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Wuzhen Outlook 2019

Updated: 2019-10-20

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Internet. Created for applied research, the Internet has flourished in pace with globalization and is engaging more and more countries in the process of increased cross-border integration. It drives economic development, boosts industry transformation, accelerates scientific and technological innovation, promotes cultural prosperity, modernizes social governance, and enriches people's lives. It has increasingly created new spaces for people to study, work and live, new platforms of governments to provide public services, new fields for communication and cooperation between nations. In addition, the Internet has made remarkable contributions to progress of human civilization and to mankind's common well-being. Looking back at the 50 years of the Internet history, the High-level Advisory Council (HAC) of the World Internet Conference Organizing Committee would like to unanimously express their heart felt gratitude to all the Internet pioneers, technical communities, enterprises, social organizations, governments and international organizations, and to all netizens, who have contributed to the innovative creation, advancement, and governance of the Internet.

The 6th World Internet Conference is being held in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, from October 20 to 22, 2019. More than 1,500 delegates from 83 countries and regions of the world are participating in the conference, including government representatives, heads of international organizations, and prominent Internet entrepreneurs, practitioners, experts and scholars. Guided by the overarching theme of "Intelligent Interconnection for Openness and Cooperation: Building a Community with a Shared Future in Cyberspace", the delegates are engaging in an intense exchange of ideas, sharing experiences, and contributing their wisdom in areas of science and technology, industry and economy, humanity and society, as well as cooperation and governance. Following in-depth discussions, the HAC has reached consensus to publish the Wuzhen Outlook 2019 during the conference, and to share its opinion on the current trends in, and the outlook for, the future of the cyberspace with the international community.

I. Integration and innovation of information and communication technologies are accelerating, but our ambition to bridge the digital divide is facing new challenges.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing, and blockchain are becoming far more integrated to spark new development opportunities which drive economies and societies to achieve a new stage of leap-forward development. With the continuous expansion of emerging digital infrastructures, such as 5G, IPv6, and satellite internet, they promote the global digital economic development and transformation, and speed up the evolution of the Internet technologies and applications. The United States, China, the European Union, Russia and others have been busy refining their digital strategies. New technologies, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing, are gradually becoming key fields of international cooperation and constructive competition.

The penetration of global mobile and fixed broadband networks is on the rise. By the end of June 2019, 4.5 billion people around the world have used the Internet, with a global penetration rate of 58.4%[1]; mobile internet has become widespread with 3.74 billion 4G users worldwide[2], and 94 countries are actively investing in 5G networks[3]. However, there have been notable cross-country and cross-regional differences in Internet penetration rates, infrastructure construction, technological innovation, exposure to security risk, and digital literacy. This drastically hampers the speed and scale of global informatization and digital transformation processes, particularly for the most vulnerable nations. Facing the accelerated pace of digital empowerment in all fields, the international community should establish more effective mechanisms adaptable to the new technological revolution and industrial transformation, continuously expanding network infrastructures and inter-connectivity. In particular, the international community should pay extra attention to improving Internet access and quality of online services for people in rural and remote areas, and providing inclusive and equal digital opportunities for marginalized groups, fostering 'Meaningful Connectivity' and a human capacity development system for the future, and making vigorous efforts to bridge the digital divide.

II. The global digital economy is booming and the improvement of development policies and regulatory rules is imperative.

Digital economy has become a powerful enabler for the process of global socio-economic transformation. Already large in scale, the digital economy has spurred growth in major economies' GDP. The deep integration of digital technologies with service industries has given rise to new business models and processes, such as the sharing economy, global platforms, etc. The global electronic information manufacturing industry has been continuously on the rise, and while driven by emerging technologies, such as big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, the traditional manufacturing industry has shown a great potential to further digital transformation. In addition, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, advanced financial technologies, and blockchain have emerged as new frontiers of ICT development. Numerous countries have proactively employed digital technologies to build e-government ecosystems, to efficiently deliver core public services such as healthcare and education, and to alleviate poverty. Countries across the world have chosen to vigorously pursue sustained development of digital economy and to reap the resulting digital dividends.

With the accelerated development of the global digital economy, an insufficient degree of policy coordination and regulation has become more visible. Trade protectionism is growing around the world, and Internet technology companies from many countries are encountering non-market barriers, with adverse effects on the global industry supply chain. Along with the increasing use of blockchain technology, emerging digital currencies challenge the long-established financial order. The international communities should commit to principles of openness and inclusiveness, greater cooperation, robust synergies, building collaborative mechanisms, enhancing regulatory capacity, and shaping a fair and equal market environment, so as to promote benefits of Internet innovation and services.

III. Internet culture has thrived, but cultural exchange should be deeper and broader.

The advent and rise of Internet culture has enriched the spiritual life of humankind and promoted interaction and mutual learning across the human civilization. The interplay of various cultures and digital technologies has brought about new opportunities for the inheritance and development of civilization. At the same time, it has provided a new space for value expression for new generations of netizens. Cultural content has undergone creative transformation and innovative development, and Internet subcultures are continuously evolving. Online literature, music, films and TV have witnessed a new phase of rapid development. New products and business formats, such as online live streaming and online short video enjoy a greater popularity. Internet cultural industries, such as digital publishing, digital music, online gaming and animation, and online tourism, flourish.

