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News Media and New Media: The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook, Episode V

Editor: Madanmohan Rao
Publisher: Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003
Review Published: June 2006

 REVIEW 1: Yu Zhang
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Madanmohan Rao

News Media and New Media: The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook, Episode V, edited by Madanmohan Rao, attempts to capture the opportunities and challenges brought by the internet and wireless technologies on news media in the Asia-Pacific region. It compares between the internet-savvy and internet emergent environments among the Asia-Pacific countries. The editor's experiences in various consulting and speaking assignments across Asia and the world helped him understand the internet environment in the Asia-Pacific. This book is valuable in understanding the discourses on internet in the Asia-Pacific. Its useful framework of the "8Cs" -- connectivity, content, community, commerce, capacity, culture, cooperation, and capital -- provide new criteria in assessing new media impacts across Asia and likely the rest of the world.

The book is divided into three parts: overall themes, country profiles and resources. Drawing on the experience of various experts in Asia and Australia, the book provides a useful framework of the 8Cs in analyzing the increasingly important internet market of Asia. It discusses various aspects of internet influences on the Asian continent such as transforming the way journalists research and write stories, creating news archives, and opening online forums and sites for the public to air their unfiltered views, perspectives, and even sexual fantasies. Also discussed are the complex legal and regulatory issues surrounding online content, ranging from jurisdiction and enforceability to international treaties and media convergence.

The volume examines Asia's astonishing internet development and usage. It commends some Asian nations for surpassing the rest of the world in a new generation of Net technology where mobile telephone technology and the Net meet. The high penetration of mobile telephones across Asia is supported by statistics from sources such as the International Telecommunications Union projecting that by 2010 more than half of the world’s mobile phone users will be in the Asia-Pacific region. The constant emergence of new models of cell phones has led to a dynamic R&D sector in Asia, which results in the rapid growth of wireless and Internet technology among Asian nations.

The book classifies online media environments in the Asia-Pacific into six types: embryonic, emerging, negotiating, intermediate, mature, and advanced. These are powered in part by Asia's demographic advantages that help the development and growth of internet. The sheer number of affluent and educated young people, their needs for instant communication, and their willingness to experiment with new products account for much of the growth. Another advantage is the accelerated economic development of several countries, especially China, which has largely bypassed the land-based telecommunications infrastructure. China's internet environment is dynamic as well as seemingly unpredictable and uncertain, according to the book, which also suggests that while Japan and South Korea may drive product development, China is the locomotive that powers Asia's information-based economy. It notes that the number of internet entrepreneurs and Net users in China is growing exponentially with no shortage of qualified IT engineers. But it reminds readers that Beijing has promoted the internet as a business tool but is anxious about its political potential and ramification. India is praised for building a strong internet presence, especially via its position as an IT outsourcing center, although questions remain regarding India's ability to move up the value chain from basic services to products and media networks.

Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are considered the advanced and the matures in the internet and wireless technology and development. Other Asian nations are noted for their advantages as well. For example, Malaysia is Southeast Asia's largest internet base and the Philippines is the SMS capital of the world. Despite the incredible internet growth in Asia, the U.S.-dominated process of globalization has raised concerns about Western cultural influence over Asia among some scholars who contributed to this volume. As the largest and most innovative telecommunication market in the world, Asia is advised to demonstrate leadership as well as to solve Asia's digital divide.

This book is a very informative volume on the internet reality and development in the Asia and Pacific region at the turn of the century. However, as in any book, especially one that is about the internet and wireless technology, much of its contents are quickly out of date due to the rapid development of internet and wireless technology and policies in Asia. In addition, the book could benefit from more consistency in style. In conclusion, this volume is a useful and valuable resource to research and learn about Asia's news media and new media for that period.

Yu Zhang:
Yu Zhang is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the State University of New York at Geneseo.
  <zhang@geneseo.edu>

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