Involving key players at the national level
- Who determines ICT policy?
- The importance of broad-based, high level leadership
- Civil society actors
- Is there evidence of civil society involvement?
- The experience in Africa
- Some successes
- The private sector
Who determines ICT policy?
Broadly speaking there
are three groups of national stakeholders: government and other
public sector bodies; civil society; and the private sector.
All play a role in national ICT policy-making.
The Office of the Prime Minister or the President, the Ministry
responsible for communications, other ministries relying on communications
facilities to deliver their programmes, the telecommunications
operators (if they are still publicly owned), the regulator (if
it has already been established) are all part of the government
Interested civil society organisations include non-govern-mental
organisations promoting the internet, trade unions, community
development organisations, professional associations, forums
of ICT users.
The private sector ranges from single entrepreneurs setting up
small ICT businesses to the big multinationals active in the
country (internet service providers, software developers, technology
producers, telecoms providers) and includes businesses that are
users of technology, industry groups, chambers of commerce.
Negotiations should aim at a consensus among the three sectors
on appropriate ICT policy; all share responsibility for ensuring
that policy is carried through in legislation and regulation
and for monitoring the implementation of the policy once the
regulatory institutions have been established.
Government is usually the driver of ICT policy development. Key
players from the public sector are the Ministry responsible for
communications, the national telecommunications operator and
the regulator. Other ministries with an interest in the outcome
should also be involved. These include, for example, education,
health, trade and industry.
The importance of broad-based, high level leadership
Leading the policy
reform process from the office of either the President or the
Prime Minister – as was the case in Mozambique – has
advantages: it demonstrates high level commitment to ICT policy,
it ensures that the process is not captured by the narrow technical
concerns of the communications sector and it ensures that all
interested ministries and public sector bodies will be encouraged
Civil society actors
The success of policy depends on how people use the new tools that
become available to them – computers, fixed line phones, mobiles
or the internet – once the policy is implemented. It is trite
but true to say that the chances for them to use the tools successfully
to meet their own needs will be increased if they have a say in defining
how the tools are delivered. Civil society organisations are one
key link (parliamentarians are another) between the broad population
and policy processes. They have unique experiences and values to
contribute regarding the use of the tools for social objectives.
Is there evidence of civil society involvement?
Open consultations in public meetings held throughout the country,
and interactive web sites that provide space for comments and
access to relevant documents, are used widely in the North to
ensure public participation in both policy and regulation. This
is the case in Canada, for example, both for internet policy
development (http:// connect.ca) and for telecommunications (http://
It is more of a challenge to organise civil society participation
in developing countries where the habits of consultation may
be less entrenched, organisational structures less developed
and communication of all kinds more difficult.
In Mozambique, telephone and internet use is limited outside
the capital and a few provincial towns. The govern-ment is, however,
championing ICT as a tool for development throughout the country.
During the course of policy development the Information Policy
Commission organised a series of public meetings in the provinces
to engage local groups as its work progressed.1
The Indian government,
following the recommendation of its National Task Force on Information
Technology and Software Development, encouraged each state government
to develop an IT policy. In this case the state-level polices
appear to have been defined largely by the government and private
The experience in Africa
The Association for Progressive Communication
(APC) commissioned a series of studies on the involvement of
civil society in the development of ICT policy in Africa.3 The
studies cover Benin, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Senegal.
They provide a good starting point for understanding the role
that civil society organizations can play in shaping ICT policy – and
the challenges they face.
civil society has very little involvement in the formulation
and application of
policies, for the following reasons:
Africa ICT Policy Monitor, http://www.apc.org/english/rights/africa/research.shtml
Civil society have played a significant
role in the development of ICTs by creating awareness and training
by introduction of services in early 1990’s. Apart from
the supply of email services, civil society lobbied for improved
policy and regulatory framework. Today, the civil society has
shifted focus to higher values of Internet rights as a means
to guarantee access to information that underlies basic freedoms
of human rights. Additionally, the civil society is exploiting
Internet for development and empowerment. Challenges remain – low
penetration, lack of content, economic barriers.
Source: APC Africa ICT Policy Monitor,
There are success stories. In Cameroon, perhaps partly because
government leadership on information society issues was fragmented
among different ministries, civil society organisations with
a history of ICT work were able to establish themselves as important
credible interlocutors of government in spite of its normally
secretive way of doing business. In Egypt, civil society was
instrumental in ensuring recognition of the legal right to privacy
in the recently adopted Communications Bill.
