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G7 ICT Ministers Make Advances in Kagawa

Alecsandra Dragus, Researcher, G7 Research Group
May 1, 2016
See also Comment @ G7G20.com

On April 29–30, 2016, the G7 ministers of information and communications technologies met in Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, for the first time in 20 years. Their last meeting took place in 1996, when ministers meeting at the Global Information Society meeting agreed to implement the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) set forth by the World Trade Organization (WTO). At Takamatsu this year they produced a strong, successful action plan. Their substantial declaration discussed many issues relating to information and communications technologies (ICT) such as facilitating access, managing the flow of information, fostering innovation and strengthening international cooperation. It linked them to the broader issue areas of sustainable development and economic growth. By forging a bond between these issues, invoking other international institutions, promising implementation and monitoring, creating a working group and authorizing an ICT ministerial meeting to take place next year, the likelihood of implementing these commitments is high.

In their public deliberation the ICT ministers issued a six-page joint declaration, a four-page Charter for a Digitally Connected World and a six-page annex on G7 Opportunities for Collaboration . This total of 16 pages is significantly higher than the that produced by the 1996 leaders and their four paragraphs dedicated to the issue at the 1996 Lyon G7 Summit on June 29, 1996.

The Takamatsu declaration contained 35 specific, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments, a substantial increase from the three made in 1996. The Takamatsu commitments are directly linked to other topics the G7 has focused on in the past. Among the 35 commitments, the issue of sustainable development is present in five, gender in two, minorities in two, regional security in one and climate change in one. The commitments also referenced economic growth, education, aging population, infrastructure, scientific innovation, small and medium-sized enterprises, health care, poverty, civil society, cultural and linguistic diversity and international cooperation among others.

In terms of setting principled and normative directives, the G7's foundational mission of democracy and human rights was arrived only in the charter.

In terms of decision making, the Takamatsu declaration contained 35 specific, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments. This was a very strong increase from the three made by their predecessors in 1996. It is slightly below the 43 commitments made by the G7's agricultural ministers and 40 by the G7 foreign ministers this year under Japan's presidency. The Takamatsu commitments linked directly to other topics the G7 has focused on in the past. Among the 35 commitments, the issue of sustainable development was present in five, gender in two, minorities in two, regional security in one, health in one and climate change in one. The commitments also referenced economic growth, education, aging populations, infrastructure, scientific innovation, small and medium-sized enterprises, poverty, civil society, cultural and linguistic diversity and international cooperation among others.

In the prospective delivery of their decisions, the ICT ministers took some steps to help comply with their commitments, doing more than in 1996. The charter forms the basis of the action plan set out in the joint declaration, which the ministers seek to implement. In an effort to ensure continuity and iteration, they mentioned the Open Data Charter endorsed at the 2013 Lough Erne Summit. The declaration also refers to the 2000 Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society and the 2011 G8 Declaration in Deauville.

The ministers agreed to hold a "mid-term review seminar" hosted by Japan before the 2017 summit in Italy, and by stating their intent to reconvene in another ICT ministerial meeting under the Italian presidency. These actions contribute to developing global governance inside the G7 itself.

The ministers referenced several global institutions outside the G7 in their commitments: the United Nations (specifically the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals), the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Global Connect Initiative, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The declaration also mentioned the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the Paris Agreement adopted at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, NETmundial and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Unlike the G7 agriculture ministers, however, they did not note the G20's ICT-related work.

Given that this was the first meeting in two decades to deal with the issue of ICT, the lengthy declaration issued and the emphasis placed on the interconnections between ICT and other key G7 issue areas, it is likely that when the G7 leaders meet at Ise-Shima in May they will also pay substantial attention to the issue of ICT and make advances in this field. Yet here they will have a challenge, for G7 leaders have complied with their past priority ICT commitments from 1996 to 2014 at a very high level of 84.5%.

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Alecsandra DragusAlecsandra Dragus is a researcher with the G7 and G20 Research Groups, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Trinity College at the University of Toronto. Her research focused on G7 and G20 compliance, specifically climate change and energy. Alecsandra continues to work with climate change and energy commitments and is interested on future G7 and G20 actions in the field of information and communication technology. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and Spanish from the University of Toronto.


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