|Chapter :||Introduction Globalization and the Digital Divide|
with the information they need to participate in today’s global society as consumers, workers, and citizens. It is only through the effective sharing of information on a global level that everything from policies on international trade to the diffusion of MP3 files can take on a truly international nature.
Within this communication framework, the concept of access is central. That is, only people with access to essential information can participate effectively in today’s global marketplace for goods, services, and ideas. Access, in turn, is often dependent on media or on the technologies used to present and exchange ideas. In the case of globalization, the media requisite for access are usually electronic or online in nature. What makes such media critical is the speed and directness with which they allow individuals to locate and exchange information on a global scale. E-mail, for example, allows a person in Boston to exchange information with someone in Beijing almost as quickly and directly as that person could convey the same information to a neighbor across the street.
Globalization and Online Access
As of this writing, almost 2 billion people around the world can connect to the online environment (Adair, 2010; “Internet Usage Statistics: The Internet Big Picture,” 2010). Although this number represents roughly one third of the world’s population, international online access continues to increase with amazing speed. The number of Internet users in Australia, for example, grew by almost 400,000 between June and August 2004 (“Active Internet Users,” 2004), and today Australians spend more time interacting via Web 2.0 media than any other culture (Marshall, 2010). In Japan almost 80% of the population has online access (“Internet Usage in Asia,” 2010), and in South Korea 39 million of the nation’s 48 million citizens can connect to the Internet. In addition, broadband access in South Korea has continued to grow rapidly—by almost 1 million individuals between 2008 and 2009 alone