National / Politics

G-7 information and communication technology envoys vow an open Internet at Takamatsu meeting


Group of Seven ministers in charge of information and communication technology (ICT)agreed Saturday to seek private sector involvement in policymaking to ensure an open Internet, a move apparently aimed at countering government-led online restrictions in countries such as China and Russia.

After a two-day meeting in Takamatsu, representatives from the G-7 industrialized countries also agreed to work more closely to bridge digital divides and connect another 1.5 billion people to the Internet by 2020.

“We continue to support ICT policies that preserve the global nature of the Internet, promote the flow of information across borders and allow Internet users to access online information, knowledge and services of their choice,” the G-7 ministers said in a joint declaration released after the meeting.

In a document called “Charter for the Digitally Connected World,” they also reaffirmed their commitment to Internet governance, which includes “full and active participation by governments, private sector, civil society, the technical community, and international organizations.”

With more than 4 billion people, or around 60 percent of the world’s population, believed to remain unconnected to the Internet, the participants confirmed the importance of the development of infrastructure, including broadband Internet infrastructure available to all people.

“We believe that global digital connectivity should in particular contribute to improving the quality of life for all people everywhere, to generating economic growth,” the G-7 ministers said in the charter.

Ministers and representatives from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, as well as the European Union gathered in the city in Kagawa Prefecture for the first G-7 ICT ministerial meeting in 21 years.

Participants explored ways to better utilize cutting-edge technology such as big data analysis and the “Internet of Things” — everyday devices connected to the Web — to help expand economic growth and address global challenges.

The outcome of the two-day ICT ministerial meeting, chaired by Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, will be passed on to the G-7 summit to be held May 26 and 27 in Mie Prefecture.

A set of action plans they adopted for realizing the charter include facilitating the development of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robots, while taking into account their economic and social implications, including the impact on jobs markets.

Among specific strategies to address social challenges, Japan and the European Union — both of which face rapidly aging societies — backed the sharing of information on the development of robots for watching over elderly people.

With cyberattacks having become a global threat, G-7 ministers also pledged to strengthen international cooperation and public-private partnerships to boost digital security while supporting research to analyze such online threats.

Japan declared support for international collaboration on the development of a barometer to assess cyber risks.

The participants agreed to hold another G-7 ICT ministers’ meeting next year in Italy to follow up their efforts to achieve the goals agreed this time.

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