digital divides in Asia
page considers digital divides in Asia.
It covers -
Digital divides in the Indian subcontinent, central Asia,
South East Asia and East Asia are as diverse as the region.
The diversity of cultures, economies and infrastructures
means that Asia as a geopolitical label is of questionable
As general background we have found Information Technology
Diffusion in the Asia Pacific: Perspectives on Policy, Electronic
Commerce & Education (Hershey: Idea 1999) edited
by Felix Tan, Scott Corbett & Yuk Wong and Cyberpath
to Development in Asia: Issues and Challenges (Westport:
Praeger 2002) edited by Sandhya Rao & Bruce Klopfenstein
to be useful.
The 2004 paper
by Hao Xiaoming & Chow Seet Kay on Factors affecting
Internet development: An Asian survey considered for
28 Asian states, unsurprisingly arguing that internet penetration
is related to a nation's wealth, telecommunication infrastructure,
urbanization and stability of the government but not related
to the literacy level, political freedom and English proficiency.
There is an upbeat account in Asia's Digital Dividends
(New York: Wiley 2002) by David Michael & Greg Sutherland.
We've noted the Electronic Journal on Information Systems
in Developing Countries (EJISDC)
elsewhere in this profile.
China in the Information Age: Telecommunications and
the Dilemmas of Reform (New York: Praeger 1997) by Milton
Mueller & Zixiang Tan and China & the Internet:
Politics of the Digital Leap Forward (London: RoutledgeCurzon
2003) by Christopher Hughes & Gudrun Wacker offer a
broader perspective on the consequences of connectivity,
updated in the 2007 China's Online Population Explosion
by Deborah Fallows. James Larson's The Telecommunications
Revolution in Korea (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1995)
predates recent market developments but offers an insight
into national regulatory structures and policy objectives.
Some cautions about over-enthusiasm for telecottages and
cybercafes is here.
ICT production and diffusion in Asia: digital dividends
or digital divides? (PDF)
from the World Institute for Development Economics Research
asks whether Asian countries have "captured a disproportionately
high share of global production of ICT goods but lagged
in the adoption of ICT", concluding unsurprisingly
that there are regional divides between states such as Japan
and Burma or Bhutan. The Institute's 2001 report (PDF)
on The Software Industry & India's Economic Development
is somewhat more substantial.
Izumi Aizu's 2002 paper
A Comparative Study of Broadband in Asia: Deployment
& Policy examines differences in uptake of broadband
and government initiatives across Asia.
As of 2004 population (m) and GDP (US$ billion purchasing
power parity) for selected states in Asia was -
Hong Kong SAR
GDP figure for Australia and New Zealand was US$571 billion
and US$85 billion respectively.
An ITU report for 2003 identifies 'main' landlines and aggregate
subscribers (landline and mobile) -
per 100 people
Hong Kong SAR
of 2004 China had around 344 million mobile subscribers.
The 2003 ITU report indicates that internet hosts (per 10,000
inhabitants) and personal computers (per 100 inhabitants)
Hong Kong SAR
Transparency International 2004 Corruption Perceptions
selected Asian states as follows (with New Zealand, Sweden,
Australia and Canada at 2, 6, 9 and 12 respectively) -
Hong Kong SAR
The UNDP report
for 2004 suggested that life expectancy at birth and adult
literacy (%, ages 15 plus) was -
Hong Kong SAR
the PRC and the Chinese diaspora
A starting point for considering the internet in China
is The Diffusion of the Internet in China (PDF)
study by William Foster & Seymour Goodman. Larry Press,
Foster and Goodman collaborated on an Inet 99 paper
on The Internet in China & India, with a narrower
study The Internet and Greater South China (Taiwan,
Hong Kong, Fujian & Guangdong) (PDF)
in the same year.
For Singapore see The Internet in Singapore (1997): A
Benchmark Report, a comparative study (PDF)
Perspectives on state and individual perceptions of threats
and opportunities are provided in The Internet and State
Control in Authoritarian Regimes: China, Cuba & the
Counterrevolution, a paper (PDF)
by Shanthi Kalathil & Taylor Boas and Lokman Tsui's
2001 MA thesis (PDF)
on Internet in China: Big Mama Is Watching You (Internet
Control & the Chinese Government).
India and Pakistan
Grounds for wariness about some of the more simplistic characterisations
of the digital divide are provided by India.
It is a nation with a population of over a billion: the
world's 11th largest economy and home to more than a quarter
of the world’s poorest people along with a large middle
class. It is a nuclear power and the sixth largest emitter
of carbon dioxide, yet several hundred million citizens
have no steady electricity supply. India's over 250 universities
housed some 3.2 million science students in 2004 but 39%
of adult Indians cannot read or write and illiteracy is
declining at only 1.3% per annum.
For the Indian subcontinent see MOSAIC's 1999 (PDF)
The Diffusion of the Internet in the Republic of India:
An Update, The Diffusion of the Internet in the
Islamic Republic of Pakistan (PDF)
and the paper
Against All Odds, The Internet in Bangladesh. A perspective
is provided in Anikar Haseloff's 2005 paper
Cybercafes and their Potential as Community Development
Tools in India.
Japan and South Korea
Basic figures as of 2001 are here,
demonstrating that wealth buys internet infrastructure but
does not necessarily result in use by all parts of the population.
In 2005 the Japanese government announced that only 7% of
Japanese households (some 3.45 million homes) cannot obtain
broadband, although a substantially higher number of consumers
have chosen not to pay for a fast connection and both the
frequency and duration of sessions is lower than in peers
such as the US.
Muneo Kaigo's 2001 Cognitive and Affective Factors of
New Information and Communication Technology Usage and the
Digital Divide in Japan (PDF),
Akira Ide, Matsuo Yamasaki & Ichiro Takagi's 2004
A Research of Problems to Realize the Local e-Government
in Japan (PDF)
and Chika Sekine's 2001 The Role of Universal Design:
Closing the Gap of Digital Divide in Japan (PDF)
explore questions of accessibility and the exclusion of
demographics such as the elderly, housewives and people
in rural areas. Sekine for example comments that
must realize that Japan is a tremendously digitally divided
country, with a large population that has not had much
contact with a typewriting culture or IT, and are carrying
a slight or heavy disability.
Tarohmaru's Social Stratification and Internet Use:
Critique of Digital Divide (PDF)
creatively argues that
digital divide exists in Japan but it is not a serious
social problem, because internet use cannot reproduce
stratification and it still doesn't create a serious inequality
of life chance
"Internet use is just a luxury good in Japan".
South Korea is of interest in its own right and as a benchmark
that is recurrently used by enthusiasts in the US and Australia,
particularly in 'e-ready' or other global rankings of dubious
credibility. (North Korea has chosen to be on the wrong
side of the divide, unsurprising given that nation's infrastructure
and priorities that resulted in the death through famine
of several million people during the past two decades.)
the Mekong States
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