THE SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL IMPACTS
OF THE INTERNET IN MOROCCO

April, 1996


Done by :  Afif MECHBAL               Assisted by :  Mrs. Amina ALAOUI ISMAILI  

           Abderrahmane MOUNIR                       Mr. Douglas A. DAVIS                     

                                                                      

OUTLINE

Introduction

The most important event of this century is the increase of information and mental activity regarding the industrial production. We are starting a third wave economy. In a first wave economy, the land and farm labor was the main factor of production. In a second wave economy, the industrial production took over, while the land and farm production remained and took profit from the industrialization technological breakthrough.In the new third wave economy, the central resource is the set of data, information, images, symbols, culture, ideology and values or in a single word actionable knowledge. This revolution created a new world, parallel to the real one and inhabited by knowledge, including incorrect ideas, where people can put knowledge, alter it, or take knowledge out: the cyberspace. The portals to this world are any kind of information carriers such as TV sets, telephones, computers, and ultimately the Internet. Each economic wave gives new opportunities for countries to take off and a new inspiration to enhance the production of the previous generation fields. On the cultural side, the Internet by its nature - an interactive bi-directional information flow - will allow each society to know other cultures and to make its own culture known. So, it represents a chance - maybe the last one - for Morocco to improve its culture and give it the rank it deserves among other cultures. The coexistence between this variety of cultures and its availability will probably create a new criterion for social classification. The new definition of human relations through the cyberspace will conceive for each individual a virtual society at the same time with its real one. Morocco has finally entered cyberspace by making available the last portal: Internet. And it may seem logical then that our integration into the third age world would be automatic. But though technically Morocco is now a member of the earth's electronic community, its integration will not be effective until we consider seriously all the implications of connection.In the following pages, we will try to examine these aspects and particularly the social, cultural and economic ones. But first we will make some notes about the information age and our society. We will see then what is the Internet, what makes it that revolutionary and at last how we can make profit of it and give our economy and culture a last takeoff chance. Throughout this study, we will give some opinions based on a query we have done in this framework. The query text is available at the end.

The information age and our society, first notes

Moroccan society made its first steps into the information revolution many years ago. Most Moroccans have TV sets and know how to use a phone. However, only 31.9% of families have phone lines and the communication cost is still high so that many of them use the phone only for the strict necessarity. Therefore, we have not yet develop on-line communication habits or reflexes. Concerning television, we have a private channel which is not affordable by most middle and low class citizens. On the other hand, the programs of the public one does not satisfy new demands for knowledge and novelty in science, culture and entertainment. So, people purchase more and more satellite dishes to watch foreign TV. This new element in the Moroccan audio-visual space may introduce questions about its misdeeds and the changes it could operate on the society.The first drawback is the danger that this uncontrolled diffusion could bend and even erase the Moroccan identity. However, we may note that, for example, the citizens of northern Morocco after years of watching Spanish TV- have purchased satellite dishes once the Arabic channels became available, suggesting they are still concerned with and attached to Arabic identity and culture. Another danger is that the citizen become a negative consumer of the informational material. Indeed, in a very illiterate society - 51% - that suffers lack of artistic activities, TV becomes the world center and the citizen remains a passive viewer and loses his abilities to criticize and take positions toward the one-way information flow received. At last, we may lose the local image inside all the images received and thus dissociate the viewer from the real environment. Nevertheless, and paradoxically it may increase the need of local channels treating local problems and having more chances to succeed. Apart from these drawbacks, satellite reception will make us know other cultures and understand them better. It will contribute to make of us "universal" citizens who will easily integrate the third age world. On the other hand, the Moroccan attitude proves that to have information money doesn't matter since prices are affordable. Satellite reception is somewhat similar to the Internet, specially in being an uncontrolled massive information flow. But on the contrary, Internet is an interactive two-way communication. However the conclusions drawn above can be applied to the Internet case. But first, let us see what it is.

What's the Internet?

The Internet is the most famous computer network that's ever been built. It's a network of networks : it counts millions of computers connected in a web and talking to one other through a common communication protocol which is Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).The concept of Internet appears in 1969 in the United States of America. The Pentagon wanted to get computers communicating around the world without risk of wars and confrontation between the east and the west. In that way, a destruction of a site can not damage or harm the communication between two other sites. To get this transmission secure, the messages are cut into independent packets of information capable to transit by any available way.As consequence, the USA equipped gradually itself with a fast and reliable data transmission network. American universities found this conception very interesting to get researchers communicating their research. The National Science Foundation (NSF) planned to build a network which is going to cover all the American territory and connect all the universities : It was the born of NFSnet, a fast network, heterogeneous and free of charge for universities.Internet was mostly limited to the US government and American universities until 1993 when the American vice-president Al GORE announced the beginning of the generalization of the Internet. In 1994, the American president Bill CLINTON ordered to take away the administration of the net from the NSF. It was the first explosion of Internet.

Description of the network

Presently, the Internet is an interconnection of thousands different networks. These networks are heterogeneous but they use the same protocol (TCP/IP). The main task of the network is to transport data and not to perform computation with them. Machines connected to the Internet are identified by their IP address. These machines can also be known by a name which is given by a name server. This name server contains a corresponding table between names and addresses. We can say that there are no physical boundaries in the Internet. It works in the cyberspace.There are four major services offered by the Internet:

Some cyber behaviors

As described the internet is a great medium for gathering and spreading information. Nevertheless, an estimated 80% of all users are looking for social interaction rather than information. Thus besides its technical facets, the Internet has become a new kind of social space where naturally, new behaviors dawn. Through E-mail and newsgroups "Internet brings together people with mutual interest who for reasons ranging from geography to social and income disparity would otherwise never had met" says C. YBARRA, an anthropologist Ph.D. candidate at Stanford university. Furthermore, as experienced many people have found they can confess to each other things they never told to anyone. These virtual friendships can lead to strong lifelong relationships and even marriage. In this quest for companionship and communality, most net users introduce themselves as the person they wish they could be. The author of Love over the wires, P. Borsook calls this "selective lying by omission". In several cases, net users radically change their personality and take an invented one. That might be interesting in the way of experiencing and understanding personalities and life-styles that we could never try in real life. On the other hand it becomes dangerous in the case of a cyberholic that really likes his brand new personality and takes out his mask only for having lunch. In general, cyberholics are persons addicted to cyberspace, who spend most their time surfing the net, chatting, posting at newsgroups and once tired, playing computer games. The most famous cyberholics are geeks who form their own society of "gamers, ravers ,science fiction fans, punks, perverts, programmers, nerds, subgenie and trekkies". They are a literate, hyperinformed underground and rather open-minded with regards to queer life-styles.

Advantages of the Internet

Since it was created, Internet has become a fast and reliable data transmission network. The World Wide Web, which is one of the main services offered by Internet, is a real information system.. What's very important is that there are more than 4 million sites connected through the world and you can imagine the abundance and diversity of information in these machines. Since you are connected to the net, you can consider that all this information is put at your disposal. You can either read your favorite magazine or read the latest news about your favorite star in the cinema. With Internet, information is everywhere. Moreover, Moroccan students, the future decision-makers of the country, need to have the best formation during their studies. Morocco is still a developing country. So, we must take advantage from developed countries teachers. Nevertheless, eminent professors are usually busy and it's very difficult to call them. With the Internet, it's possible to attend their classes by distant-teaching wherever they are. If we look at the history of the Internet, the second step of its development was its migration to universities. The researchers find it very useful