In May 2013, the World Economic Forum convened a cross-industry initiative to examine the ability of digital infrastructure to keep pace with the fast-rising demand being put on it, with a focus on developed markets. The assembled steering committee and working group include communications service providers, content companies, software companies and hardware manufacturers active in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. For 12 months, they have jointly assessed digital infrastructure adequacy and, in particular, the impediments – technological, financial and political...
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In May 2013, the World Economic Forum convened a cross-industry initiative to examine the ability of digital infrastructure to keep pace with the fast-rising demand being put on it, with a focus on developed markets. The assembled steering committee and working group include communications service providers, content companies, software companies and hardware manufacturers active in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. For 12 months, they have jointly assessed digital infrastructure adequacy and, in particular, the impediments – technological, financial and political – to the investments necessary to maintain and improve the telecommunications networks and digital ecosystem that constitute the internet.
The report examines the current threats to digital infrastructure and suggests approaches and actions for addressing them before they affect the flow of information and services that serve the digital economy. Each chapter addresses a technological, commercial, policy or regional challenge that is of particular significance.
Chapter 1. Introduction: The Digital Infrastructure Imperative
The potential of the digital economy can be realized only if digital infrastructure keeps pace. Communications service providers (CSPs), digital service and content providers, hardware and software manufacturers, industry groups and governments all play critical roles.
Chapter 2. Growth Driver: Developing Digital Services
Countries need energetic digital service sectors. They are drivers of social and economic development, job creators, talent magnets and the exports of the future. Robust digital service sectors depend on a complex ecosystem that includes adequate infrastructure and an investment-friendly business environment.
Chapter 3. Spectrum: Invisible Infrastructure
The availability of mobile spectrum is one of the biggest, and most complex, infrastructure constraints. Governments must release additional spectrum – licensed and unlicensed – for private mobile use, as well as take steps to encourage spectral efficiency. New approaches to encourage harmonization and alternative deployment models are required.
Chapter 4. Staying Interconnected
Resolving internet protocol (IP) interconnection disputes is required to ensure digital traffic continues to flow efficiently. Despite differing interests, CSPs and content providers can find a mutually beneficial path that maintains the commercial nature of IP interconnection contracts with no unfair discrimination.
Chapter 5. How Regulatory Policy Can Keep Up
Policy and regulation must be modernized to deal with 21st-century realities and issues. Given the rapid pace of change, policy-makers should pursue forward-looking, light-touch approaches to regulation.
Chapter 6. The Challenge for Europe: Crafting a Digital Renaissance
Europe’s digital health requires attention; without infrastructure investment, it is difficult to see the EU capitalizing fully on the benefits of the internet economy. Operators must adapt their business models to grow digital services and a true single digital market, in which data and services can flow across borders, is required to build a robust digital service sector in Europe.
Chapter 7. Encouraging Infrastructure Investment and Innovation in the US
New sources of competition and technology will help the US to remain a world leader. Policy-makers should encourage the innovations taking place in local markets to heighten competition and investment, especially in “the last mile”, as well as encourage investments in next-generation technologies to accelerate the transition to high-capacity IP networks.
Chapter 8. Emerging Markets: Big Challenges, Big Opportunities
Digital technologies can have an outsized impact in emerging markets, but they face big challenges in becoming established, many of them infrastructure-related. Bridging the digital divide may require non-traditional, innovative approaches, especially in funding and market-access mechanisms.
Chapter 9. Towards a Robust Digital Infrastructure
Effectively delivering digital infrastructure and realizing the promise of the digital economy rests on three pillars:
- Commitment to actions that promote the long-term growth of the digital economy
- Removal of impediments to the expansion of digital infrastructure
- Modernization of policies and regulations to encourage investment and innovation throughout the internet ecosystem
For more information, please contact: TelecomsCommunity@weforum.org