by Katie Keith
On June 16, 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce organized a forum for business leaders addressing challenges to the free flow of electronic commercial information. Panelists included academics, government officials, and policy and privacy directors from Google, AT&T, GE, Citigroup, and IBM. The event was moderated by leaders from the Commerce Department, and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke provided the keynote address. A full agenda can be found here.
The participants were unanimous in their recognition of the economic role of e-commerce and the need for market-oriented solutions to promote innovation and expansion. Secretary Locke pointed to the $10 trillion of business conducted online, and one speaker noted a recent OECD report which found that broadband and information and communication technology applications are very likely to exceed the economic effect of any other technology, including electricity and steam technology.
Business leaders, however, report that foreign governments increasingly restrict the free flow of information with implications for the economy, business community, and consumers. The number of countries with such restrictions has increased tenfold since 2002 and can have a pronounced economic impact. For example, a conservative estimate of the impact of an Internet shutdown in Egypt reflected direct losses of $90 million.
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