Ambassador Buangan’s Remarks for 2023 AmCham Regional Digital Economy Forum

Ambassador Buangan’s Remarks for 2023 AmCham Regional Digital Economy Forum

June 20, 2023

Chairman [Gary] Biondo, AmCham members, friends in the digital industry, thank you for joining this Regional Digital Economy Forum and thank you for the invitation to speak to you all today.  I also want to extend a special thanks to AmCham’s ICT and Digital Economic Committee and the Ministry of Digital Development and Communications for organizing this important event.

The digital universe encompasses our families, our schools, our jobs, our businesses, our ability to express our politics—in short, every aspect of our lives.  We cannot ignore how integrated our lives and our societies have become to technology and the power of digital. As responsible stakeholders, we must also be cognizant of the power of online collaboration, conversation, transactions, and community building, and harness them for the good of society, and for the diffusion of ideas and knowledge.

While I was in Washington, D.C. recently, joining some of your AmCham members on their annual doorknock, we spoke about the potential of Mongolia to cultivate its technology and digital industry to further contribute to Mongolia’s goals of diversifying its economy and strengthening ties with its third neighbors.  Something that was raised in numerous conversations over the course of our trip was the assessment of how digital economies transform societies to make them more resilient, open, and transparent. We spoke about how technology creates digital democracies and sadly, digital authoritarianisms. Both use technology and digital tools to advance their policy goals.  Both have visions of technology transforming their societies. Digital democracies use technology to make their societies more resilient, open, and transparent – all in the name of maintaining freedom. Digital authoritarianisms, as we have seen in many parts of the world, use technology to control, manipulate, and subvert – all in the name of maintaining order.   So, I ask you all this question: Which one does Mongolia want to become?  Obviously, that answer is very clear, and it forms the basis of our conversation today.

A government’s interest to protect health and safety, cybersecurity, intellectual property rights, political legitimacy, and financial stability are all legitimate.  However, it is the obligation of every democratically elected government, every country that embraces rule of law and open market economy principles, to safeguard personal freedoms – the freedom of speech and thought, the freedom to worship or not worship as one pleases, the freedom to engage in commercial activities. As we are seeing now in many democratic countries, the desire by governments to create a safe digital space and the need to protect fundamental freedoms in that same space are in tension with one another.  In order to resolve that tension, governments must be open and find partners with the business community, academia, and NGOs, to strike the right balance between protecting the digital space from harmful and malicious actors and nurturing the digital economy so it becomes an integral part of a country’s overall economic development.  

To take advantage of all the possibilities of the digital universe, businesses and governments need to develop policies in consultation with each other in order to nurture digital environments while responsibly securing personal and economic freedoms.

Mongolia finds itself, like the United States and so many other nations, in the initial phases of walking this digital tight rope.

Governments and the public have a right to be protected from overt criminal activities—be they on- or off-line.  Mongolia’s laws generally deal with this reasonably well.  Political speech and commercial speech, however, are so intertwined that you cannot sacrifice one without compromising the other.  

Concerns about potential restrictions of online speech have permeated recent discussions of Mongolia’s developing e-commerce sector.  Mongolia and the United Nations, in concert with the ERBD and the Republic of Korea, have begun to address some aspects of these concerns in recent public discussions. Their soon to be released report assessing Mongolia’s e-trade readiness contain policy goals which align with longstanding efforts Mongolia and the United States have jointly pursued.

In digital policy, the United States has been and will remain committed to sharing cyber security knowledge and experience with our public and private sector partners in Mongolia.  We have partnered with the Ministry of Digital Development and Communications, prosecutors and judges, and administrators, as well as private sector banking, mining, and technology companies to deliver in-person and online workshops on cyber security laws, regulations, and practices; and to learn how these different actors respond to the challenges they face.

We have brought experts from the U.S. Department of Justice, Carnegie-Mellon’s software engineering institute, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and American nongovernmental organizations to discuss developing human resources; creating and implementing laws and regulations; bringing the public and private sector together to protect our networks from malign actors; and aligning our practices without sacrificing essential freedoms upon which economic innovation and vitality depend.

E-trade also depends upon a digital infrastructure that is secure, interoperable, independent, and resistant to manipulation and disruption.  this is a challenge we share with our partners. 

Mongolia and the United States are working together to bring infrastructure options not bound by cables or wires to urban and rural Mongolia. 

These new digital infrastructures—vast satellite networks, for example—are democratic in nature, offering access to all in the fullest sense; and they will require flexibility in the legal and administrative frameworks if we are to take advantage of their potential.

Human resource potential is also essential to digital development, both politically and commercially.  This includes building English language capacity and supporting inclusive participation in the tech sector by all segments of society—so we can leave no one behind.

We conduct a variety of English language teaching and learning activities through methodology training and open access English teaching resources and materials, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). 

We have brought women from NASA and Silicon Valley here to encourage women in STEM.  In September, we will hold a Women in Clean Energy workshop here in Ulaanbaatar. 

We will continue working with our local private and public partners in the digital landscape, including cyber security, digital law and regulations, entrepreneurship, and English language training.  

If we can harness the power of public and private partnerships.  If the government and the private sector see themselves as partners and not competitors, then the digital future looks bright for Mongolia.  It can be a country that stands tall among other digital democracies, a model for others in the region to emulate; it can advance the vision that is shared by everyone in this room, of a Mongolia with a robust, diverse economy where investors come in confidence and aspiring young entrepreneurs know their innovation and hard work will be rewarded. 

Thank you very much for allowing me to share my thoughts with you, and I look forward to hearing about some of the discussions during this regional forum and discovering new, innovative ways to collaborate.