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

 13. The actors in international and regional internet and ICT policy

- The alignment of international
- 13.1. International Organisations: the mainstream position
- 13.2. International NGOs: developing an alternative vision
- 13.3. Regional Organisations: promoting regional positions
- 13.4 Private enterprise

The alignment of international opinion

Many international forces come into play when countries begin to define the policies that shape the new technologies and the internet to their own development goals:

The international organisations that define the global information economy and the rules under which countries can connect to it – as well as the conditions under which support will be available for the implementation of ICT programmes. Key among these are the International Telecommunications Union, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

International non-governmental organisations promote alternative visions of globalisation and work to ensure a role for civil society in shaping the information society globally, regionally and nationally. This is a growing and increasingly influential family of organisations of which we can only cite a few examples here, such as the APC and the APC-WNSP, Panos, and

Regional organisations which may play a promotional role and enhance collaboration; the Economic Commission for Africa with its African Information Society Initiative and the regional development banks are examples.

The organisations that govern the internet: The Internet Society, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the World Wide Web Consortium and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (see chapter 14).

13.1. International Organisations: the mainstream position

Five organisations dominate mainstream dialogue on global ICT policy issues:

• The International Telecommunications Union because of its mandate for telecommunications within the United Nations system
• The World Intellectual Property Organisation because it is responsible for setting the rules that govern ownership of content on the internet
• The World Trade Organisation because it sets the rules for international trade
• The World Bank because of the financial and technical resources it brings to bear on development, and
• The World Economic Forum because of its ability to convene the world’s rich and powerful.

The World Bank, WTO and WEF have been subjected to extensive criticism over the last decade because of the role they have played in promoting a global liberalisation agenda which has reinforced the digital divide and further marginalised poor people and poor countries.

International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

ITU is the specialised agency within the United Nations System where 189 governments and over 600 private sector members coordinate global telecom networks and services (

Founded on the principle of international cooperation between government and the private sector, the ITU is the global forum through which government and industry can work towards consensus on a wide range of issues affecting the future direction of this industry1 The changes in the telecommunications industry, where privatisation has meant that the private sector has become dominant and government telecoms no longer have the same importance as in the past, have meant that the ITU has adapted to the times and become more responsive to private companies. Companies both large and small can become members of ITU sectors by paying membership fees, and companies provide much of the technical input to the decision-making process. Lower fees are available for membership in the Telecommunications Development Sector – in particular for members from developing countries. Civil society has historically been a neglected partner but is increasingly present today through participation in national delegations or through being granted an observer status.

ITU’s mission covers technical, developmental and policy issues.2Much of its authority derives from its World Conferences, which review, revise and adopt the regulations that form the framework for the provision of international telecommunications services.

It also establishes the technical characteristics and operational procedures for wireless services, manages the global radio frequency spectrum and coordinates international standard setting activities including standards for Internet Protocol (IP) networks and IP-based systems.

Its Development Sector implements communications development projects that are funded by the UN and other sources, and publishes definitive information on telecommunications trends.3

The ITU Strategy

The ITU’s e-strategy shows how far it has moved from its technical mandate into areas of broad public concern. Its goals are to:

- Foster the development of Internet Protocol (IP) networks and services on all types of telecommunications networks

- Integrate the development of IP with societal applications to enhance governmental, medical/ health, educational, agricultural, business and community services -Enhance security and build confidence in the useof public networks

-Continue the development of Multi-purposecommunity telecentres (MCTs) and multipurpose platforms (MPPs) as a mechanism to provide wider and affordable access to ICTs

- Enhance ICT literacy and increase public awareness of the potential of ICTs for socio-economic development

- Promote the establishment of a favourable legal environment for e-applications

- In all applications, take into account the needs of rural, isolated and poorly served areas and people with special needs (women, youth and indigenous people).

Source: ITU,

World Intellectual Property Organization(WIPO)

WIPO is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for promoting the protection of intellectual property worldwide. 179 countries are WIPO members; national and international non-governmental organisations may apply for observer status (

WIPO is responsible for administering 23 treaties in the field of intellectual property. The treaties define interna-tionally-agreed basic standards of protection in each country, provide facilities to ensure that international registration or filing is valid across national boundaries and create a universally agreed classification of intellectual property to ease searching and information retrieval.

The ICT revolution has probably had a greater impact on WIPO than on any other UN agency. Intellectual property rights in the past were fundamentally territorial in nature and defined by national governments. The internet is a quintessentially global medium and the home of much of today’s production of intellectual property. WIPO faces large challenges in leading the way towards a system of intellectual property rights that recognises the global information society and can adapt to its changing dimensions.

