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

 12. Involving key players at the national level

- Who determines ICT policy?
- Governments
- 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 constituency.

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 to participate.

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:// 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 sector.2

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.


Senegalese civil society has very little involvement in the formulation and application of

ICT policies, for the following reasons:

  • Owing to its lack of internal organisation, civil society is not recognised as a representative participant by the authorities responsible for defining ICT policies.

  • The organisation of civil society on an institutionally representative basis could be difficult, moreover, because of the wide range of interests it covers.
  • There is still only a limited number of CSOs with direct involvement in ICT issues (development NGOs), and the number of partners who could potentially participate in ICT policies is even smaller.
  • CSOs that could be more immediately involved in the area of ICT policies mainly comprise persons who are professionally involved in ICT, and come from the social sectors (public, private, educational, CSOs).

Source: APC Africa ICT Policy Monitor,


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,

Some successes

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 rights.

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.

Source: APCNews/RITS,

The private sector

Computing, communication and media businesses – large and small - all have a stake in the policies that govern the ICT sector.

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 processes.

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,


Participatory Policy Making in Nepal: an example of successful policy partnership

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 country.

…we adopted a participatory process in which the government, private sector and civil society share a
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 Mountain Development.

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, ict_rnd04a.htm

2 Raja Mitra, Emerging State Level ICT Development Strategies, Chapter 16

<< Back | Next >>