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Internet Penetration lays the groundwork for digital politics in Southeast Asia

Internet penetration and mobile phone use is rising in Southeast Asia, opening up new realms of communication, sharing, expression, and in particular, politics.

Professor Ubonrat Siriyubanasak writes,

“The New Millennium has brought Southeast Asian society a step closer to a digital revolution triggered by the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Internet penetration is growing fast across the region- in Thailand, penetration jumped from 20.5% (13.4 million users) in 2007 to 25% (16.1 million users) in 2008 (NECTEC 2008, 2009).”

Poomjit Sirawongprasert notes,

“ASEAN member countries have invested seriously to improve their telecommunication sectors and public infrastructure...after a decade of e-ASEAN development there are signs that the regional digital divide is indeed narrowing. In general, Southeast Asian today has a fairly high level of digital mobility with partial accessibility to the internet.

By the end of 2007, there were 23 million cellular subscribers with a penetration rate of 85.1 per 100 inhabitants [in Malaysia]. In a single decade the internet subscription rate has quadrupled, jumping from 3.7 million in 2000 to 16.9 million in 2010. By 2007, Thailand mobile phone penetration rate had increased to 78.86 per 100 inhabitants - the highest in the region. In 2007, the Philippines had 58.88 per 100 inhabitants for mobile phones subscribers and 4.48 per 100 inhabitants of fixed telephone lines.”

Implications

Dr. Pun-Arj Chairatana, writing about the next decade of digital politics in Southeast Asia, says

Over the past decade, [information and communication technology (ICT)] has greatly potentiated the power of information to shape the regional socio-political terrain. Over the next decade, we can anticipate these still rudimentary tools to evolve towards a much higher level of sophistication. Waves of ICT applications in politics have empowered groups of political neophytes, extending the power of people at the bottom of the pyramid to shape and transform the conventional Southeast Asian political game into a stage of ‘virtual democracy.’

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Sources:

Noviscape, Sept 2010, page 3, 6, 10: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/Noviscape_Sept2010.pdf#page=3

NECTEC (2008) Internet User Profile of Thailand 2008, Bangkok.

NECTEC (2009) Internet User Profile of Thailand 2009, Bangkok.

Growth Rate of Mobile Phone Usage in Malaysia, Koh Yun
Sing and Ow Siew Hock, http://eprints.um.edu.my/790/1/115-
118_%287-29%29.pdf
‘.my’ Malaysia, Musa Abu Hassan and Siti Zobidah Omar,

Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2009–2010, http://www.digitalreview.
org/uploads/files/pdf/2009-2010/chap-29_malaysia.pdf

Malaysia Internet Usage Stats and Marketing Report, as of
June 2009, http://www.internetworldstats.com/asia/my.htm

Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2009–2010 ‘.th’ Thailand, http://
www.digital-review.org/uploads/files/pdf/2009-2010/chap-
40_thailand.pdf

Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2009–2010 ‘.ph’ Philippines,
http://www.digital-review.org/uploads/files/pdf/2009-2010/
chap-36_philippines.pdf