National information infrastructure

iii. cross-country comparisons: conclusions, issues and implications for others

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iii. cross-country comparisons: conclusions, issues and implications for others

The foregoing case studies of NII in five countries exhibit important similarities and differences which can be seen by cross-country comparison on key dimensions. Those common to each of the case studies are:



Strategy and policy design

Institutions and coordination

Implementation plans

NII services

Realities and prospects

A summary sketch of each country on each of these comparison dimensions can be found on the following page.


The fundamental motivation for the NII in the countries studied is economic, and might be presented in each country’s official reports, public discussion and rhetoric as economic opportunity for domestic industry, the threat of economic imperialism from large foreign firms, or both. Regardless of which view characterizes a particular country, all countries view the NII as a practical inevitability which must be addressed for national advantage.

Economic opportunity

The NII is generally presented as a technological and social vision of the information society of the twenty-first century with economic considerations in the background. However, economic motivations dominate NII movements in the five countries and in all others as well (c.f. case studies of Germany, Canada, Brazil, India and Great Britain), which explains why so many countries are mobilizing around the NII. The key economic agenda is domestic jobs and global competitiveness. It is commonly felt that new information technologies will create vast new markets at home and abroad that can be captured by existing and new firms if the country is among the first movers in the information revolution. Competitive advantage is created for the first movers because they are able to set technology standards, get to market faster with the latest systems and applications, and exploit the biggest, richest markets around the world.

To emphasize the economic opportunity, various countries have produced estimates of the revenues and jobs that will be created. Japan’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications forecasted 56 trillion yen ($560 billion) in revenues from new applications and 2.4 million new jobs by the year 2010, while Korea’s National Computerization Agency replicates Japan with a forecast of 100 trillion won ($125 billion) in revenues and 560,000 in jobs by the year 2015. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors estimated a $100 billion boost and 500,000 new jobs to the economy by 1996 as a result of speeding up the deployment of the NII through telecommunications reform proposed by the Clinton Administration in 1994, while the Computer Systems Policy Project estimated the NII would create $300 billion annually in new sales across a range of

Summary of Cross-Country Comparison

CountriesFranceJapanKoreaSingaporeUnited States


New economic growth and jobs; reaction to perceived U.S. threat; fit telecoms reform agenda set by European Union.

New economic growth and jobs; reaction to perceived U.S. threat; catch-up with U.S. lead in PCs, software and networking.

Desire for early participation in information revolution; reaction to perceived U.S. and Japanese threat; competition for Asian leadership.

New economic growth and jobs; compete in region; attract MNCs; reinforce role as business hub.
New economic growth and jobs; compete globally; maintain lead in computers, communications and media.


Preserve French culture.

Multimedia information society.

Establish status among economic powers; provide transparency in government.

Intelligent island; achieve balance between openness and communitarian ideology.
Information superhighway; empowerment of citizens.

Strategy and policy

Be a player in the industry through free market competition; be first mover among members of European Union.

Catch-up with the U.S. through stimulus spending, domestic trials, and participation in foreign trials.

Government to be leading NII user and to stimulate public demand; expand private sector role in NII and stimulate private investment.

Adopt features of free markets but keep government as driver; be a fast follower of advanced nations but a first mover in the region.

Maintain lead through free market competition to stimulate investment and innovation; “order without design” through markets versus hierarchies.


and Timing

Fibre optic backbone to block with copper wire to household by 2015.

Fibre optic broadband network to the home by 2005.

Fibre optic broadband network to the home by 2015.

Fibre optic broadband to the office and residential block; two-wires to each household by 2005.
Fibre optic broadband network to the home by 2015; last mile being reconsidered for copper wire (phone and CATV) and wireless.

Summary of Cross-Country Comparison (continued)

CountriesFranceJapanKoreaSingaporeUnited States

Institutions and Coordination

Ministry of Industry, Posts & Telecoms is coordinator at country level; Directorates in European Commission influence country decisions.

