Mansell’s research has impacted on information society policies by influencing policy makers to acknowledge the complexity of change in the digital world and the legitimate claims of all stakeholders, including citizens. In the mid-1990s, the narrative emphasised rapid change in digital technologies and the rate of diffusion in the market. It neglected citizen interests in trusted services, privacy and affordable access. Drawing on Mansell’s research, in 2005, UNESCO signalled a major shift towards information, or knowledge, society policy with a focus on people, fairness and equity in the digital world. Mansell’s research had demonstrated that when citizen interests are neglected, the chances of achieving inclusive policy goals are much reduced. Her persistent advocacy of citizen-centred policy in United Nations agency forums has influenced subsequent policy; as a result, policies implemented by government and third sector organisations more often reflect privacy, safety, online freedoms and equitable access to networks. For example, Mansell’s work for UNESCO was reflected its 2008-13 Medium-Term Strategy [A]. She authored UNESCO’s World Report, Renewing the Knowledge Societies Vision in 2013 [B]. Many of her recommendations were repeated in UNESCO’s recommendations for the United Nations review of the Millennium Goals [C]. The report is approved for publication by UNESCO and world distribution in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian in 2014, in time to influence the final deliberations on the Millennium Goals that bear on how policies concerned with digital technologies can contribute to inclusive development.
The impact of Mansell’s research on policies aimed at increasing investment in broadband networks has extended to regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean. Policies in this region increasingly are incorporating the idea of ‘open development’. This gives much greater attention to demand, diverse user needs, open (in contrast to proprietary) digital services, and equitable access. Based on her research on regional strategies aimed at developing network infrastructures in the US and Europe, she was invited to present her recommendations on behalf of regional civil society organisations, and the Canadian International Development Research Centre, at the Fourth Ministerial Meeting on the Information Society for Latin American and the Caribbean Region in Uruguay in 2013.
Mansell’s research has impacted on measures aimed at curtailing copyright infringement resulting in moderation of ill-conceived measures to combat online ‘piracy’ and agreement to independently assess the impact of the Digital Economy Act 2010 in the UK. The creative industry argues that legislation is needed to reduce online ‘piracy’ or copyright infringement. The Act introduced measures to monitor the activities of Internet users suspected of infringing copyright. This was challenged in the Administrative High Court by Internet Service Providers (who are obliged to provide data about their customers under the Act) because of its implications for citizen privacy and their competitiveness. Mansell served as expert witness on behalf of British Telecom and TalkTalk in the Judicial Review. Her evidence was used to challenge claims by creative industry about the costs of copyright infringement to their businesses and to support the argument that copyright enforcement must be proportional, taking into account changing online cultural norms [D]. Her evidence was quoted and found to be very finely balanced with government and creative industry counterarguments [E]. The court accepted the case for an initial one year implementation of the Act so as to assess whether the measures have the impacts on copyright infringement claimed by the industry. The implementation of the Act by the regulator, Ofcom, has been delayed and is not to be introduced until at least 2015. The impact here was to credibly challenge the creative industry and government claims about the proportionality of the Act.
In policy concerned with Internet security and privacy, Mansell’s research influenced policies concerning the use of intrusive surveillance technologies. Post 9/11, some police authorities and politicians strongly advocated swift implementation of privacy invasive uses of the Internet to combat serious online crime and terrorist threats. Mansell’s report on Cyber Trust and Crime Prevention for the Office of Science and Technology Foresight concluded that strategies to improve the security and trustworthiness of networks must minimise breaches of citizen privacy if they are to be effective and consistent with democratic values [F]. The social science input to a twelve-month deliberation process, involving stakeholders from the Home Office, MI6 and technology and digital service specialists, was led by Mansell as lead expert representing all the social sciences, including economics. The result of this work was that stakeholders started to see why technical fixes to security risks are very partial answers to the development of online trust and the protection of citizen rights to privacy. This work continues to influence policy debates. For example, when the Communications Data Bill 2013 in the UK was proposed, it was seen by civil society groups as increasing the risk to citizens’ rights to privacy, resulting in evidence-based objections which drew partly on Mansell’s work for the Foresight project.
Wider Implications: When citizen interests are neglected by those who make policy around digital information, there is a high risk that people will be excluded from the local and global benefits that come with access to the Internet. The risk is also high that they will be subject to intrusive surveillance and threats to their privacy. Mansell’s emphasis on a citizen-centred policy has influenced choices about how digital networks and services are developed and used. This has material consequences for whether citizens benefit from their information societies. With moves by governments to suppress copyright infringement, to allow inspection of emails and private communications, and to promote massive investment in broadband networks, effective advocacy of citizen-centred policies based on systematic empirical evidence is vital. It is one means of restraining the excesses of state and business enthusiasm for digital technologies that put citizens at risk. These impacts are important to foster consent in democratic societies.