Table of contents
Part 1
What are ICT and internet policies?
Part 2
The internet, markets and access
Part 3
National ICT and internet policy and regulation
Part 4
Specific issues in internet policy and regulation
Part 5
Organisations active in ICT
1.2. What is ICT Policy?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines policy as “A course of action, adopted and pursued by a government, party, ruler, statesman, etc.; any course of action adopted as advantageous or expedient.” While this definition suggests that policy is the realm of those in power – governments or official institutions – a wider sense could include the vision, goals, principles and plans that guide the activities of many different actors.

ICT policy generally covers three main areas: telecommunications (especially telephone communications), broadcasting (radio and TV) and the internet. It may be national, regional or international. Each level may have its own decision-making bodies, sometimes making different and even contradictory policies.


Sectoral policies

“The need for integrating national ICT strategies overlaps with four well-established policy fields: technology, industry, telecommunications and media. Sectoral policies such as education, employment, health, welfare, etc. are increasingly having to address issues relating to ICTs and the growing interdependence between the development of ICT policies and sectoral policies. Experience to date has shown that, in the absence of an existing national ICT policy, the tendency is towards the creation of sector-dependent policy that addresses only its own ICT needs. These policies become firmly entrenched within the sector and later attempts to integrate them into a broad all-encompassing ICT policy become difficult.”

Sectoral Policies

Source: Information Policy Handbook, Chapter 1

Although policies are formally put in place by governments, different stakeholders and in particular the private sector make inputs into the policy process and affect its out-comes. Thus, for example, in the International Telecommunications Union, an intergovernmental body for governments to coordinate rules and regulations in the field of telecommunications, the influence of multinationals has grown enormously. Privatisation of state-owned companies has meant that governments can rarely control telecommunications directly. The privatised telecom companies, often partly controlled by foreign shareholders, look after their own interests. In the context of globalised markets, large and rich corporations are often more powerful than developing countries’ governments, allowing them to shape the policy-making process.
Two sets of issues in ICT policy are critical to civil society at the moment: access and civil liberties. Access has to do with making it possible for everyone to use the internet and other media. In countries where only a minority have telephones, ensuring affordable access to the internet is a huge challenge. Much of the response would lie in social solutions such as community or public access centres. In richer countries, basic access to internet is available almost to all, and faster broadband connections are fairly widespread. Access to traditional media is now a key concern, as new technologies make community video, radio and television more feasible than before.
The other set of issues, civil liberties, includes human rights such as freedom of expression, the right to privacy, the right to communicate, intellectual property rights, etc. These rights as applied to broadcast media have been threatened in many countries, and now the internet, which began as a space of freedom, is also threatened by government legislation and emerging restrictions. Some of the most blatant attacks on freedom of expression come from developing countries such as China and Vietnam, but even in countries which have a long tradition of freedom of expression, such as the USA, there are new attempts to restrict internet users’ privacy and to limit their right to choose. At the same time, restrictions that are intended to limit media monopolies are being weakened and pushed aside.

Some examples of recent government ICT Policy legislation

  • Millennium Act (USA)

  • RIP Act 2000 (UK)

  • EU Copyright and Patenting Directives

  • The Internet Content Filtering Ordinance (South Korea)

  • The Council of Ministers Resolution of February 12, 2001, rules for internet use (Saudi Arabia)


Policy is also influenced or even decided by companies and institutions.

When Mexico was considering adopting free software in its education system, Microsoft offered money and free licences to the government, which eventually dropped GNU/Linux and embraced Windows completely.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a group of companies and industry organisations undertook a campaign to stifle Internet- privacylegislation. Led by the Online Privacy Alliance ( in Washington, the loosely organised campaign attacked legislative proposals on three fronts: identifying expensive regulatory burdens, raising questions about how any US internet law would apply to non-internet industries, and assuring lawmakers that privacy is best guarded by new technology, not new laws. Members of the Online Privacy Allianceinclude Microsoft Corp (MSFT), AOL Time Warner Inc, (AOL), International Business Machines Corp (IBM), AT&T Corp (T), BellSouth Corp (BLS), Sun Microsystems Inc (SUNW), the Motion Picture Association of America and the United States Chamber of Commerce.


The courts also decide policy

The music industry has won at least 871 federal subpoenas against computer users suspected of illegally sharing music files on the Internet, with roughly 75 new subpoenas being approved each day, U.S. court officials said Friday. The effort represents early steps in the music industry’s contentious plan to file civil lawsuits aimed at crippling online piracy. Subpoenas reviewed by The Associated Press show the industry compelling some of the largest Internet providers, such as Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Cable Communications Inc., and some universities to identify names and mailing addresses for users on their networks known online by nicknames such as “fox3j,” “soccerdog33,” “clover77” or “indepunk74.” The Recording Industry Association of America has said it expects to file at least several hundred lawsuits seeking financial damages within the next eight weeks. U.S. copyright laws allow for damages of $750 to $150,000 for each song offered illegally on a person’s computer, but the RIAA has said it would be open to settlement proposals from defendants.

The campaign comes just weeks after U.S. appeals court rulings requiring Internet providers to readily identify subscribers suspected of illegally sharing music and movie files. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act permits music companies to force Internet providers to turn over the names of suspected music pirates upon subpoena from any U.S. District Court clerk’s office, without a judge’s signature required.

Source: Fox News,,2933,92351,00.html

<< Back | Next >>