Masthead CMC Magazine / February 1, 1996
 The Electronic Colonization of the Pacific, by Spennemann, Birckhead, Green, and Atkinson

Enablement or Exploitation?

The virtual community is a reality when one considers that modern technologies can retrieve information quickly and easily without the user being aware of its physical location. There can be little doubt that the Web can act as the great leveler as well as a source of communication and information in a global environment.

The implications of the supply of information and dis-information need not to be spelled out in great detail: it is becoming ever more complex to keep the flow of information controlled. The Web has the potential to develop into a tool with great political leverage (Odgen 1994a). It is no wonder, then, that political pressure groups have used the Web as a medium. It has been argued that Pacific Islands governments need to be aware the political potential of the Web (Ogden 1994b). Unfortunately the costs associated with Web are exorbitant and those who do not have access to the Web are being further isolated politically, economically and culturally from the rest of the world. Therefore, costs are a significant barrier to equality between all of the countries on the information superhighway. In addition, we find traditional social barriers associated with gender are exacerbated with the use of the Web.

Rather than being a leveler, the Web has the potential to create even greater inequalities between the so-called rich and the third-world countries. Since the currency of the twenty-first century is information, the dichotomy between the haves and have-nots will widen. Many third-world countries do not have the resources nor the expertise to surf the information superhighway. Therefore, information about third world countries will most likely be generated by interested third party groups purporting to be the "authorative" or "comprehensive" site on a particular country. This has the potential for such groups to dominate the information about a country's cultural, economic and political status. More importantly, it allows these interested groups to place an interpretation on the information that suits their own needs. This is already evident with the CIA's The World Fact Book and the material provided by US State Department on Human Rights issues (US State Department 1995). It is therefore critical that such information is interpreted in view of its source. It has been understood by the Internet community that there is a variety of information, and that much of it is not very accurate or authoritative. --

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