The democratizing potential of the Internet in Southeast Asia
Parker, Kevin J
Callahan, Mary P.
Bruneau, Thomas C.
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This thesis argues that the Internet is likely to he a strong, positive facilitating factor for the transition to and consolidation of democracy for states in Southeast Asia. U.S. policy makers intent on promoting democracy in Southeast Asia should consider the Internet's potential as a tool for promoting democratization. A review of the existing democratization literature, coupled with quantitative analysis of the societal impact of computer networking technologies, suggests that the level of Internet connectivity is a powerful indicator of democratization. Compared to education and income, Internet connectivity provides greater statistical explanatory power in predicting democracy. The Internet experience in Indonesia and Malaysia, two Southeast Asian states ruled by non%democratic authoritarian regimes, supports this argument. internet expansion in both states has co-varied with increasing levels of political liberalization and this may enhance the prospects for democratic transition. Both states have abandoned strict controls on press freedom and free speech on the internet. A democracy assistance program designed to increase the level of internet connectivity in Southeast Asia may serve the purpose of promoting democracy while also advancing U.S. economic interests. Such a program may he viewed with less suspicion and as more politically neutral than traditional forms of democracy assistance
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