The SIG-III Blog

Notes from the ASIS&T special interest group in international information

Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Ajit Pyati, SIG-III Officer, in First Monday

Ajit Pyati

SIG-III’s Ajit Pyati (above) has just published an article titled “Public library revitalization in India: Hopes, challenges, and new visions” in First Monday. Here is the abstract:

With India’s growing economy and status as an emerging world power, a new consciousness is developing in the country about the need to reinvest in public services. The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) is an advisory body constituted by the Prime Minister to provide recommendations for improving India’s knowledge infrastructure. As part of this Commission, a set of recommendations has been developed to improve India’s long neglected library system. This article explores the implications of these recommendations, with a specific focus on India’s public library system and the social development gains that are often associated with public libraries. The potential of India’s public libraries to serve as community information centres (CICs) is highlighted, as well as the challenges that lie ahead in implementing a new vision for public library revitalization. The article serves as an invitation for concerted action, reflection, and dialogue with regard to this important and pressing issue.

The full article may be found here.

Article by Ajit Pyati. Blog post contributed by Aaron Bowen.

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Written by sigiii

July 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm

The Globalization of Search

Baidu

Naver

Yahoo China

Images by rustybrick, Bob Xu, and Colin Zhu,
used under the Creative Commons license.

This past September 16, Financial Times posted an article about the contest between search engines for dominance of Internet search traffic in different parts of the world. Whereas Google is dominant in North America, they have had trouble breaking into markets in other parts of the world. In China, for example, the majority of Internet search traffic goes to Baidu.com. Yahoo holds an advantage over Google in other parts of Asia, and (according to FT) Naver receives 60% of South Korea’s search traffic.

The article discusses how and why different search engines are able to establish dominance in different regions:

Some common themes lie behind these local success stories, internet veterans say: Google has played second fiddle to rivals who invested much earlier, perfected their technology to work with local languages and came up with innovations that Google is now having to copy.

These companies have since been able to consolidate their hold thanks to their well-known local brand names and a strategy that often relies on combining search with a range of other portal-like services to keep users on in-house sites.

Article by Richard Waters, Robin Kwong, and Robin Harding in Financial Times. SIG-III Blog post by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

September 19, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Asia, Globalization, Search

Tagged with

Best practices for digital education: A case study of ICT in India

Smart classroom

Image by Idiolector, used under the Creative Commons license.

Last month Leigh Linden published Complement or Substitute?, a useful study that goes beyond the question of whether information and communication technologies (ICT) can make a positive difference in education and asks instead how they may be best implemented to make such a positive difference. Writing about Linden’s research on the World Bank’s PSD Blog, Ryan Hahn offers the following summary:

Employing a pair of randomized evaluations of computer use in classrooms in Gujarat, India, Linden found that computers improve learning outcomes when they are used as a complement to the normal curriculum, rather than as a replacement for the standard offering. He also found that the weakest students benefitted most, as the computers allowed for further practice of material already covered in the classroom. Finally, Linden also found that the computers were about as cost-effective an intervention as girls scholarship programs, cash incentives for teachers, and textbooks.

Classroom in India

Image by World Bank Photo Collection,
used under the Creative Commons license.

What would be interesting to see now is the extent to which cultural attitudes towards education in Gujarat inform the effective use of these ICT in the classroom. Would the results be different in another city or another country that possesses different attitudes towards education? How so? I would love to see this research project repeated in one or more locations in different parts of the world. I would love to see how the results change or don’t change in different global settings. If you know of any similar experiments, please point to them in the comments — I would love to hear about them and have a dialog about the strengths of different digital education programs in different parts of the world.

Contributed by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

July 17, 2008 at 6:27 pm

A very cool use of Second Life

Image by kedguest, used under the Creative Commons license.

Today I ran across these two articles, one by Tom Peter in the Christian Science Monitor, and the other by Holly Jackson at CNet news. These articles note the use of Second Life as a venue for intercultural exchange, particularly at the virtual campuses different universities have set up in Second Life. (See for example the image of San Jose State’s virtual campus in the screenshot above). Peter says that

Around the world, universities, and even the US Department of State, are turning to online virtual worlds to create cultural exchanges. In these immersive, 3-D environments, users from around the globe can collaborate in ways that were previously impossible.

He also notes a group of university students in the United Arab Emerates who used Second Life to visit a virtual rendition of Darfur, make a pilgrimage to (virtual) Mecca, and interact with a group of Korean students to promote a cross-cultural exchange.

I find this a very worthwhile and exciting use of Second Life (or a second life clone such as IMVU, Gaia, or There). I believe such interaction will offer positive benefits as the world continues to grow interconnected and international projects such as Mainland Brasil (the Brazilian version of Second Life) continue to expand.