World Trade Organization (WTO)

The WTO is an international agency that deals with the global rules of trade between nations; telecommunications and internet services have taken on increased importance within its trade agenda.

Its membership (standing at over 130 countries accounting for over 90 percent of world trade) is at the level of governments. Its day-to-day business is conducted by the General Council, which is composed of representatives of all WTO members (

The WTO administers trade agreements, supports negotiations, rules on trade disputes, and assists developing countries on trade policy issues through technical assistance and training.

The WTO has become the most influential institution within the global telecommunications market. It is responsible for the administration of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), its Annex on Telecommunications and a Protocol on basic telecommunications services known as the Agreement on Basic Telecommunications (ABT). As well as dealing with the liberalisation of telecommunications services and tariff-free trade in information technology products, it addresses intellectual property rights and e-commerce, issues that are key to the development of the information society.

GATS and ABT are the instruments that have pried open the global telecommunications market. Countries are not all required to pursue the same pace of liberalisation but, once signed, the obligations and disciplines the agreements contain become binding and initiate a process from which there is no return.4

The World Bank Group

The World Bank Group plays a major role in defining the global agenda for development. It has been instrumental in identifying progress towards market liberalisation as a key determinant of development. It has also led efforts to link national ICT policies with poverty reduction strategies as a means of promoting progress towards the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).5. These positions are not necessarily easy to reconcile and result in lending programmes with conditions that may prove difficult for countries to meet.

The WB also has access to extensive technical resources, which allow it to develop definitive positions on the regulatory and technical issues involved in ICT and internet policy and programme development.

The World Bank is governed by a Board, which includes all its members; it is important to know that decisions are taken by majority vote with voting rights determined by the number of stocks held in the Bank. Twelve Executive Directors are responsible for the conduct and operations of the Bank. Five of them are appointed by the five member governments with the largest number of shares.6 The WB is inevitably therefore controlled by the rich countries, which hold the major part of the voting shares, in particular the USA.

The Group’s Global Information and Communication Technologies Department (GICT) combines the private sector investment capabilities of the IFC with the public-sec-tor advisory and financing expertise of the WB, and a global donor-funded program infoDev.7

As with the ITU, the GICT Strategy8is moving beyond a technical focus on privatisation, liberalisation and infrastructure and towards applications that promote equity and reduce poverty. It will put increased emphasis on egovernance, e-commerce and other sectoral applications through new financing mechanisms and technical assistance grants.

The World Economic Forum (WEF)

The World Economic Forum is a private organisation that provides a collaborative framework for world leaders to address global issues and promotes entrepreneurship in the global public interest. It is funded by fees from the 1,000 foremost global companies and works in partnership with other organisations including labour, media and NGOs.9

ICTs are integrated within its Global Competitiveness Programme; its annual Global Information Technologies Report provides a comprehensive assessment of networked readiness covering most of the leading economies of the world.10

The WEF’s convening power makes it an influential voice in the establishment of global policies on ICT issues; its competitiveness and IT reports are used by businesses and development agencies to help target investments in IT infrastructure and technology and grant funding for ICT development initiatives.

13.2. International NGOs: developing an alternative vision

Civil society is developing its own powerful voices to balance the more entrenched authority of the organisations described above. The Association for Progressive Communications is the premier organisation articulating civil society’s position on ICT policy issues but it is increasingly strengthened by the recognition that related international NGOs are giving to ICT issues. Those mentioned below are only a few examples of the organisations that are adding weight to alternative visions of the global information society.

The Association for Progressive Communication (APC)

The APC is a non-profit association of member and partner networks around the world, committed to making the internet serve the needs of global civil society.11

APC has developed a number of tools to build capacity within civil society to address ICT policy issues and ensure that its views are heard in global debate.

The APC Internet Rights Charter
highlights some of the specific issues that individuals, civil society organisations, community media, and policy makers and regulators, need to consider in their efforts to protect the right to communicate freely via the internet and realise its potential to create a better informed and more just world.

The ICT Policy Monitor Websites
for Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Europe signal critical developments that threaten or promote internet rights.

