The Global Village
Nowadays, the digital distance between the Industrialized and Underdeveloped
Countries is still growing. There are some initiatives to find a
solution for the problem. One philosophy says that underdeveloped
countries can be helped to industrialize by implementing Internet
and other IT technologies.
Today all 54 countries of Africa are online, but in comparison to
the 10% of the world's population they present, not even 1% of it's
population is using the Internet no growing tendencies are oberverable.
The gap between the Information-Poor" and Information-Rich"
is still growing. 70% of Africa's Internet users are domiciled in
Egypt and South Africa. For comparison, one million South Africans
are using the Internet in contrast to the only two thousand Nigerians.
Some initiatives were built to create
a platform for IT-companies, so that they can get some help and
grow easier. The Africa - Technology - Forum" is functioning
as a result of that. For example, Ghana is now having a cellular
network and Internet Service Provider.
Another project is the World
e-Inconclusion", founded by Hewlett Packard. They will spend
one billion dollars to buy Hard- and Software for underdeveloped
countries during the next years. Also, they are thinking about a
people's computer" and opened laboratories in India and
China. Hewlett Packard is playing a leading role in the creating
of new markets in these countries. The company clearly says that
they recognize a potential market there. However, some critical
analysists say that in these countries there will not be a profitable
market in the next ten to twenty years.
The gap between black and white
in the United States
In the Unites States, there is huge differences in Internet use
between black an white Internet users. The white population is now
of 50 % online, whilst only 37% of the ethnic blacks. Two years
ago these percentages were only 47% and 23%.
That shows that the gap has already been reduced and it is expected
to become smaller each year. Nowadays 7,5 millions blacks are online,
a study of the ´Pew Internet & American Life Project found
that. Lee Rainie, director of the institute, said that this is a
good result for the American society.
David Ellington from ´NetNoir´ said, that the gap will
become smaller during the next few years. But still, the normal
black families, whose average income is with US$ 27.000 much less
than the US$ 42.000 from the whites, do not very easy to get connect
to the Internet. Only because some free Internet Service Provider
are now offering web access via toll free phone lines. Otherwise
they could not afford it.
Clearly, there is a correlation between income and level of education
and the use of the web, but fortunately there are no racial aspects
anymore nowadays. The economic situation is the most important factor.
There are now portals, like www.bet.com and blackfamilie.com, which
are giving an example of the black influence. Another reason for
growing is today's culture, as mostly young people are using the
Internet. The Clinton administration has undertake initiatives to
make the Internet freely available at schools, resulting in the
connection of most of them.
The Internet's impact on the American Political System
Recently there were the US-Presidential elections and we can follow
into this step and lock a little bit further onto the background.
No technological change came so quickly and influenced our lives
so much as the Internet. As I mentioned before, almost 50% of the
US population is online; people are working with and through the
Internet. But as we saw, this tendency mostly for western and the
more developed countries. However, the Internet's influence in the
third world is very large and hopefully increases during the next
years. The mentioned initiative might help to bring faster growth.
A result will be that new features of working will be created in
all countries, parties and political systems. Richards Davis, author
of "The Web of Politics", Oxford 1999, is surly right
with his expression "The Internet is a subject worth studying
now and in the future. The question for me and scholars will be
Davis acknowledges that studying
the social construction of the Internet is studying a dynamic process.
The Internet is indeed becoming more like America, something not
revealed by data from a single point in time. The gender gap is
already on the track to disappear, however diversity in class, race
and ethnicity is only slowly increasing in the online population.
During the campaign for the recent
US presidential elections, many of us have began to pay attention
to politics, politicians, and political issues. The major candidates
have already developed fairly sophisticated web sites, where you
can find copies of their speeches and position papers, along with
discussion forums and appeals for contributions. Indeed, nowadays
just about every candidate for any political office is likely to
have a web site. The only question is how much money can they afford
to invest in building and maintain these sites.
But there is more to politics than just election campaigns, like
there is more to the Internet than just a collection of campaign
web sites. Potentially, the Internet serves as a mechanism for more
timely and effective communications between citizens and governments
at every level. And because it represents a relatively independent
channel of communication, it creates an alternative source of information
about controversial topics that might be "stonewalled"
by official government sources. In theory, the Internet also creates
the opportunity for participatory forums and discussions between
citizens and their elected or appointed leaders.
Well, therefore the Internet dramatically increases political participation
within the US and by, extension, in any other country where a majority
of the citizens have access to the Internet? And if it leads to
greater political participation, will it upset traditional political
The real question is whether all of this "potential" is
actually being fulfilled. Or to put it in more fundamental terms:
Is the Internet actually improving the political process and will
it upset the traditional political powers in the United States?
In his book, Davis replies with an emphatic "No." He shows
how current political players such as candidates, public officials,
and the media have adapted to the Internet to assure that this new
medium benefits them in their struggle for power. Davis examined
the current function of the Internet in democratic politics, i.e.
educating citizens, supporting electoral campaigns, gauging public
opinion, and achieving policy resolution, and the roles of current
political actors in those functions. His unconventional prediction
concerning the Internet's impact on American politics warrants a
closer look by anyone interested in learning how this new communication
medium will affect us politically.
Lack of the web
Davis points out, that the Web will not transform passive couch-potatoes
who wait for information to come to them into activists who aggressively
exploit the information available throughout the Internet. Existing
activists may become more active and knowledgeable than they already
are; but a couch-potato, is a couch-potato and will be always a
Equally important, he argues that politicians are hardly a passive
group, and that they therefore will use the Internet to further
amplify the messages they already broadcast to the public. Whilst
a grassroots populist group can organize an e-mail campaign to influence
political discussions, it's also true that politicians can organize
e-mail writing campaigns to disseminate their opinions and their
requests for votes and contributions to every Internet-accessible
voter in their territory.
The goal of Davis' book is to analyze whether and how the growth
of the Internet will affect political participation and the distribution
of political power. Davis' broad survey of the many social, political,
and economic areas impacted by the Internet is straightforward and
succinct, supported by solid and generally convincing methods. He
avoids concentrating too heavily on the particular aspect of the
modern technologies; instead he focuses on larger patterns and trends
generated by the expansion of the Internet. By doing so, he has
succeeded in writing a book that will retain its relevance on the
topic longer than many others.
Supporting these themes is Davis' underlying argument that people
will not change - the Internet is not so radical a tool that it
will make the disinterested interested, the passive active, or the
apolitical political. His work is a thought-provoking argument against
the arrival of an information technology revolution!
1. Davis, Richard: ´The Web of Politics´, The Internet's
Impact on the American Political System, New York: OxfordUniversity
2. Title: ´ Keine Spur vom globalen Dorf´, Date: 29.11.2000,
Author: Jochen A. Siegle
3. Title:´Afroamerkaner Online, Die Lücke schließt
sich´, Date: 29.11.2000, Author: Jochen A. Siegle