Key Issues
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"Key Internet Policy Issues" is a series of contributions from people living in countries new or relatively new to the Internet about what they consider to be key policy issues related to the deployment and use of the Internet in their country. Each text is published under the complete responsibility and with the permission of its author. These contributions were solicited by Alan McCluskey, guest editor, in preparation for a special issue of the Internet Society's magazine "OnTheInternet" entitled "Strategies for development: from thought to action" to be published in November 1997.

Addressing key policy issues

In preparing the special edition of OnTheInternet, sharing perceptions was my main aim. I wanted to concentrate on the perceptions of those people living and working in countries emerging or on the verge of emerging into the world of the Internet. What did they consider to be one of the key policy issues about the deployment and use of Internet in their country? In what context did such an issue arise? How could the resolution of this problem make life better to live? What was being done to solve it?

The expression "key policy issues" was interpreted by some to mean government policy and as such was out of the hands of the individual, whereas my understanding of the expression and that of many others implied empowerment: "A key policy issues is a major problem that has to be solved in the country if the development and use of the Internet is to be harmonious and to the good of everyone. Dealing with such an issue generally requires a concerted effort involving not only public authorities but also commercial actors and user organisations as well as interested individuals."

Most of the people I was in contact with were participants of the Internet Society's Development Workshop. They had an interest in the development of the Internet although they didn't always appear to have seen the Internet in terms of key policy issues. Many rose to the challenge, although one person honestly said he couldn't help as he felt he was insufficiently informed on nation-wide policy issues. Providing the necessary background information is clearly an essential ingredient in long term strategies aimed at involving local actors in policy making.

On the basis of this call sent out to people in over sixty countries, an outline was received from about twenty-five people. Time was short. We had less than a month to get the special edition together - and that month was right in the middle of many people's vacation. As an outsider, I asked each person questions based on their outline to try to understand the essential. Why advocate "massive" use of the Internet? What does the general public know about the Internet? Who is pushing the government to dismantle the telecommunications monopoly? What is being done to inform political leaders about the Internet? Are high prices the only barrier to Internet use?

Following on from these questions and discussions with various people in their country, a short text was written for publication. For all its short-comings, this process in which those who agreed to participate found ways of formulating their point of view often in exchange with people from their country and put their ideas in writing, was a possible model for how exchange and writing on a local or national level could become a key factor in policy-making.

Alan McCluskey, Saint-Blaise.

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ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey,
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Created: September 1st, 1997 - Last up-dated: September 1st, 1997