The APC-WNSP trains women and gender advocates on ICT policy from a gender perspective and is actively in-volved in ensuring that gender is integrated in ICT policy.12

APC provides support for several campaigns, such as the Communications Rights in the Information Society (CRIS) launched by the Platform for Communications Rights to ensure that rights are high on the agenda of all who deal with ICT policy – and in particular that they receive full consideration by the World Summit on the Information Society.13

Training programs and research help CSOs understand how ICT policy decisions can affect their work.14

PANOS is a global network working with journalists in developing countries to report on and analyse key issues of the day – including ICT and development. It has recently undertaken, with the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization, a survey of factors inhibiting developing countries from participating in ICT policy-mak-ing, and recommended actions to overcome them, which are discussed in section 3.8. (

BRIDGES is an international non-profit organisation working at the interface of international policy and cutting edge technologies, inter alia through the provision of advice to ICT policy makers and support for projects that demonstrate the use of ICTs (

GIPI – the Global Internet Policy Initiative – serves as a resource to local stakeholders in the internet policy development process. The project’s goal is to promote: transparency and predictability in business regulation; competition, privatisation, open networks and universal service in terms of telecom policy; and market-driven solutions, user-control and human rights protection in terms of government control. The key people in GIPI are the country coordinators who help local stakeholders to develop the capacity to promote sound policies supporting an open internet (

CPSR – Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility – is a public-interest alliance of computer scientists and others concerned about the impact of computer technology on society. It works to influence decisions regarding the development and use of computers, which have far-reaching consequences. CPSR members provide the public and policy-makers with realistic assessments of the power, promise, and limitations of computer technology and direct public attention to critical choices concerning the applications of computing and how those choices affect society.(

EFF- the Electronic Frontier Foundation – is a pioneering donor-supported membership organisation working to protect fundamental rights regardless of technology; to educate the press, policy-makers and the general pub-lic about civil liberties issues related to technology; and to act as a defender of those liberties. Among its various activities, EFF opposes misguided legislation, initiates and defends court cases preserving individuals’ rights, launches global public campaigns, introduces leading edge proposals and papers, hosts frequent educational events, engages the press regularly, and publishes a comprehensive archive of digital civil liberties information (

13.3. Regional Organisations: promoting regional positions

Many regional and sub-regional organisations with a development mandate have staked out roles with respect to information society, ICT or internet policy.

The European Union has developed the concept of Europe as part of its strategy to grow a knowledge-based economy and increase employment and social cohesion. The eEurope framework is guiding the e-strategies of countries that are candidates for EU membership. Several EU Directives on ICT and the internet have had an influence far and beyond the EU member countries.15

The African, Asian and Inter-American Development Banks16 provide financial and technical assistance for the establishment, expansion, improvement and integration of public telecommunications systems. Expanding access to telecommunications services, improving the contribution of the telecommunications sector to economic growth, and improving competitiveness of the sector through privatisation are issues on the agendas of the Banks.17

The African Telecommunications Union provides a forum for African governments, as well as public, private and social sector organisations involved in ICT, to formulate policies and strategies aimed at improving access to information infrastructure and promoting its use as a tool for stimulating economic development and enhancing poverty reduction.18

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), within its African Information Society Initiative, provides advice on information policy to member states, stimulates regional debate, and promotes Africa’s voice within global debate.

The Latin American Forum of Telecommunications Regulators (REGULATEL19) and the Telecommunications Regulators Association of Southern Africa (TRASA20)encourage coordination among regulatory authorities in their regions and promote the exchange of experience and ideas on telecommunications policy and reform.

Regional Common Markets (such as Mercosur for southern Latin America and COMESA for East and southern Africa) also have interests in implementing policies and standards that move in the direction of integrated telecommunications markets within their regions.

13.4 Private enterprise

We should not forget that the private sector plays a key role in setting ICT policy. This may be through:

• Direct or indirect influence in organisations such as the ITU or the WTO
• Participation in technical standards bodies for the internet
• Employers federations or even individual companies which lobby or put pressure on governments or international organisations to respond to the demands of this sector
• Actions in the courts to enforce existing laws or to create precedents.

2 This section draws on the Telecommunications Regulation Handbook, Hank Intven (Ed); McCarthy Tetrault, World Bank, 2001, ISBN 0-9697178-7-3

3 Two key sources of information are the World Telecommunications Development Report and Trends in Telecommunications Reform published regularly by ITU.

4 Tina James (Ed); An Information Policy Handbook for Southern Africa, IDRC, 2001, p 7

10 Soumitra Dutta, Bruno Lanvin, Fiona Paua (Eds); Global Information Technologies Report 2002/2003, Readiness for the Networked World, Oxford University Press, 2003, 0-19-516169-6

15 eg This link also


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