Policy-making in information technology : a decisional analysis of the Alvey Programme.
In June 1988 the five-year, £350 million Alvey programme for
advanced information technology is scheduled to terminate. This study is
a critical appraisal of the decision-making associated with all aspects
of the formulation, approval, implementation and operation of the Alvey
The study analyses why a government that preaches public sector
disengagement from the market has channelled funds into one of the
fastest growing sectors of British industry, why a government committed
to competition endorsed a programme based on collaboration between
firms, and why a government opposed to picking 'winners' implemented a
programme aimed at a few selected technologies. It describes the
intricate advisory mechanisms which support decision-making by powerful
but technologically ill-informed government departments and the British
core executive. The study questions the wisdom of the government
Insisting that industry should frame industry policy - for when a sector
dominated by defence contractors did so, the result was an increased
dependence on government.
When the government engaged in a meso-corporatist policy-making
arrangement with Industry, it did so from a position of weakness.
Industry had the technical expertise, operational control of major
projects, and a dominant role within the Alvey directorate. The result
was a pattern of self-interested and short-sighted policy-making biased
towards the interests of large firms In the defence and
telecommunications fields. By divorcing itself from the mainstream of
information technology developments and concentrating on selected narrow
niches, the British information technology industry has set itself a
difficult task for survival in the years ahead.