To date, global regimes around trade, investment and intellectual property have mostly been
conceptualised and written by the North. Developing countries were typically late to understand
their real implications, by which time these had got too entrenched to admit structural changes
towards fairly including developing country interests. A similar situation is arising with regard to
the geo-economics of the global digital phenomenon, including OTT, which is an important
phenomenon within the constellation of digital phenomena.
A global digital order is gradually and steadily taking shape and is intended to apply to OTTs.
Various social sectors are getting transformed by OTTs, like the information sector by Google,
commerce by Amazon, and urban transportation by Uber. Companies that own these platforms
are largely multinational, US-based monopolies. They soak up free raw data from the world’s
citizens and convert it into “digital intelligence”, which is employed in reorganisation and
consequent domination of all sectors. Apart from becoming a sustained model of economic
exploitation of people in general and developing countries in particular, this new form of digital
dependency also carries dire political, social and cultural consequences.
Viewing the OTT phenomenon through narrow frameworks of a promising industry and/or neutral
tool for socio-economic development, both developed and developing countries have ignored
larger policy issues like internalising network effects of data and digital intelligence to support
national industry, regulation of platforms, and ownership of publicly important digital data.
Developing countries in particular remain at the margins of global Internet/digital governance
processes, with no vision or common strategies and the North continues to develop the norms
and policy principles for the global digital society, on the basis of its interests and its geopolitical
vision, which at present is heavily tilted in favor of the economic interests of a few big companies
and thefew people who own those companies.
The current times are of critical importance to shape the key features of the emerging global
digital order. If existing trends continue, ordinary people and developing countries will soon be
locked into strong digital dependency. The global reach through the Internet of unimaginably
intelligent technologies carries the very real prospect of invasive domination by a small group of
people in the North and denial of democracy and national sovereignty to developing countries.
The world’s people, and in particular those in the South, need to get their act together by
undertaking urgent measures that range from understanding and framing issues in this domain, to
establishing appropriate mechanisms for South-South cooperation, and evolving common
geopolitical strategies for engagement with global forums.