OECD Ministerial Meetings

Every 8-10 years, the Committee on Digital Economy Policy (CDEP), on behalf of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), organizes a high-level meeting where ministers of member countries and stakeholders convene to discuss and develop policy frameworks for future Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy direction. Called Ministerial meetings, these set the overarching goals of ICT policy development within developed countries.

The key documents of the Ministerial meetings include declarations. While not binding, declarations are soft-law that serve as guideposts for OECD member countries. The goals in the declarations have been used as work programs within the CDEP.

The previous Ministerial meetings, the 1998 Ministerial Conference on Electronic Commerce in Ottawa, Canada, and the 2008 Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy in Seoul, South Korea, have been evaluated as critical junctures of the OECD’s ICT policy developments. For instance, the 2008 Ministerial in Seoul adopted the Seoul Declaration, which “recognised the essential nature and function of the Internet as a platform for growth and the need for governments to work with all stakeholders to guide its development.” In implementing the Seoul Declaration, the OECD has set the standards of large-scale deployment of the broadband Internet, e-commerce consumer protection, green ICTs, and privacy and data security challenges.

2016 Ministerial and Agenda

The most recent Ministerial meeting was the OECD 2016 Ministerial: Meeting the Policy Challenges of Tomorrow’s Digital Economy  (“2016 Ministerial”). It was held from June 21-23, 2016, in Cancun, Mexico. The structure of the 2016 Ministerial included a combination of stakeholder forums and minister-level panel discussions. On the first day, there were four Parallel Stakeholder Forums, organized by stakeholder advisory bodies to the OECD. 

On the second and third days, eight panel discussions were held, in which ministers of economy, communications, and labor from member countries, along with stakeholder representatives and experts, discussed how to shape digital economy policy that tackles challenges in the coming years. While the Stakeholder Forums mainly generated input from non-members, the results of the Forums were used throughout the panel discussions of the ministers from member countries. 

During the eight panel discussions, the OECD discussed four fundamental topics of digital economy: 1) Internet Openness and Innovation, 2) Building Global Connectivity, 3) Trust in the Digital Economy, and 4) Jobs and Skills in the Digital Economy.

  • Internet Openness and Innovation looked at how the rapid technical and social developments have presented challenges to maintaining light-touch regulation to keep the openness of the Internet.
  • Building Global Connectivity addressed convergence and the Internet of Things and laid out regulatory frameworks that properly support large-scale deployments of these two most debated issues in recent ICT policy discussions.
  • Trust in the Digital Economy highlighted that addressing trust on the Internet is integral to enhancing market growth and discussed how to properly utilize some of the key OECD documents in relevant areas, such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines, Security Guidelines,  and E-commerce Recommendations.
  • Jobs and Skills in the Digital Economy tackled broad yet critical societal issues: inequality and ICT-led job loss in mature economies led by Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Can ICT do both — create jobs and mitigate social costs of job displacement? Calling for broader cooperation between the ministers of communications, technology, and labor, the 2016 Ministerial addresses how education, training, and re-skilling can meet demands for new skills in the digital economy, particularly for the elderly and low-skill workers.

The 2016 Ministerial may presented two sets of key outcomes: (1) the background papers for panel discussions, and (2) a Ministerial Declaration (referred to as the “Cancun Declaration”). The background papers showcase policy developments from OECD member countries and present arguments for and against policy frameworks and recommendations that later may appear in the Declaration. Since these papers aim to introduce the most current business practices and policy directions, they can form the basis of conjecturing the future direction of ICT policy.