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(Dis)connecting the Pearl River Delta: Case study of a borderland telecommunications infrastructure in South China, 1978-2002
Unformatted Document Text:  22 certain type(s) of telecom technology/service or towards other actors in the regional telecom infrastructure. Some of these dismissals are not uncommon: during interviews, some government officials were so panic about hacking that they insisted that government computer networked should be “physically separated” from the Internet; in focus groups of long-term Delta dwellers, less-educated people of older age, such as housewives, tend to be more doubtful as for how much benefits they could receive from telecom technologies; they are also more wary of the negative effects of the Internet, such as increasing apathy in society and possible disasters new technologies may help bring about. Although they did not totally reject the efforts of the city government to transform the city into a “digital city,” many of them are suspicious as for how much the informationalization projects will have an influence on the everyday life of ordinary citizens, and that this might well be nothing but means for political ends for the city administrators. The most unexpected form of dismissal is found in the focus groups of immigrant workers. Among the attendants in Zhuhai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, it is well- known that all sorts of criminal activities – from theft of PIN codes to fraud – are rampant in areas of large immigrant worker populations. For instance, some of them had bought pre-paid phone cards for use in public phone booths. But because the booths are designed with little consideration for privacy, it is easy for others to pry into the PIN codes via telescope or naked eye. “This happened to me twice,” said a migrant working girl from Sichuan, “so I never buy that kind of card again.” Rejections like this are particularly prevalent among the immigrants, because their benefits are the last to be protected in the shaping of the regional telecom infrastructure. Their complaints are not picked up by the mass media. Telecom operators even refuse to help. Hence, giving rise to the most perpetual and internalized mode of disconnectedness that is the hardest to be alleviated in the regional telecommunications infrastructure. The reason for identifying these different types of disconnections is because official publications, be it statistical yearbooks or retrospective articles, only allow for a narrow historical view that is very much focused on achievements, especially those in terms of technical network construction and telecom market expansion. However, why the new communication technologies are necessary for the Pearl River Delta in the first place? I believe the answer is that there are increasing needs for

Authors: Qiu, Jack.
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22
certain type(s) of telecom technology/service or towards other actors in the regional
telecom infrastructure. Some of these dismissals are not uncommon: during
interviews, some government officials were so panic about hacking that they insisted
that government computer networked should be “physically separated” from the
Internet; in focus groups of long-term Delta dwellers, less-educated people of older
age, such as housewives, tend to be more doubtful as for how much benefits they
could receive from telecom technologies; they are also more wary of the negative
effects of the Internet, such as increasing apathy in society and possible disasters
new technologies may help bring about. Although they did not totally reject the
efforts of the city government to transform the city into a “digital city,” many of
them are suspicious as for how much the informationalization projects will have an
influence on the everyday life of ordinary citizens, and that this might well be
nothing but means for political ends for the city administrators.
The most unexpected form of dismissal is found in the focus groups of immigrant
workers. Among the attendants in Zhuhai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, it is well-
known that all sorts of criminal activities – from theft of PIN codes to fraud – are
rampant in areas of large immigrant worker populations. For instance, some of them
had bought pre-paid phone cards for use in public phone booths. But because the
booths are designed with little consideration for privacy, it is easy for others to pry
into the PIN codes via telescope or naked eye. “This happened to me twice,” said a
migrant working girl from Sichuan, “so I never buy that kind of card again.”
Rejections like this are particularly prevalent among the immigrants, because their
benefits are the last to be protected in the shaping of the regional telecom
infrastructure. Their complaints are not picked up by the mass media. Telecom
operators even refuse to help. Hence, giving rise to the most perpetual and
internalized mode of disconnectedness that is the hardest to be alleviated in the
regional telecommunications infrastructure.
The reason for identifying these different types of disconnections is because official
publications, be it statistical yearbooks or retrospective articles, only allow for a
narrow historical view that is very much focused on achievements, especially those
in terms of technical network construction and telecom market expansion. However,
why the new communication technologies are necessary for the Pearl River Delta in
the first place? I believe the answer is that there are increasing needs for


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