Eastern Europe and Central Asia

The internet policy landscape in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been in a state of constant change since information communication technology (ICT) first became an important factor in national and international politics at the beginning of the 21st century. Over the course of time, countries such as Russia, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, have emerged as key leaders in internet governance, each with a different relationship between its government and the internet. Other nations, such as Kazakhstan, Serbia, and Bulgaria, have more recently developed national ICT policies that are shaping the way internet around the world is governed. As with most regions around the globe, internet policies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are constantly changing and vary greatly among different countries.

To say a country is a leader in ICT policy is to say that much scholarly work has been done on the region and its internet policies have gained the attention of many world leaders. Such is the case for the Russian government, under President Vladimir Putin, which is known for its tight control over the internet and conservative stance on information regulation. In the wake of the recent rise in threats of terrorism, Russia’s internet policies seem to only become stricter. Surrounding regions, by contrast, have employed regulated internet policies, albeit ones that allow for more cooperation and discussion among stakeholders. Although governance strategies in countries like Kyrgyzstan and Bulgaria have been comparatively laissez faire, recent developments this year in internet policies threaten to restrict online rights of citizens in ways not unfamiliar to those employed in Russia.

Aside from Russia, there exist obvious geographical and topical gaps in the internet governance literature as it is relevant to these regions. Firstly, there is a great deal of internet policy research that draws on examples from around the world but that is neither contained nor focused on one region enough to provide a substantive geographical context. Secondly, there is a wide variety of scholarly work on internet and ICT industries, online user trends, and even the intersections of internet use and international events. While each of these topics is in some manor relevant to how the internet is governed and policed, they remain peripheral to IPO’s central focus. This area of research would perhaps benefit most from internet governance research in countries where current work of this type has yet to take place, including Slovakia, Tajikistan, and Moldova.

The following list is a compilation of scholarly resources, news articles, and histories exploring ever-changing internet policies and their economic, political, and social effects in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.


Regional

 

Bogdanovic, Zorica, and Uros Pinteric. “E-Governance Journeys in Serbia and Slovenia.” Public Manager 37.2 (2008): 53-57. ABI/INFORM Global. Web.

A number of large-scale political events around the turn of the century, such as the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1990, sparked an interest in the role of the internet in Serbian and Slovenian political systems. This article focuses particularly on web-driven governance, then called e-governance, as a way to offer public services to citizens online. The author claims that political and economic events that took place between 1993 and 2008 can account for Slovenia’s lead over Serbia in quality of e-governance services.

Oates, Sarah. Revolution Stalled: The Political Limits of the Internet in the Post-Soviet Sphere. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013. Print

In this book, Oates outlines five key components in the relationship between the online sphere and society to argue that there exist critical pre-conditions that must exist for the internet to be used successfully to challenge non-free states. Examining the nuances of the ways in which the internet can spark political action in different states, Oates analyses post-soviet Russia and its specific struggle with information control. This book provides compelling evidence that a new and changing generation of internet users is beginning to alter the balance of power in the public sphere in Russia.

Sroka, Marek. “Commercial Development of the Internet and WWW in Eastern Europe.” Online and CD-Rom Review 22.6 (1998): 367-76. ABI/INFORM Global. Web.

This essay provides a look at the early stages of internet development in Eastern Europe, and particularly which countries emerged as the first leaders of internet infrastructure in the region and how different stakeholders became a part of the first internet policies. The essay also looks at commercial aspects of web development and how competition among the first internet service providers paved the way for the current state of internet governance.

Vanderhill, Rachel. “Limits on the Democratizing Influence of the Internet: Lessons from Post-Soviet States.” Demokratizatsiya 1 (2015): 31-56.Alt-PressWatch. Web.

Vanderhill takes a comparative look at the influence of ICT on the democratization processes in two countries, Armenia and Krygystan, with a focus on how internet penetration in each country affects and is affected by government restriction of the internet. The author concludes that, in the cases of these two regions, ICT has limited effectiveness on structural barriers to democratization. This may be due in part to the relatively low levels of internet penetration in these two countries, compared to more common cases of mobilization via ICT in Russia, China, and Iran.


Russia

 

Alexander, Marcus. “The Internet and Democratization: The Development of Russian Internet Policy.” Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 12.4 (2004): 607-27. Alt-PressWatch. Web.

