Page 4 of 10Key ICT Policies, Thrusts, and Programs in Asia3
The observation one draws from looking at the thrust of ICT policies and programs in developed versus developing ICT markets is primarily that developed markets, along with China, appear to be grappling with issues related to expanding the size of the local ICT markets. There seems to be a particular emphasis on promoting inclusive ICT growth, with the aim of increased ICT use across all income strata and demographics. Meanwhile, in developing markets like Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Vietnam the thrust appears to be on the build up of infrastructure and competencies in ICT sectors where they feel they can be competitive in the global marketplace.
For example, Hong Kong has the Digital 21 strategy promoting wireless hotspots in government premises and free wireless broadband at public housing estates, the Hong Kong Qualifications Framework for increasing the sustainability of the ICT sector, the Sector Specific Programs policy, and the Digital Solidarity Fund. In Singapore, IDA has launched a fairly comprehensive set of initiatives aimed at improving the ICT readiness and competitiveness of small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs), as well as programs to increase ICT penetration and awareness across all sectors, including programs like the Assistance on Commonly Used Software, SME Infocomm Resource Centre, Technology Innovation Program, and Local Enterprise Technical Assistance Scheme; the NEU PC Program, Silver Infocomm Junctions, and Infocomm Accessibility Centre; the National Grid Pilot Platform; the Infocomm Security Masterplan; and the Intelligent Nation 2015 Masterplan or iN2015. In Afghanistan, the key policy thrust over the past few years has been on building up infrastructure, as well as trying to attract business process outsourcing start-ups to locate in Afghanistan where the cost of personnel and infrastructure is relatively low compared to other jurisdictions.
In Singapore and Japan, there appears to be importance given to regulating dominant players. Japan has announced the commencement in 2010 of discussion about the regulation of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) as the dominant telecommunications player. IDA Singapore is implementing the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecommunications Services 2005, particularly in regulating the position of Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) in the Singapore market. These suggest an implicit agreement by the regulators in these countries of the need to seriously consider the role of dominant players in building a telecommunications and technology sector that is competitive in an environment characterized by technology-driven paradigm shifts in business models. Increasing the competitiveness of the ICT market requires a willingness to experiment and take risks that a dominant entity with stable cash flows from its own internally determined investments and infrastructure might not be willing to make. In short, some dominant entities might have financial interests that are not aligned with acting in the best interests of increasing the competitiveness of the ICT market. Hence, there is the need to regulate such entities.
Many developing countries are not yet focusing on these kinds of issues, as they concentrate on building ICT infrastructure to ensure a suitable foundation presumably for subsequent development of their ICT markets to developed country standards. That said, it is refreshing to see Articles 21-24 of the Afghanistan's Telecommunications Services Regulation Act dealing head on with the issue of competition. Crafted in the broad language of primary legislation, the articles nonetheless deal with the issues of anti-competitive conduct and abuse of a dominant position at a high level. They may require subsidiary guidelines to provide the Afghan ICT market with guidance on how the relevant authority (the ATRA) intends to interpret and apply these articles.