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The Internet in nine Asian nations

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In recent years, a number of analysts have argued that the Internet demonstrates an inexorable pull towards democratization of public life. The overwhelming majority of analysis conducted to understand the democratic potential of the Internet has taken place in Western Europe and North America, where democratic traditions are firmly established, and there is widespread acceptance of the liberal democratic norms arising from three hundred years of a set of religious and philosophical traditions. To date, research on the democratizing impact of the Internet outside these traditions has been sparse and incidental, rather than comprehensive and sustained. In Asia, however, recent events have threatened the vision of the democratizing power of the Internet, as politically oriented websites have suffered from dwindling economies and governmental pressure, as well as hackers. This paper will survey the state of the Internet and democracy in Asia, drawing from data compiled as part of two recent research projects, the most systematic and sustained efforts yet to take place to examine these questions. The paper will present data from nine nations across Asia, including China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, and others, and identify the critical variables that are most directly affecting the ability of new political participants to effectively deploy the Internet for mobilization. This analysis will demonstrate the ways in which the reality of politics in Asia significantly modifies the findings of researchers examining the political impact of the Internet within the established democratic nations of North America and Western Europe.
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Keywords: Asia; Internet; democracy; digital divide; political culture; regulation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Singapore Internet Research Centre, School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 637718 2: Asian Media Information Centre, Nanyang Technological University, 31 Nanyang Link, Singapore, 637718

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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