Politicians, economists and the media describe globalization as the new economy of the 21st century. Globalization, however, is neither a new concept nor an accurate descriptor of the internet-driven transformational change sweeping the international economic landscape.
Globalization is a throwback to an age before electronic connectivity and the free movement of products and capital. It has been a feature of mankind’s outreach since time immemorial, although it has evolved over the centuries to reflect the priorities and ambitions of different generations.
Every nation in history has at some point engaged in global outreach for geopolitical, economic, military and trade benefits. Consider these examples: The voyages of Odysseus were recorded by Homer in The Odyssey. The Babylonian Empire stretched over western Asia from 1894 BC to 539 BC. In the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great forged an empire that included parts of Europe, Africa and the Asian continent as far as India. The Roman Empire lasted from 27 BC until 476 AD and blended unity and diversity across Sicily, Spain, Macedonia, Greece, Egypt, North Africa, Syria, parts of Asia Minor, Gaul, and Britain. The Byzantine Empire lasted from 395 AD to 1453 AD and spanned the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. The British Empire lasted four centuries, from the 16th century to the 20th century and included a large collection of countries around the world.
“The sun never sets on the British empire,” Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared in the British House of Commons. This was no hyperbole; there was sunshine on some part of the British Empire during every 24-hour cycle. Starting with the dawn in the far-east, China, India, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe until the sunset in North America.
I use the word “internetization” to describe the modern era of globalization and its economic outreach by the internet. Internetization describes the pervasive and far-reaching influence of the World Wide Web on all aspects of modern human endeavour.
Internetization is driven by the information and communications revolution in a world with a tremendous capacity for virtual connectivity. It has precipitated the global communications network that connects billions of people to information, data, machines and each other.
Hardly a day goes by when our individual and collective lives are not touched by some aspect of the information technology and communications revolution. The electronic prefix that is appearing before an increasing number of our daily activities such as e-commerce, e-mail, e-learning, e-entertainment, e-banking, e-business and e-government is a tangible expression of the pervasive influence of the internet.
Internetization is multifaceted and multidimensional. The digitalization of information has empowered the information superhighway. It has transformed the industrial age into the information age. The railway has morphed into broadband and the bricks have changed into clicks.
Internetization has extended social contact, facilitated economic liaisons, transmitted services and ideas and truly made the world a global village. Internetization has enabled people, businesses, institutions, governments, non-governmental organizations and cultures to interact on multiple levels through the revolutionary advancements in technology. It has facilitated their global influence and outreach.
Electronic interconnectedness is the virtual glue that holds the contemporary global economy together. The new economy is built on a culture of innovation and an emphasis on creativity. Indeed, the signature mark of the new global economy is new ideas, new technologies and new initiatives.
The new global economy of the 21st century has transformed the economic, social, educational and political landscape in a profound and indelible manner. The new economy has become a catalyst for geopolitical symbiosis and economic integration.
The new economy is composed of a trilogy of interactive forces that include internetization, trade liberalization and the information technology and communications revolution. Internetization has melted national borders. Free trade has enhanced economic integration. The information and communications revolution has made geography and time irrelevant.
Dr. Constantine Passaris is a Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick, an Onassis Foundation Fellow (Greece) and a Research Affiliate of the Prentice Institute for Global Population & Economy at the University of Lethbridge.