Countries are making increased efforts to develop their digital economies in a way that will maximise social and economic benefits, but now need to address the risk of disruption in areas like privacy and jobs, according to a new OECD report.
The OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015 finds that most countries have moved from a narrow focus on communications technology to a broader digital approach that integrates social and economic priorities. Yet no OECD country has a national strategy on online privacy protection or is funding research in this area, which tends to be viewed as a matter for law enforcement authorities to handle.
The report - which covers areas from broadband penetration and industry consolidation to network neutrality and cloud computing in OECD and partner countries like Brazil, Colombia and Egypt - also says more should be done to offer information and communication technology (ICT) skills training to help people transition to new types of digital jobs.
“The digital economy has enormous potential for economic growth and well-being – but only if people trust it enough to fully engage,” said OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Director Andrew Wyckoff. “Things are moving very fast, with the arrival of Big Data analytics and the Internet of Things, and we must make sure we are ready for the impact this will have on digital privacy, security and trust as well as on skills and employment.”
In a 2014 OECD survey, 26 out of 29 countries rated building broadband infrastructure as their top priority and 19 of 28 countries put digital privacy and security second and third. Asked about the future, countries placed skills development as their top objective, followed by public service improvements and digital content creation. (See the survey data).
Other surveys cited in the report suggest two-thirds of people are more concerned about their online privacy than a year ago and only a third believe private information on the Internet is secure. More than half fear monitoring by government agencies.
Other findings in the Digital Economy Outlook:
• Of 34 countries surveyed, 27 have a national digital strategy. Many were established or updated in 2013 or 2014. Most focus on telecoms infrastructure, broadband capacity and speed. Few cover international issues such as internet governance.
• Seven of the OECD’s 34 member countries count more than one mobile broadband subscription per person. Around three-quarters of smartphone use in OECD countries occurs on private Wi-Fi access via fixed networks.
• All OECD countries have at least three mobile operators and most have four. Prices for mobile services fell markedly between 2012 and 2014 with the biggest declines in Italy, New Zealand and Turkey. Prices rose in Austria and Greece, however. (p.118).
• The ICT sector employed more than 14 million people in OECD countries in 2013, almost 3% of jobs in the 34-country bloc. ICT employment ranges from above 4% of total employment in Ireland and Korea to below 2% in Greece, Portugal and Mexico.
• ICT venture capital is on the rise again and is now back at its highest level in the US since the dot-com bubble. (p. 37).
• China is the leading gross exporter of ICT goods and services, but the US is the top exporter when trade is calculated in value-added terms, due in part to the high presence of US ICT services embodied in final products. Embodied ICT services also contributed to higher shares for India and the UK in value-added terms. (p. 93).
• Korea is the most specialised of OECD and partner countries in computer, electronic and optical products; Luxembourg is strongest in telecoms; while Ireland, Sweden and the UK are most specialised in IT and other information services.
An embeddable version of the Digital Economic Outlook is also available together with information about downloadable and print versions of the report.