What is this book about?
Most specifically, the book deals with technology rules and the empowerment of Third World people who corporations and powerful states excluded from technological decision-making. More generally, it is a critique of globalization. And for the methodologically minded, the book is about ways in which a single case study can be used to learn about other, unexamined cases (a big no-no in political science).
Why did you write this book?
Family was a big part of my motivation. Half of my family is Egyptian, the other half is German. I grew up traveling back and forth and became very aware of the power differences between the two economies. In my dissertation – which forms the basis of this book – I decided to explore this power relationship and examine how it played itself out in the realm of information technology.
Who are you?
I am an assistant professor of global studies at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona. Raised in Southwest Germany on the border of the Black Forest, I obtained my Master’s degree from the University of Freiburg, and my Ph.D. in political science from American University in Washington, DC. Areas that interest me are the relations between the Middle East and Europe or the United States, globalization, and ways of doing political science research.
What time period does the book cover?
The time frame examined in the book extends, roughly, from 1980 to the early 2000s. Why focus on these two decades? Because they were watershed years when telecom networks were digitized, information technologies and communication technologies became fused, and rules for global electronic commerce came into being. What happened back then very much influences how we interact today.
Where is the action taking place?
In the beginning, much of the action unfolds in Washington (seat of the U.S. government), Brussels (primary seat of the European Commission), and at the various ministerial conferences that established the World Trade Organization, because many of the norms electronic commerce were hammered out here. Then, the focus shifts to the political arena of Egypt, where the rules of the game were implemented.
If my primary interest is not Egypt, can I still learn from the book?
Yes, by all means. First, the Egyptian case study constitutes only part of the book. Second, learning what happens in Cairo should give the reader a good sense of dynamics that unfold in other Third World capitals. My goal has been to develop a critique of globalization with broad implications.
What ideals drive your discussion?
The values that inform my study are those of cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism is an intellectual child of liberalism, a paradigm that can be traced back to such great thinkers as Immanuel Kant and John Locke. The American Declaration of Independence, one of the most moving political documents that I have read, embodies the ideas of liberalism, and that is why I quote it in the book.
What method did you use in writing the book?
I worked through the perspective of critical realism, a philosophy of social science that is more prevalent in Europe than in the United States. Within this framework, I crafted a single case study whose conclusions are applicable to many other, unexamined, cases. My data was gathered through a mixture of interviews, participant observation, and archival and online research. Many of the sources I employed were in English, but I also did work in German, French, and Arabic.
Why is this book important?
It destroys the myth that the IT revolution has been an unmitigated benefit for Third World peoples. Hopefully, it will open the eyes of technology policy makers from governments and corporations to the need to include Third World citizens in decision-making processes that affect these people’s lives.
What is the principal recommendation of this book?
We need to develop a process for global governance that includes all of the world’s people, not just the rich or powerful. This recommendation applies not only to global communication networks but to any policy area in which rules are made that constrain all human beings.