The information society must be reshaped if it targets to deliver greater developmental impact. ICT is shaped by social and political forces, it can not automatically provide significant benefits for the central developmental goals of poor countries. At the same time, ICTs rarely have any major impact on developmental goals of poor countries. The effective impact requires leadership from developing countries and their partners. Here lies the relevance of e-Policy.
Policy is the path or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, organisation or an authentic individual. But, in any nation, using the wrong tools by relying only on market forces may limit the benefits of ICT to some consumers, who can afford to purchase them rather than expanding to include all citizens who have the right to communication and information. Like any other policy, in case of e-Policy, focus needs to be specified for three major aspects: Policy for where? Policy for what? Policy for whom? e-Policy and e-Strategy can’t be without three ‘P’s: Purpose, People and Prospect.
Over the last few decades, there have been numerous shifts in vision and policy styles in the ICT sector. During the 80s, especially from 1984 to 1989, the emphasis was on expansion of basic telecom services. In the very next decade, this shifted to sector reform through privatisation and deregulation and liberalisation of international markets. In 1996, the Information Society and Development Conference, hosted by South Africa, presented major challenge to the mainstream sector reform vision while argument was made for the inclusion of developing countries in the policy agenda. From 1997 to 2003, attention was shifted to the growing digital divide between rich nations and the developing world. Since then, policy emphasis is mainly focusing on attempting to align ICTs to broader development objectives and on assessing the impact of ICTs on the Millennium Development Goals.
It must be stated that despite the involvement of several important stakeholders, including the UN and some of UN agencies, academics, civil society advocates and activists, the results have not yet been very encouraging. It was clear at the conclusion of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, that the development issues and particularly questions of finance had not received enough attention. There must be specific roles for national governments, private sectors, financial institutions and civil society to play to make ICT effective in development. The follow-up programme for the WSIS has provided a significant chance for the international community to make progress on this challenging problem of aligning ICTs with development and putting high technologies at the service of humanity.
In this issue, we have made an attempt to present the views of some experts in the field of e-Policy and e-Strategies from various corners of the globe. Let’s see what the experts are thinking regarding these important issues and challenges.