17. Decision-making processes
- Influencing national policy
- Influencing Internet management
- Influencing the international agenda
players agree in principle that good decisions derive from broad-based
inputs, transparent processes for reconciling different interests
and publicly accessible policies, laws and regulations. The two
examples here illustrate the fact that it becomes more difficult
to maintain open and transparent decision-making as the political
stakes increase. In practice it is difficult to achieve ideal
conditions with respect to national ICT policy, the management
of the internet and the international telecommunications reform
agenda – the three decision arenas that have been discussed
in this chapter.
The United Nations system – broad umbrella of the ITU,
the World Bank and the WTO – is largely a system of governments.
National delegations to discussions within these bodies are more
open to including different stakeholders than in the past. And
the UN has granted observer status to many non-governmental organisations.
Nevertheless, when power is at stake, decision-making is held
close to the chests of governmental elites.
The internet itself can be a powerful tool to increase access
to information and knowledge, and thereby increase transparency
of decision-making and create the conditions for accountability.
But it is not easily accessible everywhere and many people lack
the skills to use it to further their own objectives. Many more
lack the knowledge required to engage in debate on the complex
commercial, technical and political issues that frame its management.
This chapter has referred to – but not addressed in detail
– the role of big corporations in decision-making on ICTs.
Recent corporate history has shown how easy it was to misrepresent
corporate operations and assets; it underlines the importance
of regulations that separate board and executive and accountancy
and advisory functions. The quality of future decision-making
in both global and national ICT sectors will depend very much
on the quality of corporate governance.
Influencing national policy
To enable broad-based participation in national policy requires
a high level of public awareness of the issues, which is reflected
in the attention they receive in local media. Media messages
need to be in a language and style accessible to the public.
The internet is a powerful tool but it does not reach all users.
It must be used for communication and information exchange where
possible, but its limitations as a tool for broad dissemination
must be recognised. The public needs to be empowered through
strong civil society organisations to articulate its views; the
CSOs themselves need to master lobbying techniques and learn
how to connect with government, for example by creating coalitions
of civil society organisations concerned with ICT issues, or
by strengthening civil society voices within existing computer
and communications forums.
pay phones in Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka
identified problems with the supply of pay phones – low
penetration, concentration in urban areas and high
costs for customers. It advised the government to
adopt pay phone subsidies with a goal of installing
100 new pay phones in each district and recommended
limits on the amount of the subsidy and on the number
that could be assigned to any single operator. It
further recommended a time limit on the subsidy program.
The government accepted the recommendation and directed
TRCA to implement it using its own re
Source: Trends in Telecommunications Reform 2002,
a second national operator in South Africa
ending of South Africa Telkom’s period of exclusivity
through the licensing of a second national
operator (SNO), was foreseen in the first post apartheid
Telecommunications Act passed in 1996.
In spite of the existence of an independent regulator – the
Independent Communications Authority of SouthAfrica – the
process has been widely questioned; the first round
of bidding failed to produce a result that was accepted
by the government. Authority rejected two bids for
the 51% foreign equity stake in the SNO. The second
round is now approaching completion.
On the regulatory
side the key is clear policy and legislation that creates an
independent regulator that operates at arms length from government
and other interests, and is seen to be so doing. The policy,
legislation and regulatory decisions must be in the public domain.
Public consultations should be organised on all issues that have
public impact. Here again, the extent to which civil society
and the private sector are themselves vibrant and organised will
impact on their capacity to collaborate effectively in regulatory
All of these conditions ultimately depend on democratic, transparent
and accountable government free from the pressure of special
interests and corruption.
internet management is a challenge because of the lack of recognition
given to the importance of the internet by many governments,
the technical nature of the issues at stake, and the other pressures
on relatively small communities of experts. This is particularly
the case in developing countries but it is also true everywhere
outside the ICT mainstream.
