By Caroline Baker
Even in 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, leadership understood that achieving the leading edge required the ability to reach distant lands faster than anyone else.
It wasn’t called “globalization” then. To most of civilization, the world was still “flat”. But, the objective was the same, to spread influence and power across all known lands.
Today, “globalization” is a common buzzword used in all industries. It refers to companies expanding to cover a larger consumer base in different countries. Open any prospectus of a Fortune 500 company and you will find a section dedicated to their efforts to globalize.
In the past, much like the empires of old Europe, distance and slow communication left the counterparts overseas alone, to fend for themselves. Courier, by boat or horse, made communication required weeks to months to correspond. Telegraph reduced it to hours, but only if such services were accessible. Telephones became the standard of contact, allowing people to reach one another within seconds. Even then, only limited amounts of information could be conveyed. With the invention of the fax, hard copy information could be passed between people. But it was the onset of the Internet that we achieve true real-time contact. Not only could colleagues speak at the same time, critical data could be passed instantaneously. Bulletin boards, virtual whiteboards, databases, email, Internet phone, and instant chats.
The idea of globalization expanded into the general populace, as more and more people came online for “fun”. Long distance relationships were becoming more acceptable to allow for work to take people further and further apart.
Internet Romances moved from talk show abnormalities to frequent occurrences. People were interacting, chatting, and becoming friends with others around the world. A resurgence of personal mail, only this time in the electronic form, surfaced. Cultural and experience exchanges and learning were shared through the Internet media. On the Internet, time zones didn’t matter. The Cyber World was truly the “Land that Never Sleeps”. Any hour of any day there could be someone online.
Despite all of this, the goal to reach full globalization is still not realized. There are limitations that prevent us from reaching this goal.
Up until recently, all WebPages were done in English. This made it easy for most of the Western world to understand and read them. But now, more and more countries are coming online and creating pages in their native languages. Western computers have no ability to view many of these character sets, like Japanese. To just look at the page correctly requires special software, like TwinBridge, that only works if the page was initially setup in the required format. And even when viewed correctly, one must understand the language for the data to be truly useful. Many companies are now going to hosting 3 to 4 copies of their websites just so they can display similar information in different languages. Thus, each subsequent change to the information requires someone to change each individual language’s. A cumbersome and time-consuming task. Good translation and transliteration becomes the key to avoid blunders.
Law and the Internet
Many have heard of the arguments pertaining to copyrights and reliability of information. Here’s another angle on the issue: Who’s law do we follow? With its growth, the probability increases for a crime to be committed on the Internet, where the accuser is halfway around the world from the accused. What country then has jurisdiction? What court or legal system will be followed? Furthermore, WHERE will this trial be held?
The Internet is predicated on the idea that you are able to gain access. The WWW assumes that you have the necessary software and hardware to view the pages. Yet, this isn’t true around the world. Many do not have access to the most up-to-date technology. These people will ultimately be left behind and thus true globalization, including everyone around the world, can not occur.
In business, it is the handshake. In relationships, it’s the hug. The Internet can not replace these instances of human contact. Those clich? catch phrases, “I have to see it for myself” “I have to see it in his eyes to believe” “If I’m not there, it didn’t happen”, will still be a part of human nature. At some point, folks will have to get off the Internet and get back into Real Life.
Which do you feel is the driving barrier?
Caroline Baker enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction. She is a contributing editor at Suite101’s The Internet Society and has had her work featured in Futures magazine and MochaMemoirs e-Zine. As well as being a writer, she is a freelance web designer and studying to become a tai chi teacher. You can find more information on her at: Caroline Baker.