Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Globalization and the Internet: Comparing the Middle Eastern and Malaysian Experiences

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Globalization and the Internet: Comparing the Middle Eastern and Malaysian Experiences

Article excerpt

Globalization and modernity are intertwined, so that efforts to modernize forms of education, commerce, and government are all linked to the new modes of globalized communication and their mastery. This also implies adopting international standards of openness with regard to communication, commerce, government, and science. A comparison of Internet development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with world standards reveals a considerable lag in MENA. It is useful at the same time to compare Internet development in MENA with Malaysia, a Muslim country with a highly developed strategy and advanced implementation of an Internet-based "multimedia-super corridor. "

Globalization and modernity today are clearly linked. Efforts to modernize forms of education, commerce, and government are all linked to the new modes of globalized communication and their mastery. At the same time, globalization implies adopting international standards, especially international standards of openness with regard to communication, commerce, and government, as well as engineering and science.1

Moreover, it is important to recognize that globalization from a business and commercial point of view, is powered by three inexorable trends: globalization of communication, globalization of labor and commodity markets, and the networking of computers (within firms, between firms, nationally, and internationally).2 Although the communications revolution is centered on the telecommunications system (the largest machine in the world, as the American sociologist Alex Inkeles once put it), we should not forget the great impact that the advent of the widebody aircraft (the Boeing 747) has had on the rapid movement of human and material cargoes around the world. Any cargo in the world is 24 to 30 hours away from any other destination in the world, a span of time many orders of magnitude less than what it used to take to transport cargoes across the United States by train or truck. Hence, all markets- labor and commodity- can be seen as "local." A manufacturer can as easily get his raw materials around the world as within the US, and likewise, labor pools of fabricators are also within 24 hours of a plane flight. Financial markets similarly are part of this new global equation.

Nevertheless, the advent of fax, E-mail, and other forms of electronic communication have captured the imagination because such communication can now be accomplished within seconds anywhere around the world for a tiny fraction of a worker's daily wages. Such possibilities were hardly imaginable just a few decades ago.

With the networking of computers around the world, via the World Wide Web (Web), virtually all commercial transactions can be done electronically. Even apart from the Web, it should be noted that retailers and wholesalers alike can send and receive orders automatically and electronically virtually around the world with the use of either fax or computers. Transactions that in the past would have taken several days to execute- the time to write up an order physically, post it in the mail, and send it to an offsite location - can now be completed within seconds or minutes. All of this is taken for granted now in the United States and the Western world, but it is not yet a reality in most Muslim or other underdeveloped countries. Moreover, with the move to locate more and more of these transactions on the Web, the obvious implication is that businesses around the world must either enter the Web/Internet world, or be bypassed economically. Thus the global revolution brought about by the new modes of communication has major and unavoidable consequences for all nations around the world. The latest phase of globalization represents a qualitatively different state of affairs than what was addressed by earlier analysts of the "world system."3 Roland Robertson's description of the present phase as one of transforming the whole world into "a single place" seems particularly apt. …

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