Governments must seek to improve access to the Internet and resist stifling its usage through regulations in order to derive maximum economic benefit, according to Google Asia Pacific Director Ann Lavin.
“Governments must resist the urge to clamp down on the Internet largely because of the collateral damage that could create. Regulations often have unforeseen consequences and a clamp down could have very dangerous consequences for the wider economy,” Lavin said.
Delivering a presentation on the theme ‘Igniting innovation and entrepreneurship in South Asia’ Lavin stressed the importance of freely accessible Internet in terms of future economic development.
She cited studies carried out in India which found that the Internet contributes to approximately 1.9 percent of the GDP and creates an average of 3.2 jobs for every job lost in emerging markets.
Noting that approximately 75 percent of the benefit of conducting business via the Internet goes directly to the actual companies and businesses, Lavin stated that the role of the Internet in economic activity is likely to grow significantly going forward.
“In that context, it is important for governments to step back and peel back the layers of regulations in order to facilitate business online and make regulations very clear,” she stated.
Commenting on the implications for the public sector, Lavin observed that a strong case can be made for getting as much public data online, thereby giving the private sector and the public opportunities to develop innovative products.
Citing examples with regards to traffic data, she stated that once raw data was released, private entrepreneurs could then develop methods of providing real-time access to such information, thereby allowing for better awareness of traffic patterns and eventually promoting more efficient use of road networks.
“The investments required to get information online means that governments are often reluctant however in doing so, a space will be opened up for entrepreneurship and innovation while also promoting a wider range of benefits to society,” Lavin noted.
“Once access to public information is improved by getting it online, it is the private sector that will invest in finding innovative uses for that data and that is a key benefit to governments,” she added.
Meanwhile, responding to a question over recent international developments regarding Internet privacy violations following the revelations of former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, Lavin expressed concern over large scale demands for user information.
“Google is currently suing the United States government in order to be granted permission to disclose to the public the extent of these information requests. The vast majority of requests we are issued are for large-scale sets of data and we believe it is important to make sure that everyone is aware of what exactly is going on.
As much as possible we seek to notify users when their information is requested and we take this issue very seriously. Everyone needs to do a better job of making people more aware of how these programmes work and hopefully that will encourage law enforcement to show some restraint with these requests,” Lavin stated.