In This Review

Launching Into Cyberspace: Internet Development and Politics in Five World Regions
Launching Into Cyberspace: Internet Development and Politics in Five World Regions
By Marcus Franda
Lynne Rienner, 2002, 297 pp.

A useful but sobering survey of the Internet's reception outside the West. Across the developing world, the information revolution is still an elite affair that governments face with deep ambivalence. Case studies on the Middle East, South Asia, and China show how politicians, attracted by the economic benefits of the information age but worried about losing power, attempt to control the Internet. In India, for example, rural interests, labor groups, and government bureaucracies see the Internet as a threat and are trying to slow the spread of information technologies. Franda finds a long list of ways in which governments have sought to assert control over communication, including restrictive laws, license requirements, encryption bans, and the closing of cyber-cafes. In his eyes, the Internet has indeed facilitated the creation of new networks of nongovernmental activists and regional political linkages. But he also points out that evidence is scant that the Internet promotes more open and democratic societies. This book would be even better served, however, by a sense of the underlying logic to these political struggles -- and what they imply for the wider international system.