1.8 Globalization and cultural diversity

Information technology can have a positive effect on cultural diversity by increasing awareness and providing a method to share cultural information. However, there can also be a negative effect as English, the main language of the web, and 'Western' culture spreads, to the detriment of others.

Internet censorship

Exercise 14.1: Internet filtering, censorship, and surveillance

Reporters without Borders and the Open Network Initiative (ONI) both maintain up to date information about global Internet surveillance and censorship. In addition, the following articles are useful for stimulating conversation about types of appropriate and inappropriate content, and whether government control of the internet is appropriate. Increasingly search engines, social networks, and other web sites may also be asked to block access to certain content - either locally or globally. The news articles below provide examples of this type of filtering: The digital citizenship page covers some of the potential legal impacts of online behaviour.
Updated: 2015-07-27
Web documentary


Web, by director Michael Kleiman, is a fantastic documentary film for ITGS classes. It takes a refreshing look at Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, with a clear, thoughtful, and detailed examination of the Internet's impact on society. The film focuses on Lidia, a young girl in the remote village of Palestina in the Peruvian Amazon, and the effect of the OLPC on her, her family, and her village.

I found that by focusing on one small village the film provides a much more intimate and detailed account of the effect on technology and will give ITGS students concrete examples that are great for discussion. As well as raising the obvious issues of Equality of Access, the film raises many issues related to Globalization and Cultural Diversity - in one scene Liana's class start their own Wikipedia page about their village, and in another Liana introduces her father to Google for the first time. The effect of introducing the Internet to this remote village - both positive and negative - is something that could be discussed in class for a long time afterwards.

Web is currently only available online. It can be purchased or rented, and there is also a free trailer available: Web (2014).

Updated: 2014-12-06
Internet Statistics

Internet Statistics

Internet World Stats is a good site for interesting and often surprising statistics about Internet access and use across the world. It includes pages on penetration rates, languages, and much more, which provide a useful background for study the digital divide and cultural diversity.

Other sites include statistics about the language of websites and device statistics which also make interesting reading.

It is easy to assume that many or most people have Internet access. However, this is far from the truth. According to a recent report in the Telegraph, more than half the world (57%) still do not have Internet access.

How Much of the World Has Regular Internet Access? is a UN report which reveals some interesting trends - including significant gaps between the percentage of women who have Internet access globally and the percentage of men. In some areas the difference is as high as 50%.

Even in more developed countries, there can still be a digital divide: the Pew Research Center claims 15% of Americans do not have Internet access - with age and lack of finance tending to be a barrier to uptake.

Of course, as with any statistics we should be careful to understand how, when, and by whom the measurements were made, as the Internet can evolve very quickly.

Updated: 2016-08-28
Internet Languages

Languages and the Internet

The cultural diversity that the Internet enables can have both positive and negative social and cultural impacts. The dominance of the English language can lead to equality of access issues for users who only speak other languages. Similarly, some organisations such as UNESCO fear that as English and Western culture in general dominate the Internet, older, less common languages and cultures may be pushed to the sidelines and eventually become extinct. Linguistic diversity and multilingualism on Internet discusses this possibility with clear examples.

A report by the UN, How Much of the World Has Regular Internet Access?, found that only 5% of the world's languages were represented online.

On the other hand, the Internet itself can also being used to protect and preserve languages. The Endangered Languages project is one example- its goal is to record samples of these languages for future generations.

Updated: 2016-08-28


These two videos from Computerphile highlight some of the problems software developers can encounter when trying to adapt their software for users in different parts of the world. The videos cover far more than simple language differences and there are a few surprises in here. This raises clear issues of globalization and cultural diversity, and could lead to an interesting discussion about how (non)-internationalized software affects equality of access.

Updated: 2015-05-25