The development of the Russian Internet policy is of special interest, as it brings forth two interesting puzzles related to political transition and its learning process. Here, Alexander challenges the assumption that proliferation of Internet technology in transition countries such as Russia will lead to an increase in freedom of speech and further democratization.

Dergacheva, Anastasia, and Ksenia Andreeva. “Russia: The Impact of New Internet Regulations on International Companies.” Inside Counsel Sept. 2015: n. pag. LexisNexis Academic [LexisNexis]. Web.

On September 1, 2015, the Russian State Duma-approved Personal Data law, which includes local storage requirements, came into effect. 2015 has seen myriad law changes, such as the Local Storage law, which create new challenges for companies involved in online media and technology sectors. As Dergacheva points out, these changes have prompted the re-evaluation on existing IT infrastructure and data flows in Russia. This article highlights and explains the Local Storage Law and its implications for the future of Russian media rules beyond 2015.

Duffy, Natalie. “Internet freedom in Vladimir Putin’s Russia: The noose tightens.” American Enterprise Institute 12 (2015). Web.

This paper explains the steps taken by the Russian government, led by President Vladimir Putin, over the past three years to limit free speech online, prohibit the free flow of data, and undermine freedom of information. This comparatively conservative approach to internet policy was ignited in December 2011, after social media posts became a crucial part of citizen-organized protests against parliamentary decisions. Duffy explains the global political implications of Russia’s most controversial internet policies, including the Kill Switch debates, surveillance and data storage, and the 2014 antiterrorism laws.

Nocetti, Julien. “Contest and Conquest: Russia and Global Internet Governance.” International Affairs 91.1 (2015): 111-30. Web.

This essay provides a key look at how Russia has forged its way into the global arena of internet governance to establish itself as a focal point in world politics. In recent years, Russian leaders have worked to not only condense internet governance policies with those of other IT realms, such as cybersecurity and internet surveillance, but have sought to coordinate these efforts with other politically-minded states to contribute to the politicization of global cyber issues. Nocetti describes and examines how Russia promotes a system of international supervision over internet governance to promote its centralized, top-down approach.

“RUSSIA: Security Laws Weigh on IT and Mobile Sectors.” Oxford Analytica Daily Brief [Oxford] 2 May 2014: n. pag. Web.

In 2014, a number of developments in the Russian government’s relationship with the ICT sector helped envision an even tighter control over the internet. From the State Duma’s hand in regulating web-based financial and communication transactions, to state-run operator Rostelecom competing with private companies for Russia’s internet market, the author argues that Russia’s political priorities too often “work at cross-purposes.” This trend towards an ever-tightening control over the internet will ultimately stunt Russia’s potential for economic growth.

Wilson, Amy. “Computer Gap: The Soviet Union’s Missed Revolution and Its Implications for Russian Technology Policy.” Problems of Post-Communism 56.4 (2009): 41-51. Web.

This article provides a key analysis to Russian internet policy, illustrating the ways each move made by ICT leaders in the past years has shaped the current state of affairs in the country. In particular, Russia’s concern about citizens’ ability to use the internet to spread counter-information and to organize has had resulted in a strict government hold over the internet. Efforts to regulate online media and the registration of websites were some of the earliest forms of internet control in Russia and are now the basis for many state-led laws governing ICT. Wilson’s stance reflects a common concern among academics and civil society alike: that Russia’s strict monopoly over online information is a sizeable obstacle to the country’s economic and political innovation. 


Kazakhstan

 

Nurmakov, Adil. “The Kazakh Authorities Have Opened Digital Report Details the Implementation of a National Security Certificate.” Digital Report. N.p., 04 Dec. 2015. Web.

The state of the internet in Kazakhstan in 2011 was marked by the turning point of its role in the national political sphere. While the state is rapidly losing its monopoly over every kind of information, the political processes on the internet are no longer able to be controlled. This article explores the ways in which state structures, political parties, public movements, civil society, and private corporations have a stake in the online virtual space in Kazakhstan. The author concludes that the internet has a rapidly-growing and constantly-changing hand in the Kazakh political system, and therefore, its governance should become a main priority for governmental leaders.

Temirbolat, Bakytzhan. “The Political Internet in Kazakhstan: Trends, Problems, and Prospects.” Central Asia and the Caucasus: Journal of Social and Political Studies 12.1 (2011): 158-68. Index Islamicus. Web.

