What are its
relationship to capitalism and its implications for social
class and national relations? What is the capacity for the
emerging communication systems to provide the basis for
democratic polity? What can and should be done to promote a
more democratic media and communication system, and a more
communication system has become an arena of oligopolistic
tendencies because of the huge investments required. It is
getting further accentuated with the spread of Internet
information highway and the shift from analog to digital
technology. Technology requires equipment supply capacity,
expert manpower availability, advantageous presence in the
market and a decisive say in the international money market.
All this has put the USA in the driver’s seat.
The USA has
also been able to bring trade in equipment, intellectual
property in technology of information hardware and software,
access to market and related issues within the purview of the
WTO, thereby severely limiting the capacity of national
governments to influence the course of events.This has given
these corporations power to determine the content of
information to be channeled.
already available where information about the success of
genuine people’s movements has been denied to the larger
public. This significantly limits the public domain.
Information control to propagate particular films, newspapers,
journals and magazines can colour research and can create a
more acceptable breed of researchers, authors, journalists and
artists. It is already playing a decisive role in the creation
of a particular global consumerist society. The role of
dissent and variety is in danger.
information system is being so designed that to access
information one has necessarily to go through advertisements.
A particular service provider approached the schools in poor
areas with the offer of free installation of equipment and
supply of teaching material on Internet as also in the form of
packaged programmes provided every student was forced to watch
it. Every ten-minute educational capsule was preceded by two
minutes of advertisement and the schools, now short of funds
because of market orientation of education, were left with no
recognise the counter, post-modernist, argument of the
possibility of the use of Internet for creating a large number
of independent sites and their no-cost circulation but rate
the possibility of their widespread use as limited,
particularly by poorer societies because of very limited
access to high-cost equipment. Fast obsolescene is making the
access to equipment more costly. The essayists, therefore,
emphasise the need for the creation of class-action plans,
national resistance to global monopolies and the creation of
new international institutions to ensure equal ability to
access global information. It is recognised that a monopoly of
or even strong intervention by a bureaucratic state will
worsen the situation and alternatives have to be searched for.
observe that the nationalist bourgeois state is already
itching to intervene and control information in the name of
culture and national security. One can see this happening in
India where security forces are strongly opposed to the spread
of wireless telephony in the North-East. Bandwidth is sought
to be restricted with facilities to jam. Thought police is
already out in the name of culture.
is also sought in the name of curbing cyber crimes. The first
step is therefore to restrict access. Access is also sought to
be restricted by insisting on high revenue from service
providers resulting in high costs to consumers. But within
this are the possibilities of people’s movements to sabotage
the control systems. However, equipment access has to be
ensured. One way out is to create independent public trusts to
safeguard the right to information and to facilitate the
provision of infrastructure at an affordable cost.
of The Tribune are quite familiar with this model, its great
advantages and its limitations. There is, however, no unique
and single way out and people’s power has to find multiple
ways to defend democratic rights. An interesting study quoted
is of the use of information on a corporation available on the
Internet to an employee on his PC to analyse various cost
structures to work out surplus values to strengthen the
bargaining position of the labour as also of the consumers.
creative use of publicly available information. It is also
argued in one of the essays that with the unlimited
possibilities of storing and easily retrieving information and
subjecting it to quick analysis with the help of various
mathematical models, earlier limitations placed on planned
economies have been considerably narrowed and the need for the
determination of economic direction via the market has been to
that extent obviated.The obverse of it is the possibility of
the big brother controlling every aspect of human activity.
The power of
Internet has to aid the expansion of democratic rights and
freedoms and not to put restrictions on them. Internet has
opened the possibilities of the creation of an unlimited
number of civil society associations with global reach. They
can represent various interests effectively across the globe
and also coalesce on specific issues to create mass movements
of intellectuals to ensure the physical presence. This
actually took place at the recent meeting of G-8 at Genoa when
more than 150,000 demonstrators came to demand the writing off
the loans to the developing world.
Fast flow of
information and access to it has created possibilities of
significantly cutting down the unearned leverage generated out
of ignorance of the other. To that extent it removes the most
important limit on the beneficent role of the free market.
This will facilitate removal of "unfreedoms" which
Amartya Sen talks of. Freedom is required not only for the
industrial class but also for all culturally, socially,
physically and intellectually deprived sections.
New information flows will
radically change social relations. They will also demand
redesigning of political structure much beyond the restrictive
national states because its police powers will be rendered
largely ineffective. The process will be helped by
multinational companies themselves in their drive to sell more
and more, cheaper and cheaper hardware. Civil society has to
ensure three things — namely, easy access to hardware, no
restraint on information and creation of educational
capabilities among the deprived to make use of information.
The rest will follow. This will create equal capacity for
equal opportunity for all and not only for the industrial