An important question will be how these trends play out in different parts of the world including emerging economies. It was suggested that the next three billion Internet users will be significantly poorer than those that gained online access in the past.
Micro content purchases which can be supported by online credit card-supported payment systems like PayPal are functional in a developed country context – but in the developing world where people are far less likely to have reached this level of financial inclusion, this could lead to large numbers of Internet users being excluded from such new services. In many instances students rely on piracy to access online content. In India, Brazil, South Africa and Russia the local film production industries are totally reliant upon pirated software.
There is a need for enhanced cooperation at a global level in relation to copyright and IPR implementation, in a context where the second largest country in the world (China) sees little incentive to comply with Western IPR regimes. In China the decision to ignore copyright is essentially economic in nature. It was also contended that societal or communal enforcement routines (tribal mechanisms) are more important in effectively incentivising law abiding behaviours than technical countermeasures or mechanisms.
In Africa access remains the most important issue with less importance accorded to copyright. Africans are increasingly generating their own local solutions (such as young people designing their own mobile applications) although as these solutions gain in maturity and commercial appeal, there is concern that they are currently insufficiently protected in IPR terms. Nevertheless it was predicted that in the next 5 years Western businesses will be competing with young African entrepreneurs who will successfully build the next batch of billion dollar companies.
Access to the benefits of the Internet is not the same as access to the Internet. The latter simply involves an Internet connection, while the former requires skills, information literacy and access to content and services. In addition, certain Internet services depend upon individuals achieving a baseline of financial inclusion in order to complete transactions or register to access content platforms (such as a credit card or a PayPal account).
In Africa many libraries are embracing the “tech hub” model with information/content hosted on shared Dropbox accounts. In five years’ time many Africans will be browsing library content on their mobile phones.