In general, however, civil society participation has been ad
hoc and often delivered through individual experts rather than
through representative voices of civil society groups. Often
there are no channels available for CS participation. In Spain,
for example, a large campaign was built up in the internet against
the government’s new internet bill, but it made little
impact outside the restricted circles of internet users. So while
it is the case that there is almost universal acceptance of the
principle that information policy will only be an effective instrument
if it is developed by all stakeholders including civil society,
work still needs to be done to strengthen the instruments which
will guarantee that civil society is present and listened to.
Proposals emerged to reinforce civil society’s role in
ICT policy processes by:
• Exploiting international links: international organisations
as divergent as APC and the World Bank today agree on the need
for civil society participation in policy and strategy development
• Organising the ICT civil society sector internally through
the establishment of a national ICT forum – competition
between organisations hampered effective communication in a number
of the countries studied
• Linkage with CSOs with broader development goals in order
to build awareness of ICTs and provide appropriate training to
help CSOs use ICTs effectively
• Increasing understanding of government
processes, lobbying and public relations.
Anti-Democratic Internet Administration is
tackled in Brazil
In Brazil civil society recognised early the potential
of the internet. Training, awareness-raising and
lobbying with NGOs has created a critical mass
of users, which is now empowered to tackle ICT
policy issues including internet management and
In January 2003, at the World Social Forum in Brazil, APC representatives
criticised the anti-democratic nature of internet administration.
Prominent Brazilian ICT activists complained that the management
of the Brazilian internet was in the hands of a group of volunteers
who are appointed by the Brazilian ministries and yet work behind
closed doors, with no accountability for the millions of dollars
raised in the sale of .br internet addresses.
Brazilian civil society got together to change the way the internet
is governed in Brazil. A seminar was held on 2526th February 2003
in Rio de Janeiro and, partly as a result of discussions with government
officials and the seminar recommendations, the Lula government
decided to support the transition to a new internet governance
structure for Brazil. It was proposed that profits from the sale
of .br addresses go to create a new digital inclusion fund.
The private sector
Computing, communication and media businesses – large and
small - all have a stake in the policies that govern the ICT
Import duties on hardware and software, the restructuring of
the telecommunications sector to allow for competition by fixedline,
and mobile operators and the concentration of ownership of radio,
television and the print media, are examples of the kinds of
issues of concern to business as well as consumers.
The ICT private sector in the North is generally well organised
but in developing countries it may face many of the same challenges
as civil society in trying to organise and develop positions
that can impact on policy processes. It can engage government
systematically on ICT issues only if it is itself organised into
interest groups. For example, the internet service providers
in South Africa acted individually throughout the telecommunications
reform process that took place in the mid-1990s. ISPs realized
the benefits that could accrue from forming an association to
develop and lobby for joint positions. The creation of the ISPA
(Internet Service Providers Association) has enabled much more
effective input from ISPs into subsequent South African ICT policy
Internet strike in Europe
Civil Society actions on national ICT policy decisions about access
are not limited to developing countries. For example, in 1999,
thousands of Internet users in at least three European countries,
France, Germany and Spain, staged an Internet strike in protest
over the high cost of dialup access. They refused to connect during
24 hours, to pressure their governments into forcing the telephone
companies to allow a flat rate telephone call charge for Internet
access, rather than the cost per minute that is normal now.
Source: Asociacion de Internautas,
Making in Nepal: an example of successful policy
Participation is a highly effective strategy for
rallying key people behind public policy. This is
what Dr Ramesh Ananda Vaidya, Chairman, Information
Strategy Formulation Steering Committee, National
Planning Commission discovered when he opted for
a participatory approach towards formulating a policy
for Nepal’s information technology sector.
It is one of the first instances when such an approach
has been attempted in making national policy in the
…we adopted a participatory process in which
the government, private sector and civil society
common discussion forum during policy design. We
believed such a process based on the consensus of
IT stakeholders would lead to a ‘global congruence’ among
them and thus facilitate successful develop
ment of the IT sector.
The year long policy design process was launched
with a series of informal consultations with members
of the IT industry. This led to the creation of a
Steering Committee composed of three members of the
government, a member of the private sector, the Vice-Chancellor
of Tribhuvan University, the Executive Chairman of
the Institute for Integrated Development Studies
and two members of the International Centre for Integrated
A series of strategy papers was prepared and presented
to a National Stakeholders Workshop held
in Kathmandu. Participants represented a diversity
of groups including gender specialists, development
workers, Internet Service Providers, journalists.
The workshop – and comments received via e-mail
generated valuable input into finalizing the policy
which was approved by government in October 2000.
Source: PAN Asia,
Mitra, Emerging State Level ICT Development Strategies, Chapter