MPT, MITI, MOF in government and NTT plus NCCs in industry. MPT and MITI in competition;

no overall coordinator except perhaps MOF.

Ministry of Information and Communication is government coordinator.

NITC, STA, STel, Ministry of Information and Arts, SBC, SIM, SCV, CCV, new ISPs, NCB.

Coordination by government, especially NITC.
Congress, FCC, NIST, State PUCs. Coordination by the market. Government is the court of appeal.

Implementa-tion plans
(Telecommun-ications and media ownership, computing networks)

Liberalize telecoms; corporatize & privatize France Telecoms; allow new telecoms entrants; no grande projets.

Liberalize telecoms somewhat; NTT privatized and new common carriers created;

Promote market competition; Korea Telecoms (KT) monopoly changed to KT and Dacom duopoly. KT to be privatized, but only small fraction sold off in 1993 and 1994.

Promote competition in phone, cable, broadcast and computing networks; privatize STel; corporatize SBC as SIM; create SCV, CCV for cable; license new ISPs; deploy NCB on

networks; use govt-linked enterprises for control.

Broadly liberalize telecoms. Long distance, local phone and CATV may enter each others markets; cross-media ownership permitted up to 35% of market.

Realities and prospects

France Telecoms unlikely to privatize; liberalization legislation is pending for 1996; if passed, government will be stepping out of major role; NII prospects will then depend largely on private sector in short term.

NII prospects depend upon resolution of gridlock over future of NTT; stimulus spending by government creating spurt in adoption of computers and internet.
Government is the driver; NII prospects depend upon slow moving liberalization and future funding for KII; role of private sector unclear but could be substantial.

Government is the driver; private sector will follow government lead; Singapore moving fast on implementation of plans; likely to be first to realize NII. Balance between communitarian & liberal values remains issue.


legislation passed Feb1996.

Funds cut for government trials; NII prospects depend largely on private sector in short term.

industries. According to the Breton report, the French market for teleservices would be worth 90 to 190 billion French francs ($18 to $38 billion) in 2005. The report also projected that on-line information services could grow up to 16% a year in France over the next decade, while related employment would grow from 65,000 persons currently to at least 170,000.

In most cases, these foregoing numbers appear to be wild guesses and are included in official reports as though they were facts without any explanation of how they are determined. They are used as devices for mobilizing political and social support by showing the size of both the domestic opportunity and the foreign threat. Interestingly, there has been no debate about the numbers in any of the countries that have produced them, illustrating the irony that “bad numbers can make good politics.”

Threat of economic imperialism

While all view the NII as bringing opportunities for domestic firms, some view NII movements in other countries as a threat to their domestic industries. The threat ranges from concerns about economic imperialism to destruction of domestic culture. The threat of economic imperialism involves concern that ranges from fear that foreign firms will steal one of their markets, to fear they will steal the entire domestic market, to fear that the country as a whole will miss out on the information revolution which they view as important as the industrial revolution to the country’s future. The latter concern centers around the notion that countries that did not take part in the industrial revolution until the first half of the twentieth century have been permanently disadvantaged or have only begun to catch up as more advanced countries are already moving on to the next major economic revolution.

One of the problems with the continual use of external threats as a device for mobilizing public and political support is that it is exhausting to civil society, potentially undermining of public confidence in government institutions, and unnecessarily self-limiting. The Japan case illustrates the classic use of external threat as a mobilizing device for the NII, and further indicates that this is a historical tradition in Japan going back at least to the Meji era and the threat posed by Commodore Perry’s black ships. This strategy is self-limiting because it is an effort to sustain an on-going crisis and emergency situation by focus on threats from real or imagined competitors (as was done by the United States and the Soviet Union during the 45 year cold war) rather than focus on the opportunities available with the new technologies and applications.

Whether viewed as opportunity or threat, the country cases clearly illustrate that major institutional players in all countries are convinced that NII is going to happen. In fact, many view the NII as a “train leaving the station” and urge that the country get on board before it is too late.

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