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Being well connected is classy : internet geography in Vietnam Surborg, Björn

Abstract

Since the release of the internet from its institutional and military foundation for public and commercial use, it has been advertised as a ubiquitous piece of infrastructure that is truly global and will provide opportunities for all people anywhere in the world. There is, however, evidence to the contrary that suggests that the internet and related information and communication technologies (ICTs) create highly uneven geographies and segregated spaces of inclusion and exclusion. Moreover, the internet is often considered as a means for enhancing democracy and civil society through easier and faster infonnation flows. Telecommunication and internet development have also become a main focus of Vietnamese public policy throughout the 1990s and have become an important piece in the reform process doi moi, which was officially introduced in 1986. Contrary to the idea that the internet will automatically enhance democracy and pluralism, the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has managed to implement measures of flexible control over the internet that allow powerful elements in the state bureaucracy to restrict internet use to maintain the party's monopoly on political power. At the same time relatively few people have access to the internet in Vietnam and it serves primarily a newly emerging urban bourgeoisie, while there are few restrictions on commercial use of the internet. In addition, the internet serves as a means to integrate Vietnam into the global economy and makes the resource hinterland more accessible to the global commodity trade. A review of policy documents, secondary literature and a systematic search of Vietnamese news sources has been conducted for this thesis. The material has been critically analysed in the context of Michel Foucault's theories on power and Jiirgen Habermas's theory of communicative action. The economic relations have been analysed in the context of dependency and world-systems theories.

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