The European Union was a strong pioneer in fostering regional and national Information Society policies. When the Heads of States met at the Lisbon summit in March 2000, European Union leaders set out a new strategy, based on a consensus among Member states, to make Europe more dynamic and competitive. The strategy became known as the “Lisbon Strategy” and came to cover a very wide range of policies. The strategy was relaunched in spring 2005 after initially moderate results and became more focused on growth and jobs. (EC, 2005a) A programme for European level reform – the Community Lisbon Programme - has been agreed upon and is reviewed annually. Member States undertake reforms at national level based on national reform programmes presented in 2006 and based on the policy guidelines (EC, 2005b) agreed collectively by all Member states in 2005.
According to Aballi et al., (UNESCO, 2008), the evolution of NISPs toward state policy orienting the development and consolidation of the information society inclusively and equitably is one of the main challenges of the present-day globalized world. For that reason, NISP goals may be formulated and implemented following six essential guidelines:
1. The Millennium Development Goals 2. The 2003 and 2005 World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) Declarations:
Geneva Declaration of Principles, Geneva Plan of Action, Tunis Commitment, and Tunis Agenda for the Information Society 3. Objectives established by regions (Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, North America, East, West and Central Africa, among others) 4. Principles and goals established by North-South, North-North and South-South coperation programs between regions. An example is the EU 27 cooperation with Africa (Joint EU – Africa Strategy, 2007). The European Union and the African Union have decided to develop a co-owned ‘joint strategy’ which “reflects the needs and aspirations of the peoples of Africa and Europe”.
Particularly relevant is the thematic Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space.
5. National development goals, as stated in National Development Plans.
According to the Tunis Agenda for Information Society: “National e-strategies, where appropriate, should be an integral part of national development plans, including Poverty Reduction Strategies, aiming to contribute to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals and objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals” (WSIS, 2005b).
6. Regional (provinces, states in a country) and local development goals. For example, the Project Involving Local Youth Councils in Good Practices in Local Governance - Ecuador started in 2006 and responded to the need for new spaces in which young talented people could interact about new leadership styles based on transparency and social participation. Also, the project addressed specific local management issues and the application of the Law on Access to Public Information (LOTAIP). The use of ICTs in communication and information management was vital in bringing empowerment of these local youth groups about, notably through the set-up of public “information corners” installed at locations of easy access for local youth. The project benefits 15,local youth and municipal civil servants.
Since the concept of Information Society and Knowledge Society are relatively recent, the concepts of National Information Society Policies are new too. In general, they date from the 1990s, with a few countries, such as Iceland, working on Information Society policies as early as the 1980s. However, as stated by UNESCO (2005): “Even before the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, 10–12 December 2003), the international community’s reflections in this area had been followed up by a number of initiatives, such as the World Conference on Higher Education, the World Conference on Science in Budapest, “Science for the Twenty-first Century: A New Commitment” and the World Summit on Sustainable Development”. This interest in the issue also translated, during the preparation of the Geneva Summit (2003), and the Tunisia Summit (2005), into the organization of regional summits, forums, and initiatives on governmental and nongovernmental levels.
International organizations, national governments, the academic sector, the private sector and civil society have overseen the transition to a new technological, economic and social paradigm. Today, the concept of the knowledge society has become an essential framework of reflection for most member countries of the UNESCO.
Discussing an NISP forces governments, as well as the other social agents, to associate access and social appropriation of information and communication technologies to public policies. As mentioned before, Information Society policies are those which consider the overall development of governmental responsibility in the construction and permanent development of an Information Society suited to the country’s context, specifics, needs, and potential. Many countries have built sectoral digital agendas: e-government, elearning, or others. Since these initiatives are not part of overall Information Society policies, they are not considered in this study. Also, considering that the formulation of public policies may be implicit or explicit, and thus inferable from a government’s plans, programs, or governmental agendas, this study considers that a country has a National Digital Agenda, or National Information Society Policy, when this policy is explicit in an official document, or implicit in a higher hierarchy document, such as a National Development Plan.
In order to implement diverse aspects of a public agenda, concerted social actions are necessary. Political will does not emerge exclusively in the state or political environment; it is built by society. Therefore, though social alliances between diverse social actors, a given issue can be positioned in the public agenda. This issue depends on a number of factors, such as the participation of social agents in public policies decision making; their responsibility towards the negotiation rules; their cooperation and will; and naturally, each country’s priorities.
As stated by Alicia Bauelos, Minister of Progress of San Luis province in Argentina, “When there’s is no real political will, it is improbable that society will appropriate Information Society, since society perceives that the political power considers Information Society as alien to the country’s development. An NISP does not finish with its presentation in society: this is just an event. Transforming a society into a Knowledge Society, through the impulse of a Knowledge economy, is a process, not a single action.
And processes need rules and long-term vision”5.
