26 June 2014

Transatlantic week, organised by Transatlantic Policy Network (TPN), takes places every year in Washington DC and aims to raise the profile of the transatlantic relationship, as well as foster a dialogue on shared purpose and joint action among US and EU policy-makers.

Ajit Jaokar was a rapporteur at the following sessions: 'Towards a Digitally-Driven Transatlantic Market', 'Data Protection and Data Flows', 'Towards a Digitally-Driven Transatlantic Market'. Ajit shares the main insights from these sessions.

Part 1 - Specific Steps Towards a Transatlantic Digital Roadmap: Development and Cooperation for New and Emerging Technologies

  • Background of the session is TTIP, IGF and ICANN (Net Mundial). Internet governance is always the question of local vs. global with no regulation, but that is changing. There is now an increasing need to balance with the local.
  • The future economy will be based on some key trends: All products will have an information component even if some literature suggests that Digital destroys jobs. Current Economic regulations are built on the old economy but Digital grows exponentially which means we have not seen anything yet (best is yet to come).
  • Multistakeholder could be a model for other industries and we know that regulations create friction. Deletion of concept of time and space  needs time to adjust and regulations lag (e.g. modernization of IPR).
  • There are many obstacles and challenges: French Digital Council document shows Europe is very different - there are only a handful of companies which scale in Europe. The USA is far ahead in its global position. Americans are a lot better at understanding the 'Bosphorus' = route vs. location of central hubs (i.e. the value of location ex the Bosphorous channel.
  • Can EU afford to have second class IT support? Need to mapping the cost of non-digital Europe? Hard issues - e.g. privacy - affect many other issues like Transatlantic health. 
  • Need to focus on friction fraction points and reduce fraction: private sector investment and competition leads to innovation in a virtuous circle. 
  • Potential next steps:
    • Take stock, EU – US  ICT trade principles, cross border data flow, localization measures, predictably, reliably and efficiently move information. Default position is on flow of information because good ideas know no boundaries.
    • Spectrum: Envisage a transatlantic  debate around spectrum and local harmonization (EU); maybe markets can learn from each other- e.g. for policies like extending licence time for spectrum holders and flexibility in secondary markets. 
  • Consolidation of the European telecoms space is one of the big flagship projects for the next Commission, reduction of barriers for content, reduction of patchwork of regulation affects the ability to invest and the ability to scale.
  • Consumer, invoicing and non-digital issues also affect trade: e.g. VAT, blocked content. 
  • Regulators think in terms of national barriers

Part 2: Data Protection and Data Flows

  • Backdrop: EC decision on Google and surveillance by governments. Data privacy has two aspects which are often mixed – citizens vs. business and Government surveillance. We cannot put the genie back in the box.
  • We are talking all trade not just big companies (e.g. FB or Google) but also all SMEs. The real risk is we talk past each other. 
  • What are our end goals – 3 big areas: big data, cross border privacy rules, safe harbour.
  • Digital single market is really cross border data flows. We need to distinguish between big data vs. open data vs. personal data. Big data – valuable for economy. Open data – EU legislative changes for public info are needed. Real issue is for personal data.
  • State surveillance has tipped the balance of confidence. 
  • Rules:  Need rules to focus on what and not how - outcome based regulation. Privacy has to be addressed in TTIP.
  • Big data is more than commercial via adverts (i.e. grafted on to adverts). Affects many areas like health care, logistics, city planning etc which are all real applications for big data.
  • TTIP: All depends on how quickly TTIP goes. Govt to govt conversation v.s. business data need to be separated.
  • NSA: No early response from DC because it was hard to do and now we can also be part of the solution.

Part 3: Internet Governance and Cyber Security

  • Netmundial statement is the backdrop including the roadmap on Internet Governance.               
  • Humans are geared to what we can win vs what we could lose (same applies to internet governance).
  • Currently there exists no forum for governance rules for the internet.
  • Will people migrate away to protect privacy(like they do for tax havens). Will we pay a privacy tax?
  • Privacy is big. It has woken up and will never go to sleep again.
  • Risk:  Don’t take all information out of the information superhighway.
  • How do we connect the next billion people? We need the forums for this. IGFers participate nationally. Netmundial process is not fast enough.
  • IGF should not brought into TTIP. Would alienate other partners and too much on TTIP agenda already. 
  • We need to distinguish between Governance of the internet v.s.  governance on the internet. Privacy is steeped in culture, national identity. Interoperability is first best answer.
  • Internet is greatest challenge to sovereignty.
  • We need to learn from the financial sector. Financial sector should have been regulated to prevent meltdown.

by Ajit Jaokar



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  • 1:19 EIF in 2022-2023: video recap

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