Sunday, October 25, 2009

I've heard this all before...

After reading this week's chapters from Cowhey and Aronson's book, I understand why we had to deal with all the topics covered in their work separately before tying them all together. The various forces, including but not limited to technical, social, and policy networks, domestic politics, the flow of ideas, institutions of global governance, and power flows, that shape the past, current, and future management of global ICTs are exceedingly complex in their interactions. I found chapter 5 in "Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets" to be particularly difficult to fully untangle and to comprehend all the jargon used. However, there were some terms used by the authors that I found reflected similar concepts discussed previously in this course and others.

The idea of an inflection point for ICT infrastructure parallels the definition of a technological discontinuity, where a substantial change in technology innovation and usage results in broader societal adjustments, especially in the areas of economics and governance. Examples of past inflection points or technological discontinuities relating to ICTs are the movable type printing press and the telegraph. The current inflection point for ICT infrastructure is due to the increased modularity of technologies, which allows for different technologies to complement one another because of standardized interfaces, and the spread of powerful broadband networks. Although the authors do a good job of justifying their usage of the US as their focal case study throughout the chapters that we were assigned, I believe that this biases them toward a more optimistic view of the economic and social potentials for ICTs. There is very limited discussion about how the variation in access and usage of ICTs globally will impact governance systems.

However, it was interesting to read the various ways in which US policies and norms toward ICTs have spread throughout the world, and it was apparent from the authors' analyses of the future for US economic leadership that there are some pivotal policy issues, which need to be addressed. These include net neutrality, copyright management, US lag in broadband availability to individual and small and medium businesses and the development of advanced wireless infrastructure.

The various forces shaping ICTs diffusion and policies as discussed in chapter 6 remind me a lot of the those described by Ernie Wilson in his strategic restructuring model. The whole idea that there are multiple forces impacting global and national ICT regulation and diffusion, including institutions, structures, domestic politics, individuals, and ideas, and that it is not inevitable for technologies to just spread on their own is a break from the commonly espoused ideas of technological determinism.

Overall, I thought that Cowhey and Aronson were thorough in providing an overview of the various aspects affecting global ICT governance. They also did a good job of differentiating between what they think will happen, what they hope will happen, and how interactions among all the various ICT actors and forces will determine whether an efficient, fair, and least globally detrimental ICT governance system will result.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Marie. Clearly we're in agreement on the density of this week's reading. Bouncing off your comment about the various forces that shape ICT diffusion, I thought Cowhey and Aronson's observation on the rise of private sector interests was intriguing. In the first chapter, they mention that governments have always played an important role in shaping ICT infrastructure, but that the private sector is increasingly involved in the ownership and operation of ICT infrastructure. Here's yet one more writing suggesting that ICT diffusion is slowly eroding state power(in this instance, in ICT infrastructure governance), and yet, nation-states are still the only bodies that generally pass laws globally. I wonder if that will change, should state sovereignty continue to decline and the power of multinational corporations and international organizations to rise.