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
Date Written: November 2004
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: Suggested Citation