However, dissemination of content in cyberspace presently faces new challenges. Harmful and illegal activities, such as cyberfraud, cyberbullying, distribution of violent content, to name a few, still persist despite repeated efforts to counter them; meanwhile, fake news undermine people's trust in online content. In addition, an improper use of online content products and platforms serving as carriers of illegal activities affects communication of cultural values. The international community should improve mechanisms to improve communication and cooperation in the area of cyber culture, promote equal-footing exchange and dialogue between various nations, maintain cultural diversity, facilitate cross-pollination between cultures, establish online protection mechanisms for minors, drive the formation of a new ecosystem of civilization interaction online, spread positive values of fairness and justice, prevent violence and resolve conflicts in cyberspace, and benefit harmonious progress, coexistence and sharing across the global civilization.

IV. Technological evolution is accompanied by new security risks, and non-technical factors are increasingly changing the global cybersecurity landscape.

Evolving cutting-edge technologies have created tremendous social value, while bringing about cybersecurity risks. Whilst various cyber-attacks, such as ransomware, e-mail fraud, data breaches, identity theft, etc., seriously affect the global economic and social development, new technologies such as 5G, intelligent hardware, blockchain, among others, might bear new security threats. Many countries share legitimate concerns about potential threats, such as attacks on critical information infrastructures, and development and application of intelligent weapons of mass destruction, and they have promoted cybersecurity to be a part of a national security strategy while also building their comprehensive cybersecurity measures.

The influence of non-technical factors like geopolitics on cybersecurity has increased significantly. Global powers have found their relations compromised by unilateralism. The danger of an all-out cyberwar is now evident, while the absence of security governance and restraint mechanisms in cyberspace poses a significant challenge to the international community. At this critical juncture, stakeholders should deepen pragmatic cooperation and take strong measures to address potential conflicts and avoid the militarization of cyberspace. Governments, international organizations, enterprises, technical communities, social organizations, and users should improve their capabilities to prevent cybersecurity risks, work to enhance the transparency of cybersecurity policies, promote coordination and cooperation, and speed up the process of construction of new global cybersecurity  norms, in a concerted cooperative effort to build a new cybersecurity order resting upon safety, stability, and mutual trust.

V. The cyber order is facing serious challenges, and the trust needs to be rebuilt throughout the international governance of cyberspace.

The fragility and uncertainty of international cyberspace governance rules have become increasingly apparent. The peaceful order in cyberspace faces daunting challenges. Power games compromise international cooperation in the cyberspace, and anti-globalization, populist, unilateralism and protectionist sentiments tend to disrupt the security of the global supply chain. Already, individual bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms seem to have fallen prey to increasing fragmentation and disorder. These trends impede efforts to explore cyber governance processes and models and derail the efforts for cooperation between actors that share concerns about the balance of interests in cyberspace and prospects for effective cooperation.

More and more countries recognize the importance of the  concepts of cyber sovereignty and multilateralism in cyberspace governance, and a United Nations' prominent status and increasing role in it. In 2019, the United Nations established a dual-track mechanism, known as the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, and the Open-Ended Working Group. Also, the United Nations High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation has issued a report under the title of The Age of Digital Interdependence to emphasize that the international community must take a holistic view on the rapid development of digital technologies and its complex consequences for sustainable development and promotion of humankind's well-being.

The international community should continue to carefully consider more effective mechanisms to further promote collaboration under the framework of the United Nations. All the stakeholders- governments, international organizations, enterprises, technical communities, social organizations, and users -should share a greater responsibility in, and enhance the rules of, cyber governance, revamp the system of trust through transparent and cooperative action, and work together to build a community with a shared future in cyberspace.

In face of the rapidly evolving cyberspace and an accelerated pace of adoption and deployment of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Everything, all stakeholders seem to anticipate the further advancement of the Internet. The HAC believes that, as a remarkable achievement of the human civilization, the Internet is on a path of continuing success, with profound changes to socio-economic development. Having evolved from a small-scale research project, through a consumer-economy phenomenon, it has now emerged as industry internet, thereby demonstrating a tremendous development potential. Propelled by integration and breakthrough innovation, the Internet will unlock the power of new technologies and applications such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, 5G, IPv6, satellite internet, data-based technology, blockchain, and more.

The Internet-enabled environment should help us to rethink the traditional concept of division of labor. The power of data as an asset and the ownership forms thereof are still evolving, thus affecting the pattern of the global economic growth. This will encompass previously untouched areas, and bolster a rapid transformation of the economy and society across the globe. Also, it is poised to profoundly influence and change future social structures, economic forms, political systems, and forms of culture. That is to say, it should ensure a new stage of the civilization's advancement. Not only will these changes challenge the ability of human beings to apply and control the Internet, but they are also critical to the future and fate of human beings.

While celebrating the first jubilee of the Internet, the HAC believes that we should be guided by the common vision, work hand in hand, share the universal commitment to everyone's well-being, and passionately embrace, vigorously develop and proactively contribute to the governance in the cyberspace in a more open, inclusive and participatory manner. We should promote the sustainable, stable, and positive advancement of the Internet, thus allowing it to benefit the world and ensure a brighter future for all humankind!

[1] https://internetworldstats.com/stats.htm, data statistics as of June 2019.

[2] GSMA intelligence, data statistics as of June 2019.

[3] Data in the Report of the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, https://gsacom.com/technology/5g/,  data statistics as of June 2019.


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