Table of Contents

  • Within the UNCTAD Division on Technology and Logistics, the ICT Analysis Section carries out policy-oriented analytical work on the development implications of information and communication technologies (ICTs). It is responsible for the preparation of the Information Economy Report. The ICT Analysis Section promotes international dialogue on issues related to ICTs for development, and contributes to building developing countries’ capacities to measure the information economy and to design and implement relevant policies and legal frameworks.
  • Innovation in the realm of information technology continues its rapid pace, with cloud computing representing one of the latest advances. Significant improvements in the capacity to process, transmit and store data are making cloud computing increasingly important in the delivery of public and private services. This has considerable potential for economic and social development, in particular our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and define a bold agenda for a prosperous, sustainable and equitable future.
  • The Information Economy Report 2013 was prepared by a team comprising Torbjörn Fredriksson (team leader), Cécile Barayre, Shubhangi Denblyden, Scarlett Fondeur Gil, Suwan Jang, Diana Korka, Smita Lakhe and Marie Sicat under the direction of Anne Miroux, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics.
  • The differential between countries in access to and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) — the digital divide — has long been a significant concern of Governments and the international community. Over time, its nature has changed. The gap in access to basic telephone services, once very substantial, is now significantly diminished and expected to shrink further in the next few years. In its place has come a gap in access to the Internet and, particularly, in access to broadband services. The digital divide in broadband capacity and quality leads in turn to a divide between countries and regions in the extent to which individuals, businesses, economies and societies are able to take advantage of new ICT innovations and applications.
  • Improvements in processing power, storage capabilities and communication transmission speeds have together facilitated the emergence of what has come to be known as cloud computing. This phenomenon is likely to influence, in various ways, both the production and use of services delivered through ICTs over coming years. As with other new technological developments, it is difficult to predict the full implications of cloud computing. While it offers significant potential benefits to those who are able to leverage them, it also raises concerns for users, not least with regard to data protection and privacy. Moreover, the spread of cloud computing may widen the digital divide between those — countries, businesses and individuals — that are and those that are not well placed to benefit from it.
  • The market for cloud services is growing rapidly, but is still small in developing countries. While the supply side of the cloud economy is dominated by global cloud service providers headquartered in the United States, various regional and local players are also emerging in different parts of the world. The ability to leverage the opportunities created by cloud computing — on the supply as well as demand side — is greatly influenced by the quality of ICT infrastructure. As the shift towards the cloud continues, the digital divide becomes less a question of basic access and more about the quality of use.
  • The level of cloud adoption in most developing countries is still low. Nevertheless, this is an appropriate moment to consider what opportunities and challenges the evolving cloud economy may bring to developing countries. The picture differs between countries as well as between types of cloud service customer. The ability to seize opportunities presented by cloud computing and to avoid the pitfalls associated with it will depend substantially on the level of cloud readiness, particularly in terms of broadband connectivity (chapter II) and appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks (chapter IV).
  • The rapid emergence of cloud computing has inevitably raised concerns about the legal and regulatory implications of such developments. From the regulatory characterization of cloud services to the privacy implications of processing personal data remotely, policymakers, legislators, regulators, service providers and users all have an interest in the governance of cloud services. Governments will want to protect national interests, including the protection of their citizens; service providers require a stable framework to facilitate innovation and investment; users require assurance and trust to encourage the take-up of such services. This chapter examines some legal developments relating to the cloud, identifies emerging regulatory responses, and considers certain issues of particular concern for developing countries.
  • The emergence of the cloud economy has implications for countries at all levels of development. Whereas a general shift to the cloud can stimulate major gains in efficiency, productivity and economic growth, these are not automatic. Where they are realized, they will be unevenly distributed, geographically, within societies and over time. There are also potential pitfalls, some of the most important of which are related to data security and privacy. It is important, therefore, for both individual Governments and the international community as a whole to consider policy responses that can help bring about development outcomes from the cloud economy which are as favourable as possible.
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