Latin America and the Future of Internet Governance

Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
South School on Internet Governance
Washington, DC
March 29, 2016

Thank you.

It is an honor to speak here today and to follow Vint Cerf on the agenda. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his work and his commitment to the Internet and its development.

I also want to thank my friend Olga Cavalli for the invitation to be with you here today.

Finally, I’d like to give a warm welcome to Oscar Leon, the new Secretariat at CITEL. If you don’t know him yet, you’ll get a chance to meet him when he moderates a panel this afternoon. CITEL, as many here know, is an OAS institution committed to advancing access to the communications services and the Internet for people in the Americas.

I will speak briefly and then open it up to your questions.

The billions of us who have access to the global Internet have come to rely on it for everything from banking and shopping to dating and traveling to expressing and organizing ourselves. Businesses manage resources and supply chains across borders using the platform. And governments deliver services more efficiently to their citizens. As a result of all that activity and innovation, the digital economy of applications and services built on this interconnected network of networks has become the single most important driver for social and economic development in the world today.

As the remaining billions still offline come online -- many of them from Latin America and the Caribbean -- we believe that they too will contribute to, and benefit from, the change we have experienced. At the State Department, we have created the Global Connect Initiative because we believe that we need to renew and recharge our focus on connecting the digitally isolated. Next month, we will have the first major meeting of the Initiative. Finance ministers, multilateral development banks, and representatives from the technology industry and NGOs will come together in Washington, D.C. to meet and discuss the GCI and actions that stakeholders can take and are taking worldwide to bring an additional 1.5 billion people online by 2020.

Every partner country or stakeholder will contribute what they can to bring us towards this goal, from public and private investment to policy changes that will make the Internet more affordable for all. The United States is hoping to add value through our own initiatives and by acting as a convener. We are doing this because we believe in connectivity and its ability to change lives for the better.

The McKinsey Global Institute estimated in its Digital Globalization report released earlier this month that the direct impact of data flows raised world GDP by 3.0 percent annually, or $2.2 trillion in 2014.

There is an immense amount of complexity beneath those numbers and we have to work to ensure that the kind of growth we are promoting is sustainable and broadly shared, but this is a more than a glass-half-full story.

The challenge for public policy leaders in Latin America and the rest of the world is to resist the urge to try to control or centrally plan the development of the digital economy. Instead, we should embrace it, keep it open, work with all stakeholders to feed its growth, and empower our people to develop the skills necessary to make the most of the digital revolution.

It is estimated that 75 percent of the benefits derived from information and communication technologies (ICTs) go to non-ICT businesses. Those benefits are derived by doctors using new tools and better tracking the health of their patients, farmers accessing weather and market data, companies better managing supply chains across borders, governments better managing the taxes their people pay, and countless other applications.

In short, these new technologies are creating opportunities for organizations and businesses of all types all around the world.

And these tools are not just important to businesses and economic interests. Though my office focuses on the economics of communications technologies, we know that ensuring an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet is critical to our global security and to the protection and exercise of international human rights as well, both online and offline.

Over the last three years, we have had constructive working relationships with many of our friends in Latin America on the questions of Internet governance and the development of global communications networks. We have built consensus at multiple forums through mutual respect and recognition of both the benefits and challenges that we face in this space.

But Latin America is not monolithic. Each nation approaches the management of its digital economy differently. Opinions of the role of the state in markets vary and the degree to which any given country is reaping the benefits of the Internet is dependent on multiple factors.

What we can convey is that the United States wants to work with you as a partner to connect the region. And we want to work with you to ensure that Internet governance is inclusive of all stakeholders and measured not just in dollars and cents but in the degree to which the tool enables and allows the exercise of human rights.

I have seen the agenda and the speakers for this workshop. You are going to hear from and engage some of the most knowledgeable people on these subjects in the world. I look forward to those discussions and our team looks forward to working with all of you on these issues as we move forward together.

Thank you. I am happy to take your questions.