By APCNews JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 18 December 2003
APCNews asked the editor of APC’s new book "ICT Policy: A Beginner’s Handbook" Chris Nicol to comment briefly on motivation behind the handbook which was published in December.
APCNews: ICT and policy. Both of them can be extremely technical fields. Who is this book aimed at?
Chris: The person who feels that information and communication technologies (ICT) policy is important but doesn’t know much about it. It could be a concerned NGO worker or member, a government official worried about a gap in his/her knowledge, a journalist looking for background material, an activist who sees the links with so many other topics, or anyone who wants to find out about these new debates
that are beginning to make more and more news.
APCNews: Why would ordinary non-profit organisations want to get involved in lobbying for better ICT policy? For example, why would a women’s organisation prioritise ICTs over another issue such as AIDS?
Chris: ICTs affect us all in so many aspects of our daily lives. They have become central to modern societies and are determining the way society evolves. Anyone working for social justice needs to ensure that digital societies are not exclusive and that information, communication and networking are not in the hands of the few, because that means more
power for the powerful. There are many threats to the freedoms that the new technologies offer us, and if we don’t act now to safeguard these freedoms it will be too late. Once lost, it’s hard to get them back.
APCNews: Isn’t this book really most useful for citizens living in countries where the ICT policy has not yet really been established? What about countries where there’s already too much regulation of ICTs – how will they be able to use this book?
Chris: The book addresses problems and situation in both rich and poor countries. ICT policy is still being established all over the world. No country has decided completely how ICTs will be regulated. In many countries ICT policy is in its infancy, and here there is a lot to decide. Even in those where ICTs are well established, there are areas, such as intellectual property, which are new and yet to be agreed upon. And the freedoms promised by these new technologies are under threat everywhere.
This book is a resource for those who want to explore more. It is a practical introduction with lots of concrete examples which illustrate current issues, so the reader can explore more by him/herself and get up to date on real issues. It’s not a map but it is a compass.