Beyond Broadband Access: Developing Data-Based Information Policy Strategies

Beyond Broadband Access: Developing Data-Based Information Policy Strategies

Beyond Broadband Access: Developing Data-Based Information Policy Strategies

Beyond Broadband Access: Developing Data-Based Information Policy Strategies

Excerpt

In recent years the information policy discourse has been inundated by numbers and metrics, which purportedly describe the “information society” and reflect national levels of such measures as e-readiness and the digital divide. In policy circles, just the ranking among some of these lists has been seen as an impetus for policy development. For example, President Barack Obama, shortly after being elected, stated that “it is unacceptable that the United States ranks fifteenth in the world in broadband adoption.” Most approaches involving quantitative “indicators” produce results, which are primarily descriptive and comparative (e.g., which nation has more Internet access, are operators providing services at the level they promise). Too often such studies have been “looking for the penny under the street light”— choosing indicators because data are available—while looking backward to a time when information and communication technologies (ICTs) had limited capabilities. Previously, the mere calculation of penetration levels may have provided sufficient information to direct policies that were solely focused on increasing availability. But in today’s multimodal multimedia ICT environment, what is their value? Looking ahead, are they the numbers that matter? Have past models been loaded for or against certain outcomes? Can the underlying methods be transformed into truly useful policy tools? If so, with what data? For the future, can we find the numbers that matter?

What is missing are analyses that are not only descriptive and comparative but also explanatory and predictive, making it possible to understand why things have happened and why they are happening, and to make predictions about what will happen. While not always admitting it, current approaches . . .

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