What are policy makers doing to make the Networked Society a reality?
Cullen International recently performed a review of 15 countries’ approach to ICT-enabled policy reforms as codified in tools such as national broadband plans, digital agendas or the equivalent. The results of this survey of plans and their management revealed a wide range of interesting results and important learnings that I’d like to highlight.
For example, local context, both in terms of the current stage of ICT development and the political aims of the plans, seems highly important to the countries’ chosen approaches. Countries at different stages of ICT development tend to have different priorities and set a different scope for their plans and agendas. In particular, we see that countries in the earlier stages of ICT development have a greater focus on supply side initiatives, building network infrastructures and encouraging widespread internet usage. Countries in later stages of ICT development focus more on demand side measures and embedding ICT into the national society and economy.
All of the plans seem to include different target levels (infrastructure, adoption and integration). For countries in the early stages of ICT development, many of the demand side activities are more about adoption than integration. For countries in the later stages of ICT development, the smaller number of supply side initiatives are usually closely linked to deeper integration activities.
Management of the plans also varies considerably, and there seems to be no single right approach – central government control and funding is often used but is seldom the only approach taken. Very often, effective government actions focus more on the stimulation of private funding and commercial activities. However, governments always play an important role in monitoring progress, the central coordination of initiatives and in ensuring the plan’s goals are achieved.
Some other important points include:
- Even advanced ICT countries are working to ensure that potential obstacles to full integration, such as privacy concerns, are managed and that all sectors can take full advantage of the future benefits.
- Setting specific and measurable targets is a well-recognized approach to ensure that a plan’s goals can be monitored and achieved. However, softer, qualitative targets are also important particularly as ICT integration becomes more fully developed.
- Supply-side targets lend themselves more readily to being expressed in specific, measurable terms. Many effective demand-side targets express a direction of change but with less tangible, harder to measure KPI targets, which are important signals of progress toward a fully integrated ICT society. Demand-side targets can therefore be seen in both a measurable form and a more qualitative form, but these two different types of demand-side targets should be treated separately.
- Most surveyed countries put an emphasis on monitoring, that is, measuring, reporting and managing the progress of the execution of the plan. This is a reflection of increased desires by policy makers to deliver on the plan and in particular the associated ICT benefits in targeted sectors (demand side).
If you want to know more about the study please click here to access a summary report.
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