(UNESCO / Japan Young Researchers' fellowships programme)

The Political Economy of Converging Technologies and the Role of Policies Towards the Construction of Knowledge Societies and Next Generation Networking

Summary of research carried out: 
The Political Economy of Converging Technologies and the Role of Policies Towards the Construction of Knowledge Societies and Next Generation Networking

Techno-economic change flanked with globalization has brought a wide range of opportunities in the new information society. The Millennium Development Goals underscore ICT as a tool and an enabler to facilitate development and bring inevitable transition from industrial to information - and knowledgebased economies and societies.

The increasing growth of digital technology has been classified as one of the major drivers for policy development. Since 1990 nation-states across the globe have been evolving with the complex development of digital technology and electronics. However, the developmental significance of the information society vision is confronted by the ambiguity and uncertainty in which the industry evolves, with convergence emerging as a global phenomenon.

Convergence has more than changed traditional means of services and consumer behaviours. Traditional services can now be offered across interchangeable platforms, and policy makers seek to promote investment to increase the capacity of technological infrastructure to carry similar information services at lower cost.

The diversity and complexity of the technology sector in general bring with them the challenge of formulating a policy framework that can meet the demands of this inevitable trend and uncertainty in the market. Convergence is far more than just breaking barriers between sectors; its roll-out depends on policy frameworks as a whole to fully maximize its value, especially in emerging economies.

Furthermore, digitalization has increased the range of services transported digitally, thus becoming an important driver for convergence. Once broadcasting began to be seen as part of the information society, it became a significant element in a converging technology sector.

While broadcasting and telecommunication were seen as intertwining sectors that could serve as a basis for convergence policy, both sectors have been regulated in traditional mode for a long time and new international frameworks have taken some years to be formulated.

Telecommunication policies have served as a model for ICT convergence in many territories, and some of the old regulatory frameworks for the telecommunications sector are expected to shape progress towards convergence given the interchangeable nature of digital infrastructure.

Yet broadcasting has historically proved to be a sensitive and highly political issue, traditionally regarded as a state prerogative, and this is one of the key factors making policy formulation complex. Whereas a neo-liberal model can be applied as a new economic approach to deregulate certain state functions with a view to opening up the market to encourage international investments, it comes with grey areas that cannot be ignored in a changing environment, making potential elimination of cherry-picking in lucrative markets a challenge.

Policies should therefore be tailored towards increasing quality of services, efficiency and overall value addition beyond revenue as a primary goal. This is necessary in emerging markets where the digital divide remains significant and where substantial infrastructure investment continues to grow. As long as broadcasting markets remain distinct from the rest of the communication sector, the situation seems unlikely to change. Digitalization, with the transition from analogue to digital TV, is expected to bring broadcasting fully into a converged environment, giving birth to a new digital era calling for continuous policy evolution.


11 May 2011