COLUMBUS, Ohio, April 20 (UPI) — An Ohio State University study suggests nations do not need democracy to join the online community.
The study led by Professor Edward Crenshaw and former student Kristopher Robison instead found social factors, such as population growth and especially capitalism, are much more important.
Researchers said their 12-year study focused on social and economic barriers that prevent some countries from crossing the “digital divide” that separates them from Internet-saturated nations such as the United States.
Preliminary study findings released in 2000 found countries needed the freedoms of democracy to cross the digital divide. But China, a pro-capitalist autocracy, has since joined the Internet by virtue of being an economic powerhouse. While that country struggles to restrict citizens’ access to information from the rest of the world, the researchers said China has succeeded in making the Internet part of its economy. That shows even authoritarian countries can expand their use of the Internet for the sake of global commerce, the scientists said.
“The Internet is just too pervasive,” Crenshaw said. “Governments can’t keep the brakes on it.”
Although Crenshaw says the research will continue, he said the results of future studies will be hard to predict.
“The Internet is evolving rapidly,” he said. “I wouldn’t lay good money on what we’ll find next time.”
The study was reported in a recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry.
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