A framework to analyse the telecommunications policy process in India
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Theories of the policy process refer to the body of theories that may be used as a lens to develop a structured view of the public policy process. What strikingly emerges from a review of literature is that academicians from the United States have been at the forefront of most academic contributions in the area of public policy theories. As a result, most major theories of the policy process have been originally conceived and constructed in the context of the political and institutional setup of the United States. Literature has often questioned the generalizability claims of these policy frameworks to developing countries. We also find scarce academic input in the context of technology-oriented policy subsystems with short technology lifecycles. With the objective of filling these gaps, we attempt to arrive at a policy process theory that is contextualised to the telecommunications policy subsystem in India. The Extended Case Methodology (Burawoy, 1998) is used in which an established theory is reconstructed to make it inclusive of the Indian telecommunications policy environment. For this purpose, we identify Sabatiers’s (1998) Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF), a well established theory of the policy process that has received widespread academic attention and offers a structured methodological approach for entering the field and operationalising various constructs. The ACF considers advocacy coalitions, operationalised using common beliefs, as the appropriate unit to deal with the multiplicity of actors in the policy subsystem. The study focuses on two nested subsystems of the telecommunications policy subsystem - spectrum management and interconnection usage charges. We perform a content analysis of 217 testimonies submitted by various actors in response to public consultations by the telecommunications regulator. A coding frame is developed to identify the stated beliefs of elite actors on contentious policy issues. We then perform a cluster analysis to operationalise and identify the advocacy coalitions operating in the subsystem from 2008 to 2015. The resulting analysis finds strong evidence for existence of advocacy coalitions and a high degree of conflict on contentious policy issues between these coalitions. The evolution of these coalitions as a result of change in underlying technologies is discussed. The ability of competing coalitions to dominate and convert their beliefs into policy outputs by using various instruments and resources has been reviewed. We use the insights from the two case studies to present a critique of the ACF as a theoretical lens to analyse the policy process. Finally, the paper proposes reconstructions to improve the ACF. The paper also provides significant insights for policy advocates to influence the policy process in order to achieve their policy objectives.
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