The 2012 Internet Society Global INET 
  Harnessing the Internet 
  for Economic Transformation 

 

Brief session description:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012    As the Internet grows, economies are also growing. Many countries are experiencing double-digit increases in Internet penetration rates year on year, leading to rapid rates of GDP growth. This panel was asked to address the following questions: 1) How do we work to catalyze entrepreneurship and innovation that will transform the people living in emerging and developing economies from “Internet consumers” to “Internet creators”? 2) What are the broader opportunities and challenges for harnessing the Internet for economic transformation? 3) What have we learned from past successful ventures and approaches in regard to the Internet and economic transformation?

Click here for rough-draft transcript from ISOC.

Details of the session:

Session moderator was Alice Munyua, vice chair of ICANN’s GAC and chair of the 2011 Global IGF. Panelists included: Kathryn Brown, senior VP for public policy at Verizon; Jacques Bughin, director of the Brussels office of McKinsey & Company; Michael Kende, partner and global technology policy expert at Analysys Mason; Vincent Kouwenhoven, managing director of the eVentures Africa Fund; Usha Vyasulu Reddy, ICT for development consultant based in Hyderabad; 'Gbenga Sesan, executive director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria. 

Several recent studies have confirmed the fact that the Internet is transforming global and local economies in mostly positive ways. “There are examples out there on how technologies have made a difference in people’s lives,” said Usha Vyasulu Reddy, an independent trainer and consultant on ICT for development.

Reddy said during a recent visit to India she saw first-hand how access to mobile devices can change lives. A woman in one of the villages heard a political message over a phone, and realized the potential that mobile devices could have for the women in her village. She talked to people from a NGO and they agreed to send out a voicemail-blast every day.

This was not a normal voicemail, but one that told women about work available in nearby locations, where legal aid could be found for domestic abuse and other concerns and details about when government officials were coming to the village.

This is just one of many stories shared to explain how the introduction of technology can bring economic and social advances to countries.

Overcoming obstacles through technology

“The mobile phone and access to the Internet is even more valuable in emerging countries than they are here where we have access to banking,” said Michael Kende, a partner at Analysys Mason. “We have access to fixed phones. We have access to a lot of sources of information. Farmers can get access to crop prices here without going to the Internet.”

Having access to more information through mobile devices also gives people new opportunities to enter the world market, he said.

He met one boy who had never seen an iPhone before but the youngster was able to develop an application for an iPhone and start a business that way.

“2.6 jobs are created for every job destroyed by Internet technologies,” said Jacques Bughin, a director at research and consultancy firm McKinsey & Company. “In developing countries we start to see more like three to five jobs created for each job that is displaced.”

Vicent Kouwenhoven, the founder and managing director at eVentures Africa Fund, is investing in digital media in Africa. As part of eVenture, African citizens are able to apply to create mobile applications and since January 2010 they have received over 500 applicants from all over Africa, Kouwenhoven said.

An in-depth analysis of Africa during the years 2008 and 2009 conducted by a group of Internet entrepreneurs led him to believe eVentures should be started. He said the main reasons for this decision were these changes in Africa:

1. The deployment scheme of sea cables.

2. A massive growth in cell phone use.

3. The upcoming middle class.

4. The return of the Native Africans who were educated in other countries returning home.

“We find African solutions for African issues,” Kouwenhoven said. “It is tempting to copy with all the lessons learned during 20 years of Internet in the West - to just go copy/paste the Monsters, the Amazons and the eBays. There is a market for these applications, but I am fascinated by the amount of applications we get that have that typical African twist.”

Currently, the number-one driver of people to the Internet in Africa, and perhaps worldwide, is entertainment, Kouwenhoven said.

Is mobile technology enough?

“Recent Kenyan statistics put Kenyan access to mobile devices at nearly 67 percent,” said Alice Munyua, chair of 2011 United Nations IGF and moderator of this session.

“What can be done to increase access to the Internet using mobile phones and is mobile access sufficient?” she asked.

The uptake of mobile devices at its simplest, using telephones for voice communication, has been the fastest uptake of any technology the world has ever seen.

The game changer is broadband access, with accessible bandwidth now large enough for the transmission of Internet data and video, the possibilities become huge, Verizon VP Kathryn Brown said.

