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Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Politics of ICT

"IT should be apolitical."

So says Peter Quinn, CIO of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In the midst of the furor over open document format, Quinn recently decried the politicization of IT policy, and its potential "chilling effect" on public officials.

Here is the U.S. we assume that ICT is not grist for the political mill. But that is not the case in many, or most, countries. In Europe, ICT policies are highly political, and explicitly so. Political parties take positions on ICT issues. In places like China and Brazil, the main drivers of open source are political considerations.

Is this a bad thing? Often not, especially when ICT policymaking is open for debate. Many technology decisions should be brought to public attention, and not the product of semi-private discussions with vendors.

It can be a painful process, as Peter Quinn can attest. But democracy and other collaborative endeavors are like that. Policymakers and the public should know the stakes involved. They are sometimes big, less about ICT and more about serious issues of public interest.

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