Local v. Global - global mega-portals steal business
| Whenever we think about the Internet and the debate over local v. global, thoughts of domination by global portals are now far away. Is this a good thing, a fact of life - or is it something we should re-assess? This was one of the themes at the session on Monday afternoon, Local v. Global. For Canadians, the issue centres on the US mega-portals that attract users. This isn't about the start of some kind of trade war, it's about harnessing the power of the Internet so more of the benefits end up with the local community. "Canadians are aware of this issue", said David Reid of Industry Canada, "and statistics show that 90% of Canadian online shoppers are consciously looking for Canadian websites". |
These Internet portals tend to target urban communities, and in a commercial context, whereas the typical profile of the Canadian lifestyle is that of small communities. "We need a new model to change the dynamics of how the Internet can be used for citizens. We need to give control back to the citizens, in a local context", said Reid. Then there is the problem with free Internet services. There aren't free at all. You're bombarded with marketing and advertisements that conceal the potential of the Internet to sustain e-communities behind a cloud of commercialism. The Internet can offer so much more.
There is growing evidence of a dual culture emerging within e-communities. In a small town just 200km south of Alice Springs, Aboriginal children play with their Barbie dolls and other artefacts of western-style consumerism. Yet within this community there are many who are producing webpages in Aboriginal dialect!
"On large Australian farms", said Ken Young of Community Information Victoria, "farmers out harvesting their crops will telephone the farm manager (very often their spouse) to say that there's going to be an excellent harvest. The manager gets on the web, checks the farm prices on the Internet and clinches the deal. Australia actually exports a lot of grain crops to Egypt". So here we see small enterprises, farmers and SMEs, competing on the global market. It's not just a case of enormous global conglomerates dominating the world market to make ever increasing profits.
"It's a two-way street", said Young. "It's not just up to the government to provide the infrastructure. The local community has to want the services. There also needs to be a hook. For example, second generation Australian children show their grandparents how to visit the website of the villages in Greece from which they emigrated many years ago. The grandparents are captivated, but they can't work the mouse - give them time!"
In summary, the chairman of the panel, Roberto Carneiro of President Gruppo Forum, said that "Exclusion is a global problem, but the solution must be at a local level. We must look towards public-private partnerships. In the long term, we must look towards mass education to improve overall computer literacy". "Nation states of the19th century", he went on, "were responsible for significant developments, based on paradigms of geographical attributes - land, assets, frontiers, and so on. It's time to move on. Governments need to think in terms of managing flows rather than assets."
Adrian Rawlings, Euronet Associates, 22.11.99