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EDITOR's KEYBOARD - FROM ARCHIVE

Seoul Declaration - Roadmap for Future of Internet Economy; India needs to do copious catching-up!
By Shailendra Kumar, Founder Editor
Mar 13, 2018

ALTHOUGH I concluded the Liechtenstein episode 'twice' in the past two weeks, of course, on popular demand, more inputs continue to trickle down the Cob(web) way. And the most important one is that the CBDT needs to explore all possible avenues to get the desired database on black money. And one of the most promising avenues continues to exist in its neighbourhood! Yes, the CBEC! The CBDT simply needs to remind itself of the huge network asset its sister Board has built over the years to keep a close watch on international movement and invoicing of goods. The two places where the CBEC has strategically stationed its key pairs of eyeballs are London and Brussels. If a top-level meeting between the heads of both the Boards are held, the London and Brussels hands can certainly obtain tangible results because of their quality-network and rapport with local tax authorities. Let's hope CBDT exploits it in larger interest of the exchequer.

Anyway, I do not intend to dwell more on Liechtenstein, and wish to talk at length about the silent nature of History related to technological revolution. All of us who have access to internet and computer are indeed witness to galloping rise of e-commerce and Internet Economy. Those who are more familiar with the subject would prefer talking in terms of the distance the global community has travelled since the 1998 Ottawa Ministerial Meeting on E-Commerce. But, for most Netizens, Internet has become a vital infrastructure for global economic and social development. And the three Cs - Convergence, Creativity and Confidence - have collectively been leading to major transition in the evolution of Internet and the economic practices developed around them. Thus, it has become utterly significant that policies supporting the Internet Economy should be crafted and coordinated with utmost care.

What is at stake is the future economy. And this is what prompted the OECD top brass to plan a two-day meet at Seoul on June 17-18. Besides the OECD Member countries, many developing economies, including India, participated in it. And what makes it historic is the adoption of the Seoul Declaration For The Future of The Internet Economy. In India, not much has been talked about the great challenges and the future direction of evolution of the Internet Economy, and that is why I have described the technology-driven changes as silent revolution. All of us are increasingly getting used to multifarious functionality of Internet without realising that how it has taken over the complete set of mannerisms needed for socialising and economic practices in our country.

Let's see what OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said for Internet while addressing the distinguished gathering at Seoul: ''Given that this infrastructure has become critical to our economies and societies, we should all engage in developing better, more broad-based, governance arrangements and policies. A more decentralised, networked approach to policy formulation for the Internet economy that includes the active participation of stakeholders is required.''

What is there in the Seoul Declaration? Participating countries resolved on the urgent need for governments to work closely with civil society, business and technical experts on policies which empower and protect consumers, encourage competition and use of internet worldwide. The Declaration lays a roadmap to upgrade communication policies which have made Internet the economic driver. Governments and business need to work together to use technology more creatively to tackle global challenges like climate change.

The Declaration states, "We share a vision that the Internet Economy, which covers the full range of our economic, social and cultural activities supported by the Internet and related information and communications technologies will strengthen our capacity to improve the quality of life for all our citizens.''

The major heads under the Declaration resolve to:

++ Facilitate the convergence of digital networks, devices, applications and services, through policies;

++ Foster creativity in the development, use and application of the Internet, through policies;

++ Strengthen confidence and security, through policies;

++ Ensure that the Internet Economy is truly global, through policies.

I am happy that India has been a party to this Declaration which lays the clear-cut roadmap for Future Internet Economy and cross-border cooperation to tackle issues like cyber crime and security (Next week column to focus on challenges to the Internet Economy - Online Theft of Identity). India has already embarked on an ambitious e-governance project and a long-term vision like this Declaration would certainly help it realise the goal and walk hand in hand with other rapidly-growing economy. Since future now lies in Internet, let's hope Union Government takes online existence of its various arms more seriously and goes beyond the mere creation of a website and focuses more on updation and dissemination of policy-related information. It is also high time that the key arms of the Government treat private sector online entities as their supportive partners in whatever ends they intend to achieve in the larger public interests. Such an attitude is required more urgently among the Revenue Boards which continue to be prisoners of 17th century mindsets in hedging information from its patrons - the taxpayers. In fact, even our Finance Minister who never tires of talking about computerisation has failed to treat the private sector online entities as reliable partners. May be a time has come for a radical change which has become inescapable!