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01. An eccentric globe
02. Shall we leave it to the experts?
03.Another world is possible.
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An eccentric globe
By: Shahidul Alam

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She was mildly self conscious when I asked to photograph her, but a smile soon spread over her face. The telephone had connected her to her husband, a worker in Singapore. Salma, a woman in a village near Sonargaon in Bangladesh, had recently learnt to use the village mobile telephone, and it had transformed her life. Had this been where the story ended, it would have been a simple affair with a happy ending. Perhaps for Salma, it wasn't significant that the technology that allowed her access to her husband, was one of many that allowed people in distant lands to tap her call, to add her to a database, to classify her as yet another consumer of products or a source of cheap labour for electronic sweatshops. For many others however, the wealth of new opportunities provided by globalisation, merely represents a wider net for global exploitation.
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Technology is never neutral. The erosion of barriers that globalisation implies, are clearly unidirectional barriers. Money used to be a system that facilitated barter. Now money itself is the commodity. With electronic money, we now have a commodity that is entirely digital, that can be traded with impunity, with zero friction loss. The friction that exists, does so because the power relationships that underpinned the mobility of labour and goods, exists unchanged in the global village. The Internet is hailed as the ultimate democracy but the hype that surrounds new technologies and globalisation, is not too dissimilar to the description of the new culture that Madras Christian Missionaries had described in 1844 "so full of all qualities of loveliness and purity, such new regions of high thought and feeling… that to the dwellers in past days it should seem rather the production of angels than of men".
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The demography of Internet users, and Internet gatekeepers, continues to be based on the traditional hierarchy between nations and communities. The currency has changed however, and knowledge is the new merchandise being traded. With surveillance becoming the new mode of control, unusual alliances are beginning to develop, whereby; the global policing takes on not only the known faces but also their new bedfellows. While the US and its allies spew out rhetoric about their respect for human rights and their utter condemnation of China, in their billion-dollar expansion of their global electronic surveillance system, China is their new partner.
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While the media in the majority world has made significant gains, the transnational media conglomerates make mockery of Article 19. State control over the media has been replaced by corporate control and voices from the south have all but faded to oblivion. On the other hand, even where traditional control of the media has been weakened, the emerging media is increasingly more advertising driven. Ironically, with seven transnational media giants controlling what the world hears and sees, it is in the majority world that the greater media plurality is to be found. Government censorship gives way to a Coca Cola way of life, and there are no laws to question the new models of consumerism.
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As Bangladesh with its new found reserves of oil and gas, discovers new found friends who offer friendly advice, it is worth remembering what globalisation and the free market economy have done for the other nations that have been blessed with such natural resources, namely Indonesia, Chechnya, Nigeria and Angola.
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For the majority world, education offers the most effective route to take advantage of the globalisation juggernaut. And it is here, that the technological opportunities and the networking that accompanies globalisation, can be best utilized. Interestingly, the role models that seem to have worked best are those developed in the south, and it is only when the asymmetrical flow of information, which flows essentially from north to south, is replaced by south-south movement, that we will begin to turn the tide around.
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Globalisation opens up new territories for exploitation. Brain drain no longer requires the physical displacement of individuals. The knowledge chowkidars can no longer be pinned down to physical locations. This is new terrain, and we must develop strategies for negotiating this tricky path, but there is no scope for apathy, for globalisation and the associated technologies will come whether we like them or not. It is upto us in the majority world to take on this new challenge
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