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Challenges and opportunities for freedom of expression in the networked environment

What are 'drivers of change'?

info: Submitted by anna on Fri, 2006-10-13 12:12.

Technological change does not happen in a political, economic or social vacuum. The communications technologies available to people today, and their distribution, are the result of political and economic dynamics that have affected the nature, pace and spread of technological innovation.

To help understand these dynamics, this Project uses the concept of ‘drivers of change’: the range of actors, institutions and structures that interact with each other in complex ways to produce change. These interactions are governed partly by the power relationships between actors and stakeholders and partly by an underlying ‘structural scaffolding’ of economic forces, social norms and cultural values.

This Project groups the drivers of change into three main categories: Technical changes; political and regulatory changes; economic and market changes.

Technical changes.

Advances in technology and innovation are changing the platforms that people use to communicate with each other. These include:

  • Converging electronic communication
  • Mobile phones emerging as key communications platforms
  • Changes in broadcasting such as the growth of satellite and community media
  • Growing internet access
  • Growing use of voice over internet protocols (VOIP)
  • Increasing importance of search engines and portal sites such as Google and Yahoo.

Political and regulatory changes.

Governmental and private organisations mediate between the interests of different stakeholders in the networked communications environment, and economic and social structures affect their actions. Dynamics include:

  • Debate between governments, businesses and civil society about how to govern and regulate the networked communications environment
  • Shifts in the relationships between increasingly powerful media companies and political elites
  • Struggles between stakeholders over the use and evolution of the internet for different purposes such as business, economic development, democracy and human rights.

Economic and market changes.

Economic structures underlie the networked communications environment and different groups of stakeholders act within them, including service providers and users of communications technology. Trends include:

  • Increasing concentration of media ownership amongst powerful multimedia conglomerates
  • New business models emerging, based on citizen sharing and collective endeavour
  • Expansion in the use of intellectual property rights to protect corporate interests
  • Reconfigurations in media markets as electronic communications become more dominant.

For further discussion, see the Project Paper Shaping the Networked World: Drivers of change in the Networked Communications Environment