Learning from each other: promises and pitfalls of benchmarking in communications policy

Johannes M. Bauer (Professor in the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)


ISSN: 1463-6697

Publication date: 28 September 2010



International benchmarking is increasingly used to inform information and communications policy. The paper aims to discuss the conditions under which learning from the experience in other jurisdictions (communities, nations, and super‐national regions) is possible.


Research from different disciplines is reviewed and synthesized to provide an integrated conceptual framework that can be used to design more robust international benchmarking approaches.


Drawing lessons from the policy experience in other jurisdictions is more difficult than is commonly perceived. Nonetheless, as long as the conditions for policy learning are met and it is properly done, international comparisons yield valuable data that can be used to improve the design of information and communications policy.

Research limitations/implications

In conducting internationally comparative inquiries, researchers need to ascertain that the prerequisites of the methods employed are aligned with the structure of the problems that are investigated. Each method (e.g. qualitative, qualitative comparative analysis, panel data) has strengths and weaknesses and may not be an appropriate tool. Given these concerns, methodological pluralism and regular attempts to triangulate findings with other methods would be desirable.

Practical implications

Policymakers should resist the temptation to search for “best practice” approaches elsewhere and to imitate them. Successful policy approaches, while learning from abroad, need to be adapted to, and attuned with, local conditions.


The paper provides a timely discussion of the intricacies of benchmarking to improve policy decisions. It cautions against blind‐faith reliance on best practice models and encourages policy diversity as a way to facilitate continuous learning.



Bauer, J. (2010), "Learning from each other: promises and pitfalls of benchmarking in communications policy", info, Vol. 12 No. 6, pp. 8-20. https://doi.org/10.1108/14636691011086017

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