Technology in Developing Economies

The Internet is a democratic entity. Organizations throughout the world exist to regulate its use and its growth, but it falls under the jurisdiction of no central authority. The tool initially created to bring North American academic and governmental research to new levels of collaborative productivity is now enabling free speech and the exchange of ideas worldwide. Nowhere is this change more apparent and influential than in developing countries, especially ones with heavy restrictions on individual expression.

Free Speech in Vietnam

An Internet Cafe

Vietnam, ravaged by war and among the poorest nations in the world just three decades ago, now enjoys a high literacy rate and a thriving young population, largely thanks to the fast diffusion of Internet-related technology through its population. The Vietnamese government's degree of press freedom has been ranked at 162nd in the world — only seven nations are more restrictive. But among Vietnam's 17 million Internet users are 3 million bloggers, who have taken advantage of the speed, facility, and anonymity of the Internet to express themselves in previously impossible ways. Problems are still widespread: network infrastructure is sorely lacking and multimedia and software piracy is a huge problem. Government censorship has adapted somewhat to the Information Age, combating the new generation of "radicals" with morally questionable practices like monitoring email exchanges. But the changes wrought by the Internet, most agree, have been predominantly positive.

by Joe Cackler, Emily Gu, and Mike Rodgers
for CS 201: Computers, Ethics, and Social Responsibility
at Stanford University
on March 17, 2008