Christopher T. Marsden
Regulating the Global Information Society (GIS) involves analysing three separate but interconnected concepts, each of which has become so much a part of a contested socio-political dynamic that each individually has become something of a cliché. The three are: regulation as a means of control; globalisation as a phenomenon; the information society as a reality. This collection aims to examine the means by which the GIS can be regulated.
My primary task in this introduction is therefore to demonstrate that there is an object of regulation, as a problem set in a defined location, and as an objective of the regulatory actors. I therefore proceed by explaining the dynamic development of information and communication technologies (ICTs), which have the potential to lower information, and hence transaction, costs. The key to the transformative effect of these productivity gains is that the model of ICT deployment is through networks, which increase the productivity effect with each new addition to the network, thus creating an exponential 'bandwagoning' growth in the adoption of ICTs. This is seen most clearly in the development of social and economic transactions on the Internet, where in September 1999 over 200 million individuals were able to send and receive email, and to explore the information network for leisure, education, shopping or research. The potential productivity increases thus realised have economic and social ramifications, in that each extends the distant communication and execution of transactions. The socio-economic impact has been more rapid than any previous technological advance in its permeation of markets and societies.
This collection is a contribution to the debate into the role of governments in the 'Information Society', 'Information Superhighway', or digital networked economy. 1 As Luc Soete defined it:
The information society is the society currently being put into place, where low-cost information and data storage and transmission technologies are in general use. This generalisation of information and data use is being accompanied by organisational, commercial, social and legal innovations that will profoundly change life both in the world of work and in society generally. 2