FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, October 10, 2005

One in 13 Chinese Now Online

Like many countries around the world, China is embracing the Internet. Estimates are that 103 million Chinese -- one in 13 -- are online. Over 45 million computers have Internet connections, half of which are broadband. The number of computers online has increased by over 25% since last year.

Chinese netizens are going online for the same reasons as other users: for business, information and interaction. Of course, this invariably bleeds over to politics, which has made the Chinese government especially nervous. But even in China's restrictive political environment, the Net is playing a role. The city of Beijing is allowing citizens to go online to express their views and even vote on some issues.

That being said, the communist government is allowing e-democracy to only go so far. New laws are aimed at banning the use of the Internet for assemblies, and to assemble "illegal" civic groups. Organized demonstrations are apparently becoming a problem for the government, with 74,000 major protests organized against everything from pollution to official corruption to land seizures.

The government also keeps a close eye on Internet activities, watching for subversive activity of all types, though IM and SMS messaging are proving difficult to control.
The Chinese people are making it clear that they want freedom of information. How their government responds to their wishes will determine the country's role in the global information economy... and perhaps even the future of the government itself.

Sources: China Daily, Smart Mobs, MIT Technology Review