Washington, D.C. — Like many middle-income democracies, Turkey is struggling to balance the economic imperative to expand internet penetration with a set of political and social conditions that are at odds with such access. The Center for American Progress released a report examining the costs and consequences of Turkey’s digital divide. The report explores the reasons for the current disparities, efforts to overcome them, and the prospects for success.
In Turkey, internet access and literacy vary widely: rural citizens, older people, and low-income communities lag behind their younger, urban, and more wealthy counterparts. Internet access brings many economic and civil benefits, including greater opportunity for entrepreneurship, commerce, and employment. But with these opportunities comes greater access to information and expectations for improved government services, something the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, wants to carefully manage.
“The AKP is conflicted; it wants to reap the economic benefits of expanded internet access but worries that loosening its tight control over the information reaching its political base could be politically problematic,” said Max Hoffman, CAP Associate Director for National Security and International Policy. “The AKP has notoriously cracked down on freedom of speech and the press but has also sought to be the party of business. Expanding internet access gets at the heart of this dichotomy.”
The report makes recommendations for improving internet access and literacy for all Turkish citizens. They include:
- Expand e-government services to reduce interaction with the state bureaucracy and entice individuals in less tech-literate areas of the population to find value in internet access and usage.
- Develop creative ways to diminish the cultural norms that prevent women from having better internet access, including the creation of public internet access points where women from conservative families could access the internet without judgement.
- Study how other developing democracies handle the expansion of their own online business opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as how they are handling access to information online while holding true to recent democratic gains.
Click here to read the report.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.481.7141.