Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blogging the Digital Divide

After learning about the benefits of blogging, such as the possibility of expanding sources, opinions and freedom of expression, I began wondering what are some of the disadvantages of using blogging, or the Internet in general, for communication and information flow? Lets see, if it benefits me, this power journalism class, Western media and the developed country as a whole, then everybody who doesn’t fit into this category is disadvantaged, right?
Not to say the Internet is intentionally used by developed countries to further suppress the voice and already limited powers of the “Global South,” but in a way it is. By being in control of technological developments and making English the language of these developments, how is blogging benefiting the nations that neither speak English nor have Internet access? I’ll find out for you. Don’t worry; I won’t make you think too hard fellow bloggers.
Thank goodness it wasn’t America’s fault to begin with, we have enough guilt on our shoulders at the moment. Actually, the British control of global telegraph networks led to English becoming the main language of international trade and communication, according to the book I’m reading, “International Communication: Continuity and Change” by Daya Kishan Thussu. As the 21st century rolled around English (and yeah partially our fault now) became the main language of multinational interactions by being used within the UN system, large corporations, media, scientific publishing and, of course, the Internet.
English is the second most common language spoken in the world (some sources said third though, hmmm) with more than 500 million speakers, while Mandarin is the first with 1.1 billion speakers. Hindi is around the same as English, about 500 million, hence the confusion about placement. Thinking that either placement would earn us a gold medal at the Olympics (out of the 6,700 languages spoken in the world), it almost seems exciting. Well, this isn’t a competition.
There are 34 countries with a rich multilingual tradition, meaning there are more than 50 languages in daily use. They seem more like the winners to me. Imagine how much more interesting and culturally diverse our country and media system would be if we spoke more languages. Where are these 34 language-gifted countries located? None in Europe if you were wondering, and two-thirds of them are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific region. Sun-Saharan Africa is one of the worst areas when it comes to access to telephone lines (coincidence?). In 2005, nearly 1 billion people worldwide had no access to telephones, and without telephone lines you have no Internet. While Internet access has opened up in Africa recently, the high cost for using telephones make them expensive to use, which the majority of the continent’s citizens can’t afford.
What does all of this mean? We should stop using the Internet, learn a new language and travel to Africa to help increase teledensity? I don’t know what you should do because I don’t know what to do myself. I guess writing about is a start. I feel like the whole situation is a catch-22. If I help I’m further supporting Western power over the developing nations by forcing them to “modernize” and lose the rich culture they have managed to hold on to for so long. But if I don’t, will the digital-divide continue to stretch and pull on global relations until we break into two separate worlds? Maybe it already has.
Want to read the book“International Communication: Continuity and Change,” or learn more about it? Go here.

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