This paper addresses the question ‘How necessary is a national information and communications technology (ICT) strategy/vision for the development of an information society?’ For the purpose of this paper, ‘information society’ is reduced to two key dimensions: penetration of ICT, and access to government information on-line. In considering the question, the paper calls on data contained in the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) case studies of e-readiness in eight South East Asian (SEA) nations (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam). The background to the paper includes an overview of the SEA nations in terms of demographics and a discussion of the dilemma of government involvement in developing an information society in the light of the ‘small government mantra’ that has dominated in recent years. National ICT strategies visions of each nation are presented, followed by on overview of their information society policies and practices and their ICT penetration. The importance of the vision is then contrasted with other factors including level of development and national income. The conclusions draw attention to the importance of a vision irrespective of level of development and resource availability. In fact, for the least developed nations, poor infrastructure may be an opportunity to leap frog to the most advanced networks supporting an information society, if the vision is relevant, powerful and broadly held.