As international online access grows, students are increasingly participating in a global community. Cultural groups, however, can have different perspectives on how to communicate online. For this reason, it is important that today’s students learn how to address cultural communication expectations when interacting in cyberspace. This paper presents activities and resources instructors can use to familiarize students with the international nature of online discourse.
While Internet use remains somewhat restricted to Western cultures, international online access is increasing with amazing speed. In fact, one recent statistic indicates the number of global Internet users grew from 563 million to 580 million in the last half of 2002 alone (Nielsen NetRatings, 2003).
In industrialized nations, Internet access and use is expanding at an impressive pace. According to one report, nearly 466 Swedes, 685 Brits, and 1,800 Germans open a new online brokerage account every day (Going for brokers, 2000). Additionally, some 60% of German adults, 54% of adults in the United Kingdom, and 43% of adults in France are now online (Measuring worldwide Net usage, 2004). In Japan, over 50% of the adult population are online, and the total number of Japanese Internet users increased by some 13.49 million in 2002 (AsiaBiz Tech, 2003).
The most astounding international growth, however, has been taking place in developing nations. In India, for example, government policies to increase online access have allowed the nation to become a leading location for software programming and information technology production (Kripalani & Engardio, 2003; When India wires up, 2000). Moreover, the number of Internet connections in India is projected to grow by as much as 11-fold in the next 4 years (Pastore, 2004). In China, similar kinds of policies have allowed the number of Internet users to grow from 2.1 million in 1999 to nearly 60 million by the end of 2002, and the number of digital subscriber line (DSL) connections in China is also growing rapidly (Greenspan, 2003; Section IV survey results, 2003; Wired China, 2000).
In other regions, such as Africa, the United Nations and private companies have undertaken initiatives to increase online access across the continent (Kalia, 2001; Tapping in to Africa, 2000). These factors are perhaps the reason for which Africa’s number of dial-up Internet connections has grown by some 20% in the past 2 years (Reuters, 2002). At the same time, Global Crossings Ltd. has completed a project that uses fiber optics to give, “multinational companies the ability to communicate with Latin America as efficiently as with any other region” (Tying Latin America together, 2001, p. 9). This development, combined with the world’s lowest Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) costs, could lead to a rapid growth in Latin America’s Internet usage in the future (11 trends to watch in 2004, 2004). Additionally, the number of individuals going online in Eastern Europe is expected to climb from 17% to 27% by 2006—a trend that could increase Internet-based outsourcing activities that are already expanding in this region (IDC Research, 2003; The new geography of the IT industry, 2003).