Dissertation Information for Cheryl Cowan Buchwald
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: Canada's Coalition for Public Information: A case study of a public interest group in the information highway policy-making process
Abstract: The purpose of this research was to investigate the role of Canada's Coalition for Public Information (CPI) in the federal information policy-making process for the information highway. CPI, formed in 1993, was an initiative of the Ontario Library Association that attracted a broad constituency of information professionals and individuals concerned about information and technology issues. CPI believed that information policy decisions leading to major economic and social consequences would emanate from the information highway debate and that integration of the public perspective into new information policy was therefore imperative. This study used as its framework two public policy models to build an understanding of events, context, stakeholders, strategies, and influence: the policy process model developed by John Kingdon, and the policy community model described by William Coleman and Grace Skogstad and by Paul Pross. The investigation followed the example of naturalistic methods including grounded theory, and data organization and analysis via NUD*IST software. After 21/2 years of data gathering and analysis, the researcher concluded that, despite its efforts, CPI had exercised little influence over policy outcomes. CPI remained outside the decision-making network of government officials and private sector representatives owing to its limited resources, its limited political experience, and its late entry into the policy process. Policy makers, convinced of the necessity for instituting the private sector values of market competition and deregulation, essentially ignored CPI's publicly oriented agenda in their information highway policy. However, CPI did succeed in helping to bring a perspective other than the market agenda to the public, to the policy community, and to policy makers. CPI contributed to the process by educating the public, the government, and the private sector to access and other information highway policy issues. Although CPI has learned a great deal that it can use to its advantage in the future, the group continues to work toward establishing itself as a significant player within an institutional structure that does not favour public interest groups. In order to increase its effectiveness as a public interest watchdog in such a setting, CPI must secure adequate resources and continue to increase its expertise through exposure to the policy process.
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