In recent years, cyberspace in Kazakhstan has developed into an online arena for citizens, associations, NGOs, and the media to debate and discuss a countless number of social and political topics. This study uses the PEST-analysis method to identify and qualify the political, economic, social, and technological factors of this new environment, wherein online discussion manifests change in real-world problems. In particular, the technological factors show that globalization, open borders, and the country’s involvement in international process are stimulated by the demand for developing IT; to further develop information communication, Kazakhstan is committed to increasing the latest technological infrastructures in the country; and that communications development in the country has an indisputable effect on national political systems.


Kyrgyzstan

 

Internet Society, The. “Internet Society Partners with National Institute for Strategic Studies of Kyrgyzstan to Encourage Internet Growth in Kyrgyz Republic.” Business Wire (English) 8 Dec. 2014: n. pag. Web.

In December 2014, the Internet Society partnered with a number of stakeholders in the Central Asian region, including the National Institute of Statistical Sciences, the National Information Technology Center of Kyrgyz Republic, and the Central Asian Research and Education Network to collaborate in developing internet infrastructure in the region. Recognizing the economic and social potential for improved regional connectivity, these organizations plan to host an annual Central Asian Symposium where issues such as sustainable internet development and connectivity infrastructure will be discussed.

Srinivasan, Ramesh, and Adam Fish. “Internet Authorship: Social and Political Implications within Kyrgyzstan.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14.3 (2009): 559-80. PsycINFO. Web.

Set in amid a region of strict internet governance and centralized older media, Kyrgyzstan stands out for its highly deregulated internet policy. The authors of this study analyze data collected through interviews with Kyrgyz policymakers, scholars, and Internet experts to point to significant implications of internet-facilitated social and political movements in the nation. Kyrgyzstan first emerged as the primary Central Asian nation to employ a deregulated internet, an online atmosphere which the authors conclude enables the construction and dissemination of alternative political discourses. This paradigm, although initially productive, remains fragile as the Kyrgyz government holds the power to tighten control, regulation, and surveillance of online communication.


Uzbekistan

 

Kozhamberdiyeva, Zhanna. “Freedom of Expression on the Internet: A Case Study of Uzbekistan.” Review of Central and East European Law 33.1 (2008): 95-134. International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS). Web.

Going against the framework of international human rights law, this article focuses on the mechanisms of state censorship of Internet communication for Uzbek citizens and the restrictions that narrow the scope of freedom of expression in the context of the Internet. Kozhamberdiyeva argues that the Uzbek government favors regulation that undermines the human right to freedom of expression by enforcing laws on information security.


Bulgaria

 

Bakardjieva, Maria. “Mundane Citizenship: New Media and Civil Society in Bulgaria.” Europe-Asia Studies 64.8 (2012): 1356-374. ABI/INFORM Global. Web.

In this essay, Bakardjieva examines the results of three case studies, each a different form of online discussion illustrating the recent uptick in civil and political engagement online in Bulgaria. The author argues that these new media and online communications methods have brought national issues into the lives of civil society members, and as a result, members are able to affect such political issues in tangible ways. Uzebekistan is now becoming the first Central Asian country to assert control over the internet to the same degree as control over the traditional press. Doing so reflects the general weakness of the Uzbek constitutional system to protect human rights.


Poland

 

Zawisza, Mateusz, Bogumil Kaminski, Wit Jakuczun, and Agnieszka Gladysz. “Composite Evaluations of Broadband Internet Access in Poland.” Multiple Criteria Decision Making 8 (2013): 160-78. ABI/INFORM Global. Web.

This study identifies socio-economic factors that account for the varying degrees of internet access across Poland using a two-phase approach to Internet comparison. Methods reveal that rural Polish communities experience Internet access improvement at a much more rapid pace than do urban communities, thereby reducing the technological gap. The authors show that effective internet regulation may foster the advancement of fixed-location broadband access.


Hungary

 

Harindranath, G. “ICT in a Transition Economy: The Case of Hungary.” Journal of Global Information Technology Management 11.4 (2008): 33-55. ABI/INFORM Global. Web.

This articles explores the implications of economic transition for Hungary’s ICT sector and examines patterns of ICT diffusion and use in the country. Although economic transition has led to increasing globalization and the consequent integration of Hungary into the European and the global economy, the impact of such transition for ICT production and use has been more problematic. The author problematizes Hungary’s clear lack of policies governing the ICT industry and explains the economic, political, and social opportunities that are missed when such policies are not in place.