Friday, December 14, 2007

Get international organization endorsement

One of the lessons learned I experienced that influenced the passage of the E-Commerce Law in the Philippines was the support by international and local organizations who are lobbying parallel for the passage of the law.

It is important to collaborate with these groups and tap their resources to support or jointly:
  • Come out with position paper, research paper, or white paper to justify the need for the legislation. I believe that any piece of bill that is not backed up by research will not get anywhere.
  • Do courtesy call to legislators and government officials who can influence the passage of the bill.
  • Conduct talks to various interest groups about the need for the legislation. The more faces are involved, it signifies the greater need for the legislation that is not merely by supported by one group.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Get stakeholder support

One of the lessons learned I shared in pushing for cyber legislation is to get stakeholder support. To increase the chances of a policy reach a level of importance is either you create or join a group who is supportive or can champion the policy you are pushing for.

Once that group is found, you can organize activities such as:
  • Awareness building among members
  • Do a research paper that shall support your findings, customized at the local situation and when applicable, regional or global competitiveness.
  • Write a position paper to be sent to key government agencies and legislators.
Talk to as many sectors as possible who will benefit from the legislation or policy to issue or co-sign the position paper supporting its immediate passage. Proving that there's indeed clamor within the community is key to passage of a legislation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Make e-champions out of your legislators

The third lesson in cyberlegislation that I shared was to make e-champions out of your legislators. This requires a lot of trust and hardword to make it work.

When lobbying for the E-Commerce Law, I remember that a lot of us in the industry were so focused on talking to an IT-savvy legislator. Later on, we realized that he is not chairman of the committee that has the power to calendar and prioritize the tackling of our proposed bill. As a result, a change of strategy was made. This includes:
  • Approach all legislators, through their staff and committee persons (if they are chairman), and discuss the significance of their filed legislation.
  • Offer to do briefings for them and their staff to get at the knowledge level they desired. This includes going to their office at their free time just to talk to them.
  • Get them invited in various IT and business events to talk about our desired legislation. Make them realize that this it is indeed important, that there's clamor for it, and their role importance as well. It is like saying, "We need a champion and we hope that you could take that role."
  • Do exhibits/forums under their committee in Congress or Senate just to get the support of fellow legislators.
  • Give them monthly or quarterly quick briefing on what is happening to nearby countries, comparable to our home country, just to show how we compare or being put to a disadvantage, for not having the law in place. This includes just showing up and sharing a news tidbit.
  • A legislator only takes a bill and lobbying efforts seriously if they can feel that you are indeed reliable when the time comes. This includes participating in public and technical working group hearings, do back-staff and research work, helping in writing up reports, and more importantly, provide answer inputs during floor deliberations and speaking events (as necessary).

These are just some of what we've done but there could be more. In the end, it is all about appealing to the legislators about a bill or law's importance to a greater benefit. Not to forget, their personal advantage and accomplishment as well if done.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Talk to your legislators

A big mistake among cyberlegislation advocates is that they keep complaining on the lack of law and even blame government and legislative branch for failure to enact one. If you believe in a proposed law's importance, then you should be willing to take action and do the necessary work to get it passed.

I spent a big part of 1998 to 2000 to lobby for the passage of the Y2K Law and an E-Commerce Law legislation in the Philippines. Prior to doing that part, I was attending an Internet Commerce Expo forum in 1997 where former Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary William Padolina was the primary resource person. A participant from the audience asked, during the question and answer portion, what is the DOST doing to ensure the passage of an e-commerce legislation so that entrepreneurs and businesses can accept payment online.

I wont forget Padolina's answer at that time where he simply said, "You can't expect the DOST Secretary to do everything for you. If it is important for you, then you should go out there and talk to your legislators, lobbying its importance. Else, you'll get what you deserve." That I took seriously then.

Instead of asking all legislators, effort was first spent on:
  • The committee where this proposed legislation will fall under. Time was consumed talking to the secretariat, legal team, and legislative sponsors (especially if a resolution or draft bill was already filed before). Committee heads where this bill will fall under and push for its for calendar hearing prioritization.
  • Senate President, House Speaker, Majority and Minority floor leaders are also approached to support the law's and have it included on target legislations to be passed for the year.
  • Heads of government agencies who will benefit or tasked as implementer are asked for their support too.
From there, quality contacts are progressively built. Time must be spent on continuously updating legislative and support base stakeholders through seminars, research/technology briefings, latest developments, and meetings. In one of my briefings, I remember presenting to key legislators on how many countries have passed similar legislation, programs, and investments made just to send warning signals on how left behind we are, putting a great number of people at a disadvantage.

Of course, it worked!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Push for one cyberlegislation at a time

In sharing my lessons learned in cyberlegislation, one item that I often get into an argument with is the number of legislation that must be lobbied to in Congress and have them enacted as laws.

Having several legislation pushed only confuses or overwhelms the people you talk to, especially the lawmakers. Let it be that when a person sees you, the only thing that comes to their mind is the one legislation you are pushing for.

