With the acceptance of mobile phones as the “universal artifact of the ICT revolution”, there are four main competitive factors to be considered, namely, labor, national governments, multinational corporations and financial investors. On the one hand, technology has been able to infiltrate into our living rooms to the extent that it has had a profound effect on our culture. On the other hand, “the existence of technology change presupposes cultural acceptance, and that a particular culture may fail when taken to a different business setting. Since this infiltration is not everywhere is seen as benign, the case for regulatory controls becomes all the stronger. For instance, “the most dominant characteristic of computers is their culturally mediating and transforming effect, but they were viewed as a destructive form of Western colonization. Members of other cultures are aware that when they use computers they must adapt themselves to radically different patterns of thought and deep culturally-bound ways of knowing.” (Sagi et. al., 2008).
The Internet is a key factor in the changing ICT industry. This has brought with it several key questions regarding copyrights, privacy and intellectual property. As of now, there are more questions than answers. But given the broad scope and the market penetration afforded by the Internet, free competition alone is not going to protect gullible consumers of ICT products and services. Given the cultural differences in different geographical markets, the endeavour to bring disparate business interests in the internet under one regulatory umbrella is a challenging proposition. The domination of the United States and its culture within the Internet can also be a source of friction, given the fact that nearly a third of humanity is Islamic and another third non-Christian as well. For instance, “the culture and not just the language of the Internet is also strikingly American. Its quirky blend of technocratic individualism, egalitarianism and passionate resistance to government control all seem to many foreigners quintessentially American” (Brocklehurst, 2001). The United States government’s proposal for a Framework for Global Electronic Commerce is stacked against several legal, cultural and political issues; and it is fair to say that it will take a few more years at least before this initiative gets implemented.
The inevitability of regulations is further emphasized by some recent international developments pertaining to the functioning of e-commerce. Some salient examples of the issues raised by the Internet in the context of the ICT industry, and some legislation toward that end are as follows:
“The right of a website to sell information and of a user to freely copy data from the web are prominent issues in e-commerce and the topic of national legislation. Recent intellectual property rights (IPR) law applying to e-commerce includes the international Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement, ratified in 1994 by over one hundred nations. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 restricts the circumvention of encryption software and absolves the Internet Service Provider (ISP) of liability for certain copyright infringement violations by its users. Disputes are resolved by the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Centre (WIPO)” (Brocklehurst, 2001).
Hence, it is becoming increasingly clear that a free-market system alone will not ensure a fair and just market place both for the corporations and their consumers. With the ICT industry increasingly being developed as e-commerce enterprises, the associated areas such as financial payment systems, credit financing, consumer rights advocacy, taxation, censorship and regulation of Internet content and advertisement claims, logistics, its impact on small and localized business models, etc are bound to undergo profound changes as a result. Add to this situation, the trend among the youth worldwide of spending greater number of hours online as well as the advancement of countries in the third world makes a regulatory governing body an imperative. The impact of the third world on the globalized ICT industry is of particular relevance for the United Kingdom (Appelbaum, 1995).