According to Martin Hilbert, Sebastin Bustos and Joo Carlos Ferraz (2005), the process of creating and implementing information society policies is subject to internal and external factors. Internal factors, such as a country’s development level, determine the context or environment in which a given country develops its national strategies. The concept “development level” includes the socio-economic factors traditionally identified (per capita income, educational level of human resources, health, etc.), but also the degree of advancement towards an Information Society. These experts also identify more dynamic Interview with Alicia Bauelos, December 2008, in San Luis, Argentina.
external factors, such as growth tendencies (among them, the macro economic context), stability and political orientation, which pre-determine a government’s priorities. These external factors are determine the degree of importance assigned by the national government to the issue in each of the phases of a national strategy.
The degree of Information Society awareness is another external factor quoted by Hilbert, Bustos and Ferraz. For example, the celebration of the World Summit of Information Society 2003-2005 (WSIS) has contributed to governments’ sensitization on the Information Society paradigm in their own countries.
Example 4. Recommendation WSIS Action Plan Although none of the WSIS commitments urges explicitly national, regional or local governments to design and implement Information/Knowledge Society policies and strategies, the WSIS Action Plan (2003) recommended the initiation at the national level of “a structured dialogue involving all relevant stakeholders, including through public/private partnerships, in devising e-strategies for the Information Society and for the exchange of best practices.” The resulting WSIS Plan of Action emphasized the importance of establishing “a trustworthy, transparent and non-discriminatory legal, regulatory and policy environment”, for which “Governments should foster a supportive, transparent, procompetitive and predictable policy, legal and regulatory framework, which provides the appropriate incentives to investment and community development in the Information Society.
Source: WSIS Action Plan (2003) According to a recent working paper commissioned by InfoDEV (McNamara, 2008), many of the active programs managed by bilateral and international institutions to support policy and regulatory capacity building in developing regions are not well coordinated and it is their impact on policy and regulation, and their sustainability is not well known.
In specific fields such as telecommunications policies cannot be formulated at the national level alone. International institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the reforming International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) “are determining, with varying degrees of formality, the rules for global participation. While the biases and agendas of these various organisations have been identified and the factors contributing to the lack of effectual participation by developing countries acknowledged, the fact remains that, with the globalisation of communications, such global entities will increasingly determine the frameworks for effective participation… For this reason alone, it has become increasingly important to invest resources in influencing these agendas and their outcomes in ways that represent the interests of developing countries and emerging economies.” (Gillwald and Abrahams, 2003; page 4) Example 5. The Arab Status involvement “[A]s Arab States join the World Trade Organization (WTO), they have been adapting their legal and regulatory systems to accommodate trademark, patent, and intellectual property rights (IPR) protection.
Source: Dutta and Coury, Arab Countries launched in January 2009 ITU’s initiative “Connect Arab Countries 2011” that focused on prioritized initiatives establishing ICT indicators and capacity building;
developing a regional regulatory framework; creating a centre for digital documentation and archiving of heritage; developing access nodes to connect Arab internet networks; and translation of ICT terminology into Arabic.
Source: ITU, Individual country status and research performance can be key in taking up a place in the international arena. “Those countries that currently are able to lobby and argue their country’s positions most effectively in international negotiations rely on rigorous data collection, analysis – and competing research from domestic academic institutions and policy institutes -- to inform their positions.” (Gillwald and Abrahams, 2003; page 5;
Gillwald, 2003a) In this regard, it is important to examine the balance between ownership, control, access, and impact of ICT and telecommunication services. For example: “Is having a telephone network owned by a foreign company worse than not having one at all How does a country without much domestic expertise in software ensure that it acquires the network it needs” (Howkins and Valantin, 1997) Moreover, NISPs are meant to impulse and facilitate countries’ development, as well as the well being of their populations. As stated by Soyo, Chacko and Pradhan (2004) “[b]e it for bridging the digital divide or re-positioning the nation in the new digital inter-connected economy, and ensuring that marginalized communities and cultures are not discounted in the move to embrace ICT, nations need to step back and evaluate where they stand. They need to ensure that national ICT policies and e-strategies address the core aspect of development—human development. In the final analysis, ICT policies and e-strategies should be the mean.” Information Society Policies in Developing Countries Is it possible for developing countries to (partially or totally) use policies already implemented by more developed countries Which are the obstacles faced by developing countries How does international context affect the developing world The Declaration of Principles of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in December 2003, expressed that “[w]e are resolute in our quest to ensure that everyone can benefit from the opportunities that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can offer. We agree that to meet these challenges, all stakeholders should work together to: improve access to information and communication infrastructure and technologies as well as to information and knowledge; build capacity; increase confidence and security in the use of ICTs; create an enabling environment at all levels; develop and widen ICT applications; foster and respect cultural diversity; recognize the role of the media; address the ethical dimensions of the Information Society; and encourage international and regional cooperation. We agree that these are the key principles for building an inclusive Information Society.” Upon these principles that are essential to developing the Information Society (IS), a series of questions are raised: