The actual number of people online around the world is an ever-changing digit. Internet access is undoubtedly unequal with regard to population. For example, according to a survey by Nua in August 2001, there are around 144 million people online in Asia while Canada and the United States have 180 million alone. (Nua, 2001) Considering the population of Asia more than quadruples the population of Canada and the U.S. combined, there is severe inequality--even if the stats are slightly off. Even within Asia, there exists a digital divide between highly industialized nations and emerging nations.
What does this mean to culture? Is there more likely to be media imperialism that can be detrimental to cultural sovereignty? The idea of a one-directional flow of information sparks fear in the hearts of many in emerging nations. If TV has yet to penetrate some corners of the Earth, how can we be sure that the Internet will fare much better? Well, for one, the growth rate of Internet proliferation far surpasses that of televison worldwide. (Thussu, 1998)
The Internet can have positive effects in emerging nations. In Ghana, a royal wood carver is able to sell his carvings through the Internet. This eliminates the need for a middleman, so the consumer buying his carvings can get a better price and see a profile of the artist. The artist gets paid more for the artwork and gains publicity. Culture is promoted through traditional arts and it seems like everyone wins.(National Geographic May 1999)
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Bridget McGrath November 2001