 2). As well, G20 countries intend to promote digital literacy, as an essential element in the development of the digital economy.

19. Half the population of the planet are women yet 250 million fewer women than men are online today. Taking this into consideration, we intend to promote action to help bridge the digital gender divide and help support the equitable participation of women and girls in the digital economy. The G20 Ministers responsible for the digital economy welcome the efforts made by the G20 Development Working Group and the initiative #eSkills4girls to help improve digital skills and employment perspectives for girls and women in emerging and developing countries. We also bear in mind the importance of initiatives to digitally include other underrepresented or disadvantaged groups.

20. G20 Members share the objectives of promoting further inclusive growth and creating jobs through Digital Trade. G20 Members also recognise that capabilities and development of Digital Trade across the world are unevenly spread, and that Digital Trade impacts on a range of closely related policy areas. Policy decisions should benefit society as a whole, consumers, and firms of all sizes, particularly MSMEs. G20 Members commit to work towards a common understanding and improved measurement of Digital Trade in order to foster informed and evidence-based policymaking in this area.

G20 Members will engage constructively in WTO discussions relating to E-commerce with the WTO’s Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC 11) in mind, and will remain constructively engaged in other international fora with responsibilities related to various aspects of Digital Trade to foster digital economy development and trade. G20 Members agree that Digital Trade has potential to boost inclusive growth and jobs and may also bring challenges to developed, developing and least developed countries at different levels, and, acknowledging that intensified and concerted action is needed to enhance the ability of developing and least developed countries to more fully engage in Digital Trade, agree on the common goal to strive to address the factors contributing to digital divides. Taking into account the rapid development of technology and its impact on trade patterns, G20 Members agree to continue discussions on Digital Trade under the upcoming Argentinian G20 Presidency.

21. G20 countries recognise the important role that MSMEs and start-ups play in our economies, including women-owned MSMEs and start-ups. We encourage sharing best practices, knowledge and skills in the areas of identifying new business opportunities and new financial resources as well as building new capacities. We welcome implementation efforts of the G20 Entrepreneurship Action Plan, which endeavours to improve the assistance available for entrepreneurs to access opportunities in the digital economy, including to promote inclusive growth in developed, developing and least developed countries.

Digitising production for growth 

22. G20 countries share the opinion that the digitalisation of production has an impact on institutions and infrastructure and may act as a driver for global growth, including creating new jobs, but at the same time may potentially lead to other effects, especially on employment, transforming jobs and automating tasks. With respect to the digitalisation of production not all the G20 countries and their industries are at the same level of implementation. Therefore, through exchange of expertise and best practices, G20 countries can encourage digital transformation in production, especially for MSMEs. This includes gaining an in-depth understanding of the impact of digitalisation on economic development and particularly of how it can be harnessed in the service of industrialization and economic development in general. We also take into account the conference “Digitising Manufacturing in the G20 – Initiatives, Best Practices and Policy Approaches” which took place in March 2017.

23. A successful and inclusive co-operation of all interested parties and stakeholders can help address the wide range of economic and social challenges that exist. We intend to exchange best practices among experts in the digitalisation of production, Internet of Things, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, IT security, smart cities and smart mobility.

24. The G20 countries support the development and their use of international standards for technological products and services that are consistent with the international rules including WTO rules and principles.3 G20 countries recognise the development of standards should be industry- and market-led, based on principles of openness, transparency and consensus and standards should not act as barrier to trade, competition or innovation. Standards can promote security in the use of ICT and interoperability, enabling us to reap the benefits from digitalisation while at the same time ensuring appropriate measures for pursuing legitimate public policy goals.

25. Building on the pre-G20-presidency conference on standardisation that took place in Berlin in October 2016 and on the call made by the G20 Agriculture Ministers, G20 countries are encouraged to exchange best practices on standardisation in areas such as: digitisation of production, security in the use of ICT, smart cities and smart mobility as well as in the field of smart farming. We will also continue to support mobility as well as in the field of smart farming. We will also continue to support international standards for digitised production applications, open to participation from interested parties and stakeholders, where all relevant standards organisations have a role to play. At the international level, standards to improve digitalisation of production and facilitate the conduct of international trade, could be fostered by existing standardisation bodies.

Strengthening trust in the digital world

26. Users can increasingly benefit from the digital world. G20 countries will support the free flow of information while respecting applicable domestic and/or international legal frameworks for privacy and data protection, and strengthening security in the use of ICT as well as transparency and consumer protection. We reaffirm support for ICT policies that preserve the global nature of the Internet, promote the flow of information across borders, and allow Internet users to lawfully access online information, knowledge and services of their choice. At the same time the G20 recognizes that applicable frameworks for privacy and personal data protection, as well as intellectual property rights, have to be respected as they are essential to strengthening confidence and trust in the digital economy. We further recognize that there is also a need to meet certain legitimate policy objectives to take advantage of the benefits of digitalisation. Furthermore, we encourage international co-operation among the G20 in the above mentioned policy objectives, while also supporting cooperation efforts at the broader international level and including to assist countries to bridge the digital divide.

27. We emphasise the importance of consumer protection in the digital economy. G20 countries continue to address a number of consumer challenges to ensure that online businesses provide consumers with information sufficient to make informed decisions, for example through consumer information that is easy to understand. Consumers also need to be empowered to take control of their online identity. In this context, it is also important to strengthen our efforts to reinforce basic digital literacy of consumers. We also note the G20 Consumer Summit held on 15 March in Berlin and the recommendations presented.

28. Trust and security are vital for harnessing the potential of the digital economy and for the successful digitalisation of production. As part of our efforts to address security risks, threats and vulnerabilities in the use of ICTs, including those to ICT-enabled critical infrastructures, endeavour to strengthen international collaboration, capacity building and public-private-partnerships, including through constructive discussions in relevant inter- national fora. We support and encourage the use of risk-based technical standards, guidelines, and best-practices to identify, assess, and manage security risk by both the public and private sectors.

Going forward

29. We appreciate the role of the Business 20, Women 20, Youth 20 and Labour 20 and other civil society groups in the G20 process, and the importance of exchanging ideas and sharing effective and practical solutions with all interested parties and stakeholders.

30. We are grateful for the expertise provided by the IMF, ITU, OECD, UNCTAD, World Bank and WTO for their participation in our G20 work. We call on all international bodies with expertise to further the digital economy measurement agenda, consistent with their current mandates, in an effort to provide important tools for enhancing the understanding of the contribution of the digital economy to the overall economy.

31. Digital transformation through rapid adoption and application of innovative digital economy business models and frameworks as enablers for the sharing economy, workforce digitalisation and financial inclusion could be one practical, effective and scalable way, along with other policy approaches, of addressing uneven distribution of wealth and income disparity. We welcome future work on fostering strategic initiatives on the digital economy to improve wealth and income distribution in G20 countries.

32. To fully harness the potential of digitalisation for jobs and growth, it is critical that the digital economy is comprehensively included in our national statistics and when feasible, separately identified. There is also a need to continually review our statistical frameworks. This evidence will help us assess the impact that our digital strategies are having on the development of the digital economy. We therefore welcome the work of international organisations and National Statistical Offices to improve measurement of the digital economy.

33. In recognition of the potential for economic growth and social well-being that digital transformation brings, we invite the G20 Task Force on the digital economy to continue its work. The next Presidency of the G20, Argentina, has confirmed to continue the work on the basis of the Roadmap such as supporting, inclusive growth and jobs, sustainable development, and bridging the digital divides.

To download the full Digital Economy Ministerial Declaration including the Annexclick here

Source: Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Germany