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An ambitious vision to put technology at the heart of global efforts to build back better from the pandemic has been signed by the world’s leading democracies.
Leaders from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and EU signed a declaration containing a series of shared principles on how to tackle the global challenge of online safety, including that online firms should have systems and processes in place to reduce illegal and harmful activity and prioritize the protection of children.
The principles, which have been shaped by the UK’s world-leading approach, say that any steps to improve online safety must support the values of open and democratic societies and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The joint ministerial declaration was signed at a virtual meeting hosted by UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden to fire the starting gun on this year’s G7 Summit. The agreements are part of the first of seven ministerial declarations due to be signed this year.
Other measures include plans to turbocharge exports by digitising the cumbersome and centuries-old paper-based system for key international trade transactions and improving the free flow of data.
In a sign of stronger cooperation to address concerns over the market power of big tech platforms, international regulators and policymakers will meet with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority in the autumn to discuss long term coordination and enforcement.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As a coalition of the world’s leading democracies and technological powers, we want to forge a compelling vision of how tech should support and enhance open and democratic societies in the digital age.
“Together we have agreed a number of priorities in areas ranging from internet safety to digital competition to make sure the digital revolution is a democratic one that enhances global prosperity for all.”
The G7 Digital and Tech ministerial meeting is the culmination of ongoing discussions and negotiations around a number of priority areas and in the ministerial declaration published today, G7 member states have agreed to:
· Internet safety principles to guide work to improve online safety. G7 countries commit to protecting human rights online and agree that tech companies have a corporate responsibility for their users’ safety. This means they should have systems and processes in place to reduce illegal and harmful activity and prioritise the protection of children. These are based on underlying principles in the UK Government’s Online Harms White Paper.
· Develop a framework for the use of electronic transferable records, to address legal barriers and coordinate domestic reforms so companies can use digital solutions for the shipment of goods and trade finance – replacing slow and outdated paper transactions.
· A consensus that a more joined-up approach to regulation and promoting competition in digital markets is needed to better serve consumers and businesses. Regulators have agreed to meet in the autumn to discuss these issues further.
· Cooperation to seize the opportunities and benefits of data free flow with trust for people, businesses and economies. The G7 will build evidence on the impacts of data localisation, promote regulatory cooperation and accelerate the development of best practice approaches for data sharing across a broader set of priority areas. These areas may include transport, science and research, education and natural disaster mitigation.
· Collaboration on how democratic governments and stakeholders can support the development of digital technical standards that online tools, services and protocols should measure up to, and which, among other things, will guide the development of a free, open and secure Internet.
For the first time the G7 also discussed the importance of promoting security and resilience in critical digital infrastructure, in particular in telecommunications, including 5G and future communications technologies. In the declaration, G7 countries commit to developing their collaboration on this throughout the year.
Building on the momentum from this G7 Digital and Technology track, the UK will also host the Future Tech Forum this September. The Forum will convene like-minded democratic partners to discuss the role of technology in supporting open societies and tackling global challenges, in collaboration with industry, academia, and other key stakeholders.
As is tradition for the host nation to highlight their culture, over the two days of the ministerial track (28 – 29 April) G7 ministers and invited guests will enjoy performances from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and National Theatre. These organizations, and over 5,000 others, have benefitted from the unprecedented £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.