short history of telecommunications reform
policy, legislation and regulation: tools for national
key players at a national level
actors in international and regional Internet and ICT policy
and governing the Internet
and regulatory issues
3: National ICT and Internet Policy and Regulation
Government ICT policy is a key item on the ICT agenda today. But not all countries
have the same decisions to make, nor the same time frame in which to make them.
Whereas most of the OECD countries, for example, have privatised their telecom
companies, and have well-estab-lished telephone systems that provide internet
access to all citizens, in developing countries this is often not the case.
Decisions taken in the 1990s in the rich countries, about market liberalisation
and deregulation for example, are still being taken in poor countries today.
In North America and Europe, how to provide broadband access is a current concern,
whereas in Africa most people still do not have access to a telephone, let
alone cable TV or satellite connections. Some countries are in the middle – they
have initiated their deregulation process, but this is far from complete and
de facto monopolies are common.
In this context, a new alignment of international voices has emerged to deal
with the big stakes now at play in ICT policy. Powerful intergovernmental organisations
are setting the agenda on ICT issues that penetrate all aspects of life – from
policy, legislation and regulation to cultural development and the delivery
of health and education.1
They are working in partnership with the private sector to identify ways to
deliver technologies and services to the untapped market of four billion people
in developing countries who earn less than $2000 a year and make up the base
of the world’s economic pyramid.2
There is undoubted potential for good in this partnership of development and
business. But there are also reservations about the global agenda of liberalisation
and privatisation in which it is framed. Externally defined development programmes
have rarely succeeded. While national policies do need to take account of the
global agenda they must also reflect the knowledge and understanding of local
constituents, the needs of the people who will be most affected by the policies
and the particular circumstances of their lives.
Civil society voices – national and international - are thus emerging
to influence market forces shaping ICT policy towards social equity.
The crucial challenge for the new partnership of development, business and
civil society is to turn the digital divide into digital opportunity for those
living at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Global development and security
demand that the misery that the ITU predicts as an accompaniment to the telecommunications
revolution does not add to the burdens of the already poor but that they become
the prime beneficiaries of the new opportunities.
This chapter aims to increase understanding of ICT policy and regulatory issues,
especially in developing countries, by addressing the following questions:
• What are the objectives of ICT policy?
• How does it link to legislation and regulation?
• Who are the key players nationally and globally?
• Who governs the internet?
• How has telecommunications reform evolved?
• What are the objectives of regulation and how does it work?
• What are key reform and regulatory issues and their consequences?
• What can be done to make decision-making processes more participatory,
democratic and transparent?
1 See ITU e-strategy, p11
2 C.K. Prahalad and Allen Hammond, Serving the World’s
Poor, Profitably, Harvard Business Review, Reprint R0209C