Global Digital Divide: Language Gap and Post-Communism in Mongolia

Global Digital Divide: Language Gap and Post-Communism in Mongolia

Undrahbuyan Baasanjav (Temple University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-083-5.ch011
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Abstract

This chapter explores several factors of the global digital divide in the former socialist country of Mongolia. By analyzing manifest media content on the Internet, as well as by interviewing people involved in Internet development, this chapter goes beyond the question of access to the Internet and asks how language factors exacerbate the digital divide in an impoverished country. Initiating non-Western alphabet domain names and setting culturally inclusive non-Western alphabet standards have been important steps in achieving linguistic diversity on the Internet and overcoming the global digital divide in countries like Mongolia. Furthermore, this chapter explores how a post-communist political setting, aid dependency, and international organizations influence Internet development. The analysis of in-depth interviews provides nuanced explanation of the socialist legacy that is traced in institutional routines, people’s attitudes, and social practices.
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The Case Study Of The Global Digital Divide: The Internet In Mongolia

With a nomadic culture, a Buddhist tradition and a communist past, Mongolia has a unique struggle with the digital divide. At the same time, the Mongolian case demonstrates common challenges typical to other developing and former socialist countries. Mongolia is a Central Asian developing country landlocked between Russia and China with a small population of 2.7 million. Like many other developing countries, Mongolia has an underdeveloped economy and weak infrastructure indicated by the GDP per capita of US$1,991 and 12.5% Internet access per 100 persons in 2008 (UN, 2008).

Though access to the Internet has steadily been increasing since the first Internet node MagicNet was established in 1996 as shown in Figure 1, for many Mongolians the Internet is still a distant priority. The Mongolian case clearly shows the challenges of the global digital have-nots. The vastness of the territory, the underdeveloped infrastructure especially in the provinces of Mongolia, and the high price of international connections have hindered the access to the Internet for many Mongolians.

Figure 1.

The growth in the numbers of Internet and mobile users per 100 people in Mongolia from 1996 to 2008

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