Governing the Networks of the Information Society: Prospects and Limits of Policy in a Complex Technical System

Institute of Technology Assessment Working Paper No. ITA-04-03

30 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2004

See all articles by Johannes M. Bauer

Johannes M. Bauer

Michigan State University-Department of Media and Information

Date Written: November 2004

Abstract

This paper examines the prospects and limits of policies towards information and communications technologies (ICTs). The co-evolution of technological, economic, and political factors that has affected the information network infrastructure during the past three decades has transformed it from a relatively closed to more open system. As a consequence, the degree of complexity of the ICT infrastructure has increased with far-reaching implications for its governance. Paradoxically, policy was better able to control important performance characteristics, such as prices or investment levels, during the past monopoly era. However, the ability to control came at the high price of the inefficiencies associated with monopoly organization. In the present more competitive framework, many feasible policy instruments only work indirectly. Sector performance is an emergent property resulting from decentralized decisions in markets. It is influenced but not fully determined by policy choices. These changes need to be recognized more explicitly in the theoretical foundations, the formation and the implementation of policy. Applying concepts from the theory of complex evolving systems, the paper develops lessons for the design of effective information and communications policy.

Keywords: Information and communication technologies, ICT, governance, complexity, incomplete information, institutions, feasible policies

Suggested Citation

Bauer, Johannes M., Governing the Networks of the Information Society: Prospects and Limits of Policy in a Complex Technical System (November 2004). Institute of Technology Assessment Working Paper No. ITA-04-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=626081 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.626081

Johannes M. Bauer (Contact Author)

Michigan State University-Department of Media and Information ( email )

409 Communication Arts Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States
517-355-8372 (Phone)
517-355-1292 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.msu.edu/~bauerj

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