Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies, Vol 17, No 2 (2002)

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The Digital Divide and Rule: Grappling with the New Rhetoric of Development

Peter Sy


The widening of the global "digital divide" challenges the advancement of "Information Societies." The utilization of the Internet among nations does not necessarily profit majority of world's people. Inquiries on who are using it and how it affects societies dominate the current discourses. There exists an imbalance in the magnitude and spread of access to the Internet between the Northern and Southern countries. For instance, developing countries absorb much of the bandwidth connections. Direct South to South connection is virtually non-existent. Consequently, the post-dotcom era provides a battleground for the technological and economic determinists in presenting the most feasible path to development. The former believe that there is a general pattern of technical progress anchored on the neo-liberal strategy of technological diffusion, which serves as the "messiah" of developing countries. Economic determinists, on the other side, are fixated on comprehending the economic underpinnings of the digital chasm. Amidst this debate, a "Third Way" surfaces along with the growing global consensus about the role of grassroots people and nongovernmental organizations. The "hard-knocks" position prides itself as the panacea to the flaws of technological determinism and the "rigidity" of economic determinists' reasoning.

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