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In a world where information and communication technologies (ICT) are fast becoming ubiquitous and indispensable, the ICT industry has a crucial enabling role in social, economic and human development. Deploying ICT triggers changes in behaviour and governance. This has two effects: it magnifies collective problems, and it also creates the infrastructure for effective collective action to address the problems. The inability of national governments to regulate much of the Global Information Society increases the importance of cooperation in finding solutions. More legitimate and inclusive corporate involvement is desired than simply classic ICT industry self-regulation through, for instance, standard setting. This novel approach to corporate involvement is described as ‘multi-stakeholder governance’. It means that roles and responsibilities in the global and highly dynamic environment enabled by ICT can be allocated on a temporary and contingent basis, according to inclusive and non-hierarchical relationships. This is not new. Roles have often shifted among governments, corporations and civil society. But a novel and fascinating attempt to achieve real global dialogue around responsibilities in the Global Information Society is developing, and may become a significant new governance paradigm. The report, which was prepared for British Telecommunication’s annual Hot Topic Series, assesses the ICT sector’s responsibilities, and identifies the kind of actions that can be taken through a ‘multi-stakeholder governance’ approach, to respond adequately to the challenges.

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The research described in this report was prepared for British Telecommunications plc and was conducted by RAND Europe.

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