The public-private co-operation in the OECD: Is it really that complicated?

The speed of innovation does not match the political and institutional rhythms. The OECD, decision-makers and private companies must innovate in the design and implementation of public policies and regulation of the digital economy to enrich the formulas for public-private cooperation. This is the best way to move forward to leave no one behind.

Public private co-operation puzzle in the OECD
Paloma Villa Mateos

Paloma Villa Mateos Follow

Reading time: 7 min

OECD Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting

Gran Canaria is hosting the OECD Digital Economy Ministerial Conference between December 13, 14 and 15th. The event will address the challenges that must be faced to boost long-term recovery and economic growth by building a trusted, sustainable, and inclusive digital future. This will be the first Ministerial Meeting on Digital Economy to be organized in Europe. For three days, Gran Canaria will receive around 60 ministers from different OECD member countries and guests.

The idea of the metaverse did not exist in 2016, when the last OECD ministerial meeting on the digital economy was held in Cancún; six years that feel like decades ago. The world of 2016 only showed a few trends towards what is now a truism: the digitisation of our lives. The adoption of digital innovation is accelerating, we are experiencing exponential data growth, and the development of new technologies are driving new forms of connectivity, new business models and digital services. How will we move towards a new evolution of the internet?

The relevance of public-private co-operation for a sustainable and inclusive digital future

These last few years have shown with resounding clarity that the rapid technological evolution we are experiencing in all aspects of our individual and collective lives is decoupled from institutional and political rhythms. We all (not just policymakers) need to find the right balance between acting with urgency in the short term and delivering on long-term objectives in time to secure the promise of digital transformation, while leaving no one behind.

The success of the OECD Digital Economy Ministerial meeting will be measured by the ability to generate new public-private partnerships to underpin a more sustainable, inclusive and trust-building digital economy.

This means acting both to address urgent economic, social and geopolitical challenges as well as meeting long-term digital and ecological goals. Companies are also seeking to become more competitive with and resilient to the continuous changes inherent in technological innovation. We can agree on many of the ambitious goals set by international organisations and governments, but we need to agree on how to act and what policies and regulation best suit those goals. It is not just a matter of drawing up a road map with a long list of objectives and looking for a compass to guide us. What is more important now is to co-operate to deliver what we have promised.

A new model of co-operation: the key factor in bridging the digital divide

Let us take digital inclusion as an example. This is a broad concept that implies not only the expansion of connectivity and digital offerings, but also the adoption and use of digital technology.

With regard to the expansion of connectivity and digital supply, the data show that there are still gaps in coverage, for example in rural areas of Latin America. Here, public-private collaboration based on public funding programs would be essential to boost ultrafast broadband coverage in rural areas, reducing the digital divide and improving social and geographic cohesion.

To reduce the digital gap, we need a new model of public-private co-operation based on three fundamental axes: innovation, co-operation and sustainability. Firstly, regulatory and technology/process innovation; secondly, co-operation between the various stakeholders, including public funding; and finally, sustainable business models that allow for a return on investment, with appropriate regulatory frameworks and the promotion of legal certainty.

Regarding the “usage gap”—i.e. the use of connectivity and devices and the adoption of digital services—it is critical to substantially improve digital capacity, reskilling programmes and attracting talent. The promotion of digital entrepreneurship, local digital content and digital public services also play a fundamental role.

In 2021, according to the GSMA, 40% of the world’s population does not use the internet despite living within the footprint of a broadband network. The unconnected disproportionately live in low- and middle-income countries, and are more likely to be poorer, less educated, older; live in rural areas; and be women. While increasing mobile broadband coverage remains an important issue to address, reducing this usage gap is the key to closing the digital divide.

Public-private co-operation can widen people’s opportunities in the digital world if policies are adopted to address barriers to the adoption of digital services.

Only by adopting a holistic and collaborative approach—and acting on our shared responsibility—we can ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in an increasingly connected world.

The Business at OECD (BIAC) proposal for a sustainable and inclusive digital future

Based on this principle, companies in OECD member countries are committed to working with policy makers to support a sustainable, inclusive and trust-building digital transformation towards 2030, and ready to anchor the new phases of the internet. The 5 axes of the proposal are:

  • Strengthen dialogue with companies to establish reliable partnerships to face the economic and social challenges of the coming years.
  • Power data-driven innovation and opportunities by enabling reliable cross-border data flows.
  • Facilitate the development of more inclusive, green, connected, sustainable and data-driven opportunities for technologies.
  • Provide leadership for an innovative approach to the evolving digital environment.
  • Strengthen the analytical role of the OECD and its engagement with relevant forums.

Let us move forward into the new phase of the internet based on a spirit of co-operation and dialogue, harmonising decision-making and the new realities of our world, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind.


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