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        Global Scale – Across Countries

        With respect to technological capacity, the world’s nations can be divided into a trichotomy of Core/ Semi-Periphery/ Periphery. In the core would be the US, Western Europe and Japan. Countries like Singapore, Australia and Taiwan belong to the Semi-Periphery, and the Periphery consists of less-developed countries (LDCs) like Africa and India. This global distinction is based on the technological advancement and infrastructure of the countries, including IT as well telephone and electrical facilities. It also serves as a reflection of the countries’ economic status. The spread of, and quality of, access to e-space follows this trichotomy closely. 70% of the host computers for websites are in the US; fewer than ten African countries are connected to the Internet; there are more telephone lines in Manhattan alone than in the whole of Africa; Internet access is almost twelve times as expensive in Indonesia than in the US; and a new computer costs about the annual income of three schoolteachers in Calcutta. These are but a few examples of how, in the less-developed regions of the world, access to e-space is severely hindered by infrastructural as well as economic problems. Even where there is access, the quality leaves much to be desired. According to Holderness (in Loader: 43), ‘until Spring 1997 the whole of India’s Education and Research Network (Ernet) relied on a link to the outside world with a capacity of 64,000 bits per second’. The usual connection speed provided by an Internet Service Provider in Singapore is 28,000 to 56,000 bits per second. This means that three ‘surfers’ in Singapore would have, between them, more communicative capacity than the total of India’s students and researchers! The users in these disadvantaged countries face ‘bottleneck’ situations and extremely slow connections when trying to access the Internet through their servers. It is safe to say that extensive hypermedia applications are out of reach for most of them, and there are negative effects on commercial transactions too.

        The result of all the above has been the forming of what is known as the ‘Digital Divide’, where forms of unequal access are highlighted, and opened up, by the Net. There is also talk of a ‘Net Apartheid’, with reference to the exclusion of most of sub-Saharan Africa from the digital economy. It is thus clear that inequality in the access to computer hardware (not to mention e-space), is a huge problem on the global scale, affecting millions of disadvantaged people.

Within Countries
Previous Page

Introduction/ What is meant by 'access'?     Global Scale - Across Countries

Within Countries     Another Issue - Gender-based Access

 What has been done about the problems?      Conclusion