This is important in countries where the number of IT-knowledgeable lawmakers are very few. They often encounter the scenario when they meet several groups pushing for different legislation such as:
  • Open Source in Government
  • E-Government
  • Creation of a Department or Ministry of ICT
  • Cybercrime
  • Online Pornography
  • E-Copyright
  • Digital Signatures
  • Anti-Spam
  • Data Privacy
  • VOIP Law
  • Converge Bill
  • and many more....

When a lawmaker encounters this and realizes that there's no consensus within a community on the most urgent priority, it only delays things further. This is the reason why the stakeholders should get its act together and line up the necessary legislations and work together in pushing them, one at a time.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lessons Learned in Cyber Legislation

I shared these lessons learned during the APT/ITU/PITA Workshop on Principles of Cyber Legislation for the Pacific Region last March 29, 2007 in New Zealand. I hope advocates will find this useful.

In lobbying for a law:
  1. Push for one law at a time. Having simultaneous legislation being pushed only confuses or overwhelm the people you talk to. Let it be that when a person sees you, the only thing that comes to their mind is the one legislation you are pushing for.
  2. Talk to your legislators. A big mistake among cyber-legislation advocates is that they keep complaining on the lack of law and even blame government and legislative branch for failure to enact one. If you believe in a proposed law's importance, then you should be willing to take action and do the necessary work to get it passed.
  3. Make e-champions out of your legislators. This includes regular briefing and getting them to talk to different stakeholders about the proposed legislation. Getting them to own the legislation is very important.
  4. Get stakeholder support. Create or join a group who is supportive or main purpose is to lobby for the passage of the law. Talk to as many sectors as possible who will benefit from the legislation to issue a position paper supporting its immediate passage. By creating more advocates strengthens your position.
  5. Get international endorsement. If countries and associations that does trade with your country endorse the said law's immediate passage, that will be helpful as well. Those who are committed, whenever they visit and do courtesy calls to important persons, they manifest the urgency of the proposed legislation's passage.
  6. Get research papers to support you. This is not only on the need and how it will benefit your country but also of other's experience as well.
  7. Make sure that your proposed legislation has a designated implementer.
  8. Make certain that funding is allotted and accountability properly stated and can only be released with an approved plan.
  9. As most cyber legislation has law enforcement requirements, ensure that the enforcement authority is given adequate funding as well.
  10. Make cyber legislation recognize the need to be gender balance in its implementation.
  11. Ensure that cyber legislation will be friendly for SMEs to participate or avail of.
  12. Include provisions for consumer protection and grievance mechanism right from the start or mandate the creation of guidelines.
After the law's passage:
  • Ensure that the law’s implementer gets their job done. Any political power-play that tends to take their authority away should be with proper legislative mandate. Else, accountability, especially on funds, can pose problems later on.
  • Any e-government fund or spending must be supported by an approved plan, as mandated by the law, where its role in the bigger picture and return on investment adequately cited for success or impact monitoring. Else, billions of funds can be go waste.
    • Push for no approved PLAN, no FUNDS policy.
    • First phase should always prioritize agencies that generate revenue for the government.
  • Constant monitoring of ongoing e-government projects is a must. The entity who monitors must be the one empowered by existing laws.
    • If it has discretion on funds, it should be lead by a different department or body within the office.
  • Make sure that cybercrime enforcement becomes part of the law enforcement authorities annual budget. At times, even if stated in the law, it doesn't get implemented.
  • Push for the creation of ICT or E-Government Watchdog to actively monitor e-government spending and be vigilant or vocal for any irregularity spotted.
    • This body should not be the source of future government officials or else it will soften its stand due to personal relationships.
Getting the law passed is only 10% of what needs to be done. Be vigilant. Rest is not allowed. Don’t give up your voice. Check and balance is always a must!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Australia Spam Regulation

Australia is one of the most active countries in the world that pushed for the creation of legislation that intends to combat spam.

Spam is the common term for electronic 'junk mail' - unwanted commercial electronic messages.

The Australia Spam Act 2003 prohibits the sending of spam, which is identified as a commercial electronic message sent without the consent of the addressee via email, short message service (SMS), multimedia message service (MMS) or instant messaging. The requirements under the Spam Act apply to all commercial electronic messages, including both bulk and individual messages.

To implement it, a reporting system was created that users can use to report complaints and an eMarketers code of practice. Any nationality who received a spam from Australia or sent spam to Australia may be covered by the law.

They had a review last year of the law that gathered inputs from multiple stakeholders.

The law has helped Australia to improve its status from 10th to 32nd source of spam worldwide. One of the biggest prosecution to date resulted to a fine of 5.5 million Australian dollars.

The government is also budgeting an initiative, worth more than 100 million Australian dollars, that intends to give Australian households filters to combat spam.

Welcome to the Cyber Legislation Journal!

There are numerous policies being developed globally to heed the need for more legislation geared towards the use of ICT, Internet, cybercrime, and e-commerce. This blog intends to cover these developments.