Slides from my talk at the London Conference on Cyberspace are now available below. The session, on "cyberspace and international development," also included talks from Helen Clark (UNDP), Barbara Stocking (Oxfam), Christele Delbe (Vodafone), and Sarah Jordan (Oxfam) and was moderated by Michael Anderson (DFID).
The talk began by arguing that it is important to not forget the revolutionary and empowering promises and potentials of the Internet for the developing world. People use the Internet to not just non-proximately connect with friends and family, but learn, share information, check market prices, trade, and bypass exploitative economic relationships.
But it is equally important to remember – first - that despite a rapid growth in internet access for much of the world, most people on our planet are still entirely disconnected. And – second - even amongst those two billion that are now online, a significant number are still left out of global networks, debates and conversations.
This may seem like an odd point to make at a conference with the word "cyberspace" in its title, but there just isn't any sort of universally accessible cyberspace that Internet users are transported into. The Internet is not a space, but rather a network that enables selective connections between people and information. It is a network that is characterized by highly uneven geographies and in many ways has simply reinforced global patterns of visibility, representation and voice that we’re used to in the offline world.
The issue isn’t just that some people in the developing world are disconnected, but also that many of the benefits of the Internet don’t automatically arrive into the developing world once Internet connections do. In other words, while the internet is clearly a pre-requisite for a lot of economic development and participation in the 21st century knowledge economy, it is by no means a determinant.
As always, I'm happy to hear any questions and thoughts on the presentation.