It was Vinton Cerf's comment in this article about the decision makers of ICT sector that prompted me to write this post. While writing on the importance of the Internet, Cerf put great emphasis on the closed- door meeting of the International Telecommunication Union that gathered in Dubai earlier this month and which according to Google's Chief Internet Evangelist is an ideal venue for repressive regimes, place more aggressive limitations on the open Internet. He believes these gatherings only limit the use of the Internet further:
"[...] this inter- governmental agency is the wrong place to make decisions about the future of the Internet. Only governments have vote at the ITU. This includes governments that do not support a free and open Internet. Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the web have no vote".
Back to the case of Azerbaijan, and focusing especially on the last part of what Vinton Cerf said about the ITU and decision making, I wonder of the IT developments Azerbaijani government claims to have achieved. According to Ali M. Abbasov, Minister of Communications and Information Technologies the main purpose of public policy in the field of ICT is:
"to provide transition to the information society, create and develop an information and knowledge- based, competitive economy and arrange participation of citizens and social institutions in the management process [...]"
I wonder how much of this policy and IT related developments involve the engineers, companies, and the people that build and use the web and information technologies in decision- making and development process? According to Mr. Abbasov, "naturally great public support, properly defined long- term strategy, and well grounded public policy play an important role in the achievement of these developments" but whether there is an actual call for public support on behalf of the government I doubt.
Azerbaijani government no doubt, sent a large delegation to the ITU event in Dubai, but if we look at the agendas of some of the authoritarian states attending the event ranging from banning anonymity from the web to making it easier to find and arrest the dissidents and etc. the real intentions of Azerbaijani government slightly blur. After all, it is a country where Internet is largely free, and the government is notorious for its crack down on political dissidents even online (given Internet is considered as part of mass media, recently the authorities been thinking of passing a law that would impose restrictions on websites with "obscene" and "anti-national" content). But I wont get into details of Azerbaijan's ICT sector. For more information on this you can read Open Net Initiative's country report.
I will just like to get back to the original point/question- how involved are the people outside of the government in decision making of information and technologies that affect everybody?