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
Appendices
Organisations active in ICT
Glossary
Bibliography
 Introduction

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 and citizens.

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. ■

CHRIS NICOL

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