Sendai, Japan, 22 September, 2010 - Asia Pacific officials heard at a trade policy conference on Tuesday how innovation helps create jobs for SMEs, boosts rural development, and creates efficiencies in healthcare.

The private sector shared their views with APEC officials in Sendai where they gathered to address a broad range of issues, including the role of the application of innovation in information and communications technology (ICT) development and its impact on economic growth. 

Delegates heard how ICT can effectively address global challenges in critical areas such as energy, health, environment and how important it is for economies to put in place policies that encourage innovation.

Experts also said ICT usage increases the level of efficiency provided to various social services including public safety, education, government-provided healthcare and transportation.

According to John Neuffer, Information Technology Industry Council?s Vice President for Global Public Policy, a 10% increase in broadband penetration in low and middle-income economies increases per-capita GDP growth by 1.38%. He added that that APEC can benefit enormously from the diffusion of ICT products to obtain productivity gains, increase jobs and improve the quality of life for the people of the APEC economies. Neuffer also told delegates that ICT capital has seven times the impact on productivity than non-ICT capital in economies with lower levels of IT usage, and around three times more than in other economies.

Japan, host for APEC 2010, views ICT as one of the most important pillars to facilitate growth. Japan introduced the Smart ICT Application Initiative which identifies ways to share best practices, benefits and challenges faced by member economies working to employ ICT applications in socioeconomic activities.

"The Smart ICT Application Initiative addresses the challenges of logistics, the environment, public services, emergency response, healthcare, and energy," said Kejiro Suzuki, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Director of International Affairs for the Information Policy Division.

"Already, the APEC Life Sciences Innovation Forum is tackling health IT promotion in its work program," he said.

Joseph Alhadeff, Oracle's Vice President of Global Public Policy recommended that the right incentives and proper support for innovation in ICT could build capacity, support new business opportunities, expand markets and enable the delivery of the government services.

He added: "But for this to happen, you need the right regulatory environment that nurtures transparency, non-discrimination, predictability and consensus between governments."

"Even the best ideas may be squashed if the regulatory environment is not supportive and facilitating innovation." Alhadeff went on to say that all APEC fora would benefit from collaborating on the issue.

Intel's Director of Global Trade and Competition Policy, Greg Slater said: "The 2010 OECD Innovation Center offers five innovation principles, including upgrading skills; making capital available to SMEs; improving governance of research and development institutions; improving the measurement of innovation policies; and, applying innovation to social challenges especially by letting ICT disseminate at an affordable price."

"Policies can spur or hinder innovation and its diffusion. APEC should discuss how it can benefit from ongoing efforts in other fora to leverage its own initiatives," Slater concluded.