2. Regulatory frameworks and digital strategies


This module summarises Chapter 2 of the Toolkit which focuses on two key elements of the broadband policy toolkit: the regulatory framework and the broader strategic framework. These are essential to help develop broadband access and use. On the one hand, the regulatory framework includes the division of powers among the different institutions involved in the governance of telecommunications markets. On the other hand, the broader strategic framework, usually referred to as “digital strategies”, “digital agendas” or “national information and communications technology (ICT) strategies”, aims to extend the availability and use of broadband.

Explore this module

Main policy objectives
Tools for measurements and analysis
The LAC region
Leading good practices


Main policy objectives

Key policy objectives for the regulatory frameworks
  • Encouraging the expansion of broadband services.
  • Lowering barriers for investment in broadband networks and services.
  • Encouraging public initiatives that complement private initiatives when necessary.
  • Upholding a consistent and effective policy framework for all market actors.
  • Ensuring independence of regulators.

Key policy objectives for digital strategies

Digital strategies are cross-sectoral programmes addressing the different policy objectives involved in the digitisation of economies and societies. This includes developing initiatives to achieve policy objectives on the supply side, such as broadband access extension to ensure digital connectivity for individuals and businesses (Chapter 5); deployment of infrastructure aimed to improve regional and international connectivity; and co-ordination with policy makers and regulators in other countries (Chapter 8). On the demand side, digital strategies include areas such as affordability (Chapter 6); developing ICT skills (Chapter 9); business ICT uptake and entrepreneurship (Chapter 10); e-health and e-government applications (Chapters 11 and 12); and increasing consumers’ trust in the digital economy (Chapters 13, 14 and 15).

  • Maximising the potential of ICTs. The key policy objective of digital strategies is to maximise the dividends of ICTs, and especially the Internet, a vital medium of economic and social activities. This can be considered under different specific sub-objectives (Box 1).
Box 2.1. Key pillars of digital strategies
  • Develop telecommunications infrastructure (e.g. access to broadband and telecommunication services) and preserve an open Internet.
  • Promote the ICT sector, including its internationalisation (encouraging international trade of ICT services).
  • Strengthen e-government services, including enhanced access to public sector information (PSI), services and data (i.e. open government data).
  • Strengthen trust (digital identities, privacy and security).
  • Encourage the adoption of ICTs by businesses and SMEs in particular, with a focus on key sectors such as i) health care; ii) transport; and iii) education.
  • Advance e-inclusion, with a focus on the ageing population and disadvantaged social groups.
  • Promote ICT-related skills and competencies, including basic ICT skills and ICT specialist skills.
  • Tackle global challenges such as Internet governance, climate change and development co-operation.

OECD (2015), Digital Economy Outlook,

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Tools for measurement and analysis

Regulatory frameworks

Regular assessment of the goals of the regulatory framework helps ensure that it is leaving room for competition, investment and innovation in broadband services. Regular assessment will also allow for adjusting the framework to new challenges, while general principles of competition ensure predictability. A first set of tools for assessing if a regulatory framework is sound is by collecting information and preparing key indicators, such as the level of prices, competition, investment and infrastructure deployment. These allow regulators to detect trends, bottlenecks and other issues as they review the regulatory framework. This information should be published regularly to inform stakeholders and let them provide feedback and any proposals for changes.

Regular public consultations should be carried out on the effectiveness and adequacy of the regulatory framework. This also includes any policy proposals to improve or adapt the regulatory framework to new situations or to correct existing problems. Well-designed public consultations allow for feedback from all stakeholders and anticipate potential issues before enacting new regulations.

Regular benchmarking with reference countries is valuable, to identify areas of improvement and different regulatory models. Active participation in the LAC regulatory networks in the region, as well as other fora, is also a good source of information for developing regulatory frameworks. Peer and third-party independent reviews are useful for providing comprehensive external views of areas where the regulatory framework can be improved. The peer reviews undertaken by the OECD of the telecommunications markets in Colombia (OECD, 2014) and Mexico are examples of this approach (OECD, 2012).

Digital strategies

Establishing an effective oversight mechanism for digital strategies is important to: i) provide appropriate incentives for performance from managers and stakeholders; ii) evaluate how the digital strategy affects targeted beneficiaries; iii) determine resource allocation and improve planning, and iv) to provide input for decisions regarding its strategic direction.

Digital strategies usually involve plans for different policy areas. This means that the tools and measurements to assess the overall objective of national strategies must be based on key performance indicators for each of the different plans in a digital strategy. Although monitoring each plan on the agenda is important, comprehensive monitoring that brings together information on overall progress is necessary. This allows national authorities to identify potential problems when objectives in one policy area (e.g. increasing Internet skills) are associated with other goals on which their success depends (e.g. the availability of Internet access).

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Overview of the situation in the LAC region

All the countries in the LAC region have a regulatory framework in force specifically designed for telecommunications, addressing the main issues on distribution of powers among different institutions and outlining the main principles for promoting competition and investment. Annex 1 shows the existing regulatory frameworks for the countries in the LAC region. Detailed country comparisons of broadband policies and regulation can be found at the IDB’s digiLAC website (

Most countries have a Communications Regulatory Authority, with varying levels of independence from the government (Annex 3 shows the policy/regulatory bodies in the region). However, despite the existence of ICT and telecommunication plans, only less than half, have comprehensive national digital strategies that includes many measures to promote the supply and demand of broadband infrastructures, services, applications and skills. Annex 2 lists all the digital strategies in the LAC region, identifying key policy objectives and the bodies responsible for their implementation. While these strategies are generally co-ordinated by the ministry in charge of telecommunications policy, with several countries have also involved the communications authority in the design and co-ordination of the national digital strategy, some countries in the region do not yet have an adequate governance model to monitor and control implementation.

Among the issues in the LAC region seen as needing improvement is the lack of stability of the communications regulatory framework in countries that institute changes too frequently, reducing regulatory certainty for investors. In some countries, the division of responsibilities and authority between the government, the communications authority and/or the competition authority is not clear, with overlapping powers or intersecting management. This makes regulatory action more complex and cumbersome, which can result in inaction and give dominant operators more opportunities to circumvent the regulatory measures needed for competition. Annex 4 shows the distribution of power among policy/regulatory bodies in the LAC region.

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Good practices

Some of the good practices covered in this module relate to:

  • The design and implementation of digital strategies
  • Legal instruments for broadband regulation
  • Involvement of non-governmental stakeholders
  • Distribution of powers among policy/regulatory authorities
  • Independence of regulatory agencies
  • Relations among the different policy/regulatory authorities
  • Judicial review of regulatory decisions
  • The functioning and structure of the regulator
  • The head and the members of the Regulator's Board
  • Data collection and reporting

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Introduction •  Regulatory frameworks and digital strategies •  Spectrum policy •  Competition and infrastructure bottlenecks •  Extending broadband access and services •  Affordability, government charges and digital inclusion •  Convergence •  Regional integration •  Skills and Jobs •  Business uptake, entrepreneurship and digital content •  E-health •  Digital government •  Consumer protection and e-commerce •  Digital security management •  Privacy protection


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