This is the digital age – and I am thankful for living in it. For one, a key benefit of this age that I enjoy is that my friends and I no longer need to "agree to disagree" on trivial but important factual issues over dinner, such as whether there is a difference between lamb or mutton, or whether fish drink water, when we can look it up on our smart phones via the 3G network.
The above is but one of the many benefits that the Internet has brought with it. Much of the Internet's extraordinary growth belongs to users in developing economies (read: Asia-Pacific) looking to grow their Internet Economy – a sector Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reported to be growing at 15-25% per year.
Indeed, the Internet has changed the lives of many, but challenges remain, and many barriers – also known as eFriction – that keep countries, companies and consumers from realizing the full benefits of the Internet will need to be addressed. These include not only barriers in terms of availability of infrastructure, but as many as 55 potential sources of e-Friction like quality of education, adult literacy rate, availability of local content, and freedom of the net etc.
Across the Asia Pacific region, the digital divide is wide, and the consequences of this can be profound. As the Internet extends connectivity into machines and things, and becomes more embedded in our everyday lives, the cost of not getting online will continue to mount for countries already at a disadvantage, potentially exacerbating the divide.
We are at another stage of development in the digital age, as we transit from an Internet Economy to a Digital Society. These two terms may seem synonymous, but the latter highlights the adoption of technologies, business practices and public policies that encourage the interconnectivity of networks including that of payments, information systems and business transactions, as well as the interoperability of applications and content across different platforms.
The above means an intertwining of different technologies, as well as people – stakeholders from different industries, including different government agencies – and all of us will need to work together to further realize the Internet's full benefits.
There is a lot we need to keep up with, but nothing is insurmountable if we put our hearts and minds together. This is exactly what we are looking forward to discuss and address at the upcoming GSMA-ITU's "Digital Societies Policy Forum 2015", taking place on 25 June 2015 at the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit in Bangkok Thailand, where policymakers, regulators, industry and other stakeholders from the ICT sector will come together to explore the above issues specific to the Asia Pacific region.
From the ICANN Asia Pacific Hub, we are very proud to be partnering the ITU, GSMA and ISOC in this event, where I will be presenting on BCG's update of their report on eFriction, entitled "Which Wheels to Grease" [PDF, 235 KB], and also look forward to hearing our partners' respective reports/research which will frame the discussions for the day.
For more details, please visit: http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Regional-Presence/AsiaPacific/Pages/Events/2015/June-GSMA-ITU/home.aspx.
Low Jia Rong is the Strategies and Initiatives Director, ICANN Asia Pacific