The information have-less: Inequality, mobility, and translocal networks in Chinese cities

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Studies in Comparative International Development, 2005, 40 (2), pp. 9 - 34
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The "information have-less" is a social, economic, and political category for millions of rural-to-urban migrants and laid-off workers who populate the vast gray zone of China's digital divide. Disengaged from institutions of agricultural and industrial production, the information have-less make use of such inexpensive ICT services as Internet cafés, prepaid phone cards, and Little Smart mobile phones. These low-end digital technologies are critical to enhancing labor mobility (both physical and social) and to the formation of "translocal networks." In this paper, we conduct a preliminary assessment of ICT usage in key city-regions in China and consider the consequences of translocal network formations for evolving information inequality in China. These networks raise key theoretical issues related to regionalism, mobility, and state-firm relationships that impinge on low-end service provision, and stratified patterns of information access and utilization within the have-less populations. We view translocal networks an important socio-economic asset of the information have-less and an arena for the articulation of labor mobility in China's industrialization process and latest wave of urbanization.
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