Contributed by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

July 10, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Data on social networks in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

This week’s Data chart of the week from Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li’s Groundswell project features use statistics of social networks in different regions. Commenting on this chart from Groundswell, Josh asks

Does Korea have the highest participation because of CyWorld, or because Koreans love to connect?

Why are Germany, and especially France, so low? Is it something about the way French people behave online, or is there an opening for a great French social network (or the French version of an existing one, like Facebook)?

The data from France is something I found particularly interesting. Given that the French blogosphere is active, I would be interested to know why the number of regular social network users in France is comparatively low. Josh finishes his post by asking for reader comments regarding their thoughts on how social network use will play out in the countries listed in the chart. I invite you to do the same below.

Written by sigiii

June 2, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Sustainable electricity in rural India

Rocketboom, one of my favorite vlogs, did an interview with the founders of the Barefoot Foundation a few days ago. This is a great piece about bringing sustainable energy to villages in India. The Barefoot Foundation seems to take a microfinance-style approach, similar to that of the Grameen Foundation, of training a lady from a village to perform a service for the village, and thereby becoming a village leader. (Although I an unclear about the extent to which the “finance” part of microfinance applies in this case, as the founders do not discuss the finance model they use in this project).

Certainly villagers will be able to use this energy for lighting, air conditioning, and other household conveniences. But beyond that, they will also be able to use it to power radios and televisions, Internet access kiosks, and even net cafes. The potential for this project to, at least in part, facilitate information access in rural parts of India is immense, and I will be very interested to observe the development of this project in te coming months and years.


Contributed by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

April 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Asia, Development/ICT

Tagged with

What’s in a name?: Questions of privacy in a Chinese social network

Chinese social networkers – the right to be anonymous?

Besides being accompanied by the above photo, which I find perfectly encapsulates the tension between recognition and anonymity among social networkers, Robert Ness’ post to Danwei.org this morning offers some of the best commentary I’ve heard on the right (or lack thereof) to be anonymous on the Internet in China. At issue is the real name system (实名制), or identity verification system. This is a system that requires someone wishing to join an online community to provide his or her real name and photo in order to join. Some like this system because (as they put it) it guarantees the authenticity of someone’s view points – members of an online community will know who said what. The systems proponents further argue that people will think twice before posting any potentially incendiary social or political commentary, as they will not be anonymous. By contrast, critics argue that this system represents Big Brother in action. Many of these critics further feel that the ability to post anonymously leads to discussion of taboo topics that would not be discussed if discussants could be personally identified.

Ness frames this debate in the context of the Chinese social network Zhanzuo.com — in Ness’s words, “one of several sites contending for the role of ‘China’s Facebook.’” The English version of the podcast interview with some of Zhanzuo’s regular networkers does a great job covering the different perspectives on this openness vs. privacy issue.

I confess I was interested in Zhanzuo for another reason as well. In order to reach out to social networkers, particularly on non-U.S. networks, I created profiles for myself on different networks active in different parts of the world (see my MySpace and Facebook, as well as my Orkut and Bebo). So naturally Zhanzuo was something I wanted to check out. I tried using Google translator to get around the language barrier, and to my surprise it wasn’t a total failure. I did get this far:

But when I created the profile I wasn’t able to type in the Roman alphabet, so I couldn’t give my real name. I threw in few random words in Chinese I copied and pasted from part of the page on the faint hope that I would be able to edit that bit of text into my real name once I was inside. Not surprisingly I was not able to do this – while I found the “edit my personal info” button, I was still unable to get the site to recognize my Romanized name. So my Zhanzuo profile is doomed.

But before the name verification authorities deleted my profile, I did try to add a little blurb about myself and the SIG-III blog, partly on the off chance that someone would see it before my profile disappeared, and partly just to see if I could do it. What happened was interesting. My attempts to post to the “about me” section were blocked, with (in Google translation) a rather Orwellian message:

your current state is: not yet audited by administrators, unable to use this function.

Block of the network to promote the real-name system, in order to pass audit, you must:

1. Upload your photos as a true portrait

2. Complete the true information (including name, department, etc)

Within 24 hours administrators will examine your images and information vetted through you can freely enjoy the fun of the block!

If Facebook, typically considered the standard bearer for authentic profile information in the U.S., ever tried anything like this, Facebook users would leave immediately. This amount of verification would never fly with a U.S. audience, thus marking a very significant difference between American social networkers and a certain percentage of Chinese social networkers. And while I wouldn’t presume to draw conclusions about broader social phenomena such as privacy in general and how attitudes towards privacy change by culture based solely upon an experiment like this, I did think my experience with Zhanzuo offered an interesting if incomplete window into attitudes towards privacy among Chinese netizens.

Posted by Aaron Bowen

Written by sigiii

October 4, 2007 at 8:56 pm