RYO TAKAHASHI One aspect of the globalised world today is that the world has plunged into fast-paced, turbulent times where everyone is connected so much so that British sociologist Anthony Giddens has been compelled to write of todays age as one where the local and the global are inextricably intertwined. Globalisation is no longer spearheaded by countries, but rather by individuals, an eclectic amalgamation of people from every unique culture and every walk of life. One of the fruits of globalisation is indeed the ability for individuals to access and contribute to mans collective knowledge. The paradigmatic shift that brought about such strides in individual-level connectivity was, needless to say, the Internet. If the industrial revolution laid the groundwork for the bones of todays world, then the Internet represents the nerves: Our computer terminals act as synapses that connect the individual to the brains of the world. Many academics herald the Internet as a medium that can bring about true participatory democracy. For the first time in history, people can exchange their ideas with equal influence, as increasingly vociferous civil rights groups and activists have learned over the years. With the launch of sites that disclose corporate and government misconduct are now much more open to public scrutiny. The call for accountability by citizens to governments and corporations has never been stronger. Yet, the transfer of power from governments to the hands of individuals - one major characteristic of globalisation - is not occurring without incident. Nevertheless, many governments around the world are still fighting to maintain the vestiges of the old world order. Of course, there are countries that do allow their citizens full rights to exercise their freedom of expression by ensuring the free flow of information exchange. Recently, governments are not the only ones who recognise the Internet as a certain form of public sphere for dialogue on equal footing. Companies have also adopted an Internet- based corporate forum where managers and assembly-line workers can exchange their opinions on innovative ways to increase productivity. By its very nature, the Internet is a powerful democratising tool, and it has given a voice to many who have previously not been heard. However, globalisation as a phenomenon is multifaceted and still requires a certain amount of qualification; the Internet alone does not solve the worlds myriad woes. After all, there are still millions of illiterate people throughout the world. Without primary education, people will continue to lack the power to express themselves. The fetters to a more egalitarian world order, as Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist for the World Bank, has observed in his book Globalisation and its Discontents, is that many international institutions have formulated policies in favour of developed countries at the expense of developing nations still mired in poverty. Such kinds of policies lead to conspicuous macro-inequalities such as the North-South problem. The north-south problem, the stark gap in living standards between the haves and have-nots in the northern and southern hemisphere, underscores the lopsided rules of the world economy. Unfortunately, the double standard followed by developed countries - namely, defending trade protectionism for themselves and imposing trade liberalisation abroad - leads all too often to developing countries becoming little more than markets for developed countries. Without fairer trade terms, it remains despairingly difficult for developing countries to achieve true economic independence. The disparities in income between developed countries and developing countries cannot be amended while international policies remain largely unequal. Although institutions like the IMF and the World Bank have begun to bring poverty reduction to the fore, there is still much room for improvement. Of course, when it comes to international policymaking, it would be wrong for any one party to claim the moral high ground, but any non-partisan would still be able to see that the rules of todays world economy continue to favour a select few countries. Whether globalisation is a force that brings about a more egalitarian world order or a force that exacerbates inequality remains to be seen. Critiquing something as broad in scope, and as obfuscating, as globalisation is a daunting task, but there are two things that can be said with some degree of certainty:  Technological advances increase globalisations potential to act as a force that can greatly improve peoples living standards, as was exemplified earlier by the ability of citizens to exercise their freedom of expression on equal terms over the Internet.  Global governance mandated by international institutions needs a dramatic overhaul so that more people can enjoy the benefits of international communication and world trade. Globalisation has opened the door to a more egalitarian world order; whether we all step through the door is entirely up to us. The Japan Times