Q3/2018 - BRICS-Meeting
The 10th BRICS Summit on 26 July 2018 in Johannesburg had security policy as well as economic aspects related to Internet governance on the agenda.
As to the field of security policy, the Heads of State and Government of the five BRICS member States confirmed that they considered the UN to be the key forum for discussing all Internet issues, especially cyber security, for which an agreement under international law was still being requested. The Johannesburg Declaration stresses “the need to develop a universal regulatory binding instrument on combatting the criminal use of ICTs within the UN”.
- In order to increase pressure on the UN to draw up a cyber security convention, the Summit participants declared that they also intended to strengthen internal cooperation between the five BRICS States in this area. To this end, a “BRICS Roadmap of Practical Cooperation on Ensuring Security in the Use of ICTs” was adopted, which, however, contains only a few concrete steps. The decision on Russia’s proposal to conclude an independent five-lateral BRICS agreement on cyber security, which had been submitted at the 7th BRCIS Summit in Ufa (2015), was postponed again. The Johannesburg Declaration merely states: “In this regard, BRICS member States will work towards consideration and elaboration of a BRICS intergovernmental agreement on cooperation on this matter”.
- As to Internet Governance in the narrower sense, Russia's proposal to set up one’s own root server system independent of ICANN was not supported either. Instead, the Declaration states that cooperation within the framework of the "existing mechanisms" (i.e. ICANN) for a secure, open and peaceful Internet should be expanded. However, it is also requested that all states shall participate on an equal footing in the management of the Internet and that relevant non-state stakeholders “in their respective roles” must be involved, too. Neither Russia nor China are currently represented on the ICANN Board by a director with voting rights, nor are India, Brazil and South Africa.
As to the field of digital economy, the BRICS countries announced that they were going to cooperate more closely here too. However, there have not yet been many concrete results. How important this issue is for the BRICS States is already reflected in the headline of the Johannesburg Declaration, which refers to the “fourth industrial revolution”. Several passages of the Declaration stress the enormous potential for economic growth the digital revolution offers the five BRICS States. The corresponding agreements, however, remain rather general.
- Based on a recommendation of the BRICS State’s ministers of trade and industry, a “BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR)” and a “BRICS Networks of Science Parks, Technology Business Incubators and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises” were established at Johannesburg. Moreover, a “Memorandum of Understanding on Collaborative Research on Distributed Ledger and Blockchain Technology in the Context of the Development of the Digital Economy” was signed. But all these plans are rather vague and bureaucratic, and there are hardly any concrete projects to support them. In a first step, the five BRICS ministries of trade and industry shall appoint an “Advisory Group” for the PartNIR initiative. This group will have the task to draw up the terms of references and a work plan and to report at the next BRICS Summit in Brazil in summer 2019;
- In practice, all five countries are taking different paths in developing their digital economies. China is operating its “Internet Plus” program and India is running the “Digital India” campaign. Russia has several local initiatives, such as the establishment of special digital zones in Skolkovo (near Moscow) and in Vladivostok. South Africa and Brazil have not developed a comprehensive national digital strategy in recent years, partly due to domestic political problems and power struggles. Regardless of the political conditions, the local and national Internet economy is developing at high growth rates, especially in China and India – last but not least because of the size of the domestic national markets with a potential of more than one billion Internet users each. The large Chinese Internet companies (such as "BATs"/ Baidu, AliBaba, Tencent) are increasingly focusing on international markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Southeast Europe in the shadow of the "One Belt One Road" program and the "Digital Silk Road" project embedded in it, which the Chinese president has pushed forward with great enthusiasm. It is interesting to note that it became known in September 2018 at a meeting in Vladivostok between Russian President Putin and Jack Ma, outgoing CEO of AliBaba, that AliBaba had acquired a large number of shares in one of Russia's most successful Internet companies, mail.ru. In Europe, AliBaba is developing Belgrade into its headquarter and building a logistics center there. The agreement was signed with Serbian State Sectary of the Ministry of Trade, Tatjana Matic, at the 4th Wuzhen Conference in December 2017.
In 2019, the BRICS Chairship will be passed on to Brazil again. Due to the upcoming presidential elections in Brazil, the venue and time of the 11th BRICS Summit have not yet been determined.