While mobile devices bring new opportunities to people, Reddy urged that various forms of technology should be available to people - not just small-form, limited-options technology.

“Ultimately the user at the other end, whether it is a student, a grandmother, or a child, determines which technology to use to get access and all should be available,” Reddy said. “But it is regions of the greatest deprivation, such as Afghanistan, where you see the greatest opportunity for mobile applications.”

The expansion of mobile devices has been able to happen because of the work from companies like Verizon.


Brown, senior vice president for public policy development at Verizon, said her company is one of the largest connectors on the planet. 

“It is the investment in these networks that connect the world that have enabled the kind of connectivity, the kind of presence that the Internet has in the Western world, the Eastern world, the Southern world, I think, all over the world at this point,” Brown said.

In some places, like Peru, access to Internet through a mobile device is not a reality yet.

“In Peru the percentage of Internet users of true mobile devices is approximately 6 percent, and in that case I would like to link the upcoming opportunity provided by the large number of people who have mobile devices but do not as yet use them to access the Internet,” said Universidad del Pacifico professor Freddy Linares Torres, speaking through a translator.

Innovation through Internet

Reddy made it a point to bring attention to the downsides of the Internet’s influence. She mentioned the increase in "computer-related hearing impairments" and the changes taking place in family structure and communication.

She said the most important change is in the cognitive style of how children learn and pay attention.

The average 10-year-old has an attention span of three minutes. This will create new problems for teaching the younger generations mathematics and other skills, Reddy said.

“I have been asking myself how we can compress mathematics, chemistry and other subjects in to 140 characters for Twitter,” said 'Gbenga Sesan, executive director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria.

While the access to Internet may change how children relate to getting and sharing information, it still has many positive effects for global education, he said.

“Because of the Internet, they can get access to exactly the same amount of information that anyone anywhere else in the world can have access to,” Sesan said. “So yes, they may not have access to quality education, but because of the Internet they can leave that problem.”

- Reporter: Rebecca Smith

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A selection of Twitter Reports
from this ISOC 20th event:

#ISOC 20 2.2 breakout "Harnessing the Internet for Economic Transformation" starting. http://bit.ly/I7svpy #GlobalINET

Its amazing to hear stories on how technologies we take for granted everyday have changed lives all over the world at #ISOC 20#GlobalINET

Sesan: "I have been asking myself how we can compress mathematics, chemistry & etc. in 140 characters for Twitter." #ISOC20 #GlobalINET

Want to read the study Kende is talking about in the economic transformation session? It is here: http://bit.ly/IjoCdA #ISOC 20#GlobalINET

@amunyua: what can be done to increase access to the Internet using mobile phones and if mobile access is sufficient? #ISOC 20#GlobalINET

Brown: "(Verizon) is one of the largest connectors of the planet"#ISOC 20 #GlobalINET. I never knew my dad's company had such an impact.

Kouwenhoven: "Internet access in Africa will mean more for economic development than 300 yrs of christian missionary" #ISOC20 #GlobalINET

Michael Kende, partner at Analysys Mason, panelist at #ISOC 20#GlobalINET session on economic transformation.

Freddy Linares Torres, director of Cominstall Corp and professor, panelist at #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET session on economic transformation.

Kathryn Brown, snr VP Public Policy Develop. & Corp, Resp. @ Verizon, panelist at #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET session on economic transformation.

Jacques Bughin, McKinsey & Company, panelist at #ISOC 20#GlobalINET session on economic transformation.

Usha Vyasulu Reddy, ICT for development consultant, panelist in#ISOC 20 #GlobalINET session on economic transformation.

Vincent Kouwenhoven, founder and managing director at eVentures, panelist at #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET session on economic transformation

Gbenga Sesan, executive director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), panelist in #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET session on economic transformation

Moderator of 2.2 session is @amunyua, chair of 2011 UN IGF,http://bit.ly/rrWCsX #ISOC 20 #GlobalINET

The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at the Internet Society's 20th Anniversary Global INET Conference included the following Elon University students, faculty, staff and friends: Jacquie Adams, Dan Anderson, Janna Anderson, Kacie Anderson, Nicole Chadwick, Jeff Flitter, Addie Haney, Brandon Marshall, Brian Meyer, Caitlin O'Donnell, Rachel Southmayd and Rebecca Smith.

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