Joining up for a free membership in ISOC and becoming a member
of a national chapter, or establishing one, would seem to offer
one of the best opportunities for strengthening the local internet
community and building a platform from which to influence internet
decisions. This may be a long-term solution, when the fast paced
internet world calls for short term interventions. Current debates
on ICANN suggest a real fear that decisions that set the future
course for the internet will be made without the participation
of the growing number of users in developing countries. 1
have been suggested to make ICANN responsive to a broader community
of users. These include producing ICANN documents in languages
other than English, exploiting local channels – websites,
print media, radio – for the dissemination of news and
information, creating ambassadors to represent and promote
ICANN in countries where it is little known, sponsoring developing
country participation in ICANN meetings, and opening up regional
seats for election on the ICANN Board. Ironically, after ICANN
opened up its Board to members elected online by internet users
on a regional basis, and thus exposing itself to criticism
from within, it then stepped back and refused to continue with
this unique (in internet governance) experiment in democracy.2
The newly elected President of ICANN has indicated
interest in stimulating developing country government, business
and consumer participation in ICANN’s work. A step in this
direction is the establishment of an ‘at large’ advisory
committee (ALAC), to provide advice in relation to the community
of individual internet users. ALAC members have been appointed
on an interim basis by the ICANN Board. ALAC is helping to organise
local and regional groups to engage internet users and disseminate
news of its programmes and decisions. Once regional structures
are in place they will elect new ALAC members. Since these groups
are intended to be selforganising and self-supporting, they will
not be easy to establish in developing countries. And they are
advisory rather than decision-making bodies. They do however offer
a way into ICANN’s processes – they are expected to
promote structured involvement and informed participation of the
global internet community in ICANN.3
the international agenda
countries are hampered in their relations with intergovernmental
decision-making bodies, including the ITU, WB and WTO, by the
fact that expertise in any given area is normally stretched extremely
thinly. This is particularly the case with ICT expertise, which
is a new area, not always recognised in developing countries
as being an essential ingredient of development.
Civil society is also hampered - in its case, by the fact that
it does not participate as a full partner in the deliberations
of most United Nations family organisations. The UN is, for the
most part, a system in which decisions are taken by governments.
The one notable exception is the International Labour Organization
in which Ministries of Labour, trade unions and employers organisations
all have seats on the Governing Body. We have seen also that
telecommunications business has always played a role in ITU although
not as members of its Governing Council.
Voices, a 2002 study by the Panos Institute and the
Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation4,
calls for a series of measures to overcome the obstacles
to effective developing country participation in international
ICT decision-making. The report recommends that the international
community promote awareness of the role of ICT in development,
provide accessible and independent research, analysis and
information, and make meetings more accessible to developing
countries. It recommends to developing country governments
that they improve information flows, coordination and knowledge
management within the sector, engage all stakeholders in
policy processes, make better use of resources available
for participation and build regional alliances for maximum
impact in decision processes. It also proposes a series
of programmes to build regional centres of specialised
ICT knowledge, establish web resources and fund small-scale
All of these measures should be designed to strengthen
non-governmental ICT organisations in developing countries
as well as governments.
They are in a sense demand-side steps that will, if successful,
eventually strengthen developing country voices in international
organisations where ICT decisions are made.
There is room also for supply-side changes that see the
big players themselves listening more carefully not only
to developing countries but also to global civil society.
The following case shows both the problems and the potential
of engaging in the international process leading to the
World Summit on the Information Society.
World Summit on the Information Society - Geneva 2003, Tunis 2005
convening by ITU and its partners of the WSIS is
a major achievement for all those who believe that
information has long been the missing element in
the development equation.
It is the first Summit to take place in two sessions – the
first in Geneva in 2003, the second in Tunis in 2005.
The Summit was carefully prepared by a series of
regional meetings – with all sectors represented.
And global preparatory commissions which are led
by governments. The problem with Summits of this
kind is that governments must agree to the principles
and action plans that emerge from them well in advance
of the meetings themselves.
ITU set up a bureau specifically to facilitate civil
society participation. Civil society achieved a victory
in the February, 2003, Prepcom2 by getting some content
included in the official drafts to be considered
again in September. But then in the later Intersessional
meeting, many of the issues regarded by civil society
as key were omitted from the working documents for
the Declaration of Principles and the Action Plan,
despite the stress put on them by the civil society
submissions. The discontent increased in the September,
2003, Prepcom3 meeting, where the civil society press
release stated that if the final Declaration of Principles
and the Action Plan did not reflect social priorities
instead of market-based ones, civil society would
not lend credibility to the Summit nor its results.
For the Summit itself, the Communications Rights
in the Information Society (CRIS) campaign organised
a day of debate within WSIS in Geneva to ensure that
civil society voices are heard, and other groups,
mostly from outside the process, decided to organise
an alternative event, parallel to the Summit. The
many civil society groups believe that the Summit
documents do not reflect the fundamental inequalities
that govern the global information society, and prepared
their own declaration of principles, at variance
with the official documents. The processes was not
perfect but civil society made itself a force to
be reckoned with in this most global ICT game in
Sources: http://www.itu.int/wsis, http://www.worldsummit2003.de/,
Kapur , Why ICANN Needs Fresh Blood: A Deeper View, March 26, 2003
a former Board member's view, cf http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/is99/governance/auerbach.html and
Voices: Strengthening developing country participation in international
ICT decision-making, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation,
Panos, July 2002