Ask a typical citizen about ICT policy
and s/he will probably reply with a comment like ‘what’s
that?’ or ‘who cares?’ Getting involved in
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy-making
has not been a priority for most people, even those who are generally
active in other areas of public policy. It often seems removed
from our daily experience, and technically complicated. Yet new
communications media are becoming so important that we cannot
continue to ignore them.
This book takes the mystery out of ICT policy and makes it easier
to understand. Key issues are presented and explained clearly
and concisely, and a basis is provided for further investigation.
Many concrete examples are given of recent events or debates,
which the reader can explore further if so inclined. Having read
it, you will be able to identify the main actors and issues in
the field. If you wish to find out more about ICT policy, you
will know where to look for the information, beginning with the
extensive bibliography and list of organisations active in the
field. In short, this book aims to build the capacity of interested
persons to understand the issues around policy on ICT development
and regulation, to grasp the policy process, and to become involved
in it. It is a beginner’s handbook, which can help readers
navigate their way through the varied terrain of ICT policy.
It is not a map but a compass.
While the area of concern includes many kinds of ICTs, our interest
is centred on the internet. This network of networks is the most
innovative and fastest-growing new technology, and has become
vitally important to contemporary societies. Many of the more
traditional ICTs are converging on the internet, using it, becoming
part of it, and often becoming indistinguishable from it. The
internet is still in its infancy, but powerful forces are trying
to limit the freedom currently enjoyed by internet users. The
future of ICTs is everyone’s business, and APC would like
ICT policy-making to be participatory, involve all sectors of
society, and to benefit all, not just the powerful and the well-organised.
This book should thus be of interest to a wide range of people:
members of civil society groups, researchers, activists, technical
persons who are getting more interested in the political side,
journalists looking for background information, government-administration
workers, or anyone else who is interested in the topics. It is
not a technical book, although it tries to explain in simple
language some of the technical background knowledge that is necessary
in order to be able to discuss and debate ICT policy issues.
The first chapter explains what is meant by ICT policy, and why
it is important. It locates our interest in ICTs in a historical
moment, when it is particularly important to ensure that the
freedoms enjoyed by internet users are not eroded by restrictive
legislation or practices, and that they are extended to all countries
Part Two looks at what makes the internet different from other
media and ICTs, and seeks to explain why present internet use
is inequitably distributed. It explains how it is possible that
internet access is more expensive in the countries whose citizens
can least afford it, and is cheaper for citizens in wealthier
countries. It calls for regarding internet access as a social
issue and not merely an economic one.
Part Three explains policy and regulation, how policy is decided,
who the main players are, and what can be done to ensure that
policy decision-making is a transparent, participatory process,
and not one which involves only those with the money and the
power to influence governments and the courts.
Part Four considers specific themes in ICT policy, again with
a special focus on the internet. These are topics of great interest,
which will determine how our societies develop over the next
20 years, and we can and must intervene in them. While some important
issues have been left out, the topics discussed here are crucial.
Our aim is to make them easily understood by all.
The appendices are designed to help the reader understand some
of the technical terminology, as well as continue the journey
beyond the boundaries of this book. The list of organisations
gives an idea of who is working in the field, and also how to
get in contact with them. We hope that reading this book will
stir your interest in becoming involved in current debates and
campaigns, and that this list will help you do so. Finally, the
bibliography suggests further readings to find out more on the
many topics and issues referred to in the book.
The book has been produced by the Association for Progressive
Communications with funding via the Commonwealth Telecommunications
Organisation (CTO) from DFID’s Building Digital Opportunities
programme. Some of the material was adapted from APC’s
ICT Policy Curriculum (http://www.apc.org/ english/capacity/policy/curriculum.shtml),
but most was written specially for the book by Kate Wild, Russell
Southwood, Natasha Primo, Paul Mobbs, Claire Sibthorpe and Chris
Nicol (editor). The team of reviewers included Sonia Jorge, Anriette
Esterhuysen, Carlos Afonso and Karen Banks. Additional editing
by Ran Greenstein. Graphics were created by Matias Bervejillo
and Piet Luthi (chapters 11 and 13). Special thanks to Karen
Higgs and all those in APC (Heather, Danijela, PatchA and others)
who helped with ideas, resources, and advice. Thanks also to
David Souter, formerly at CTO, for his generous support, without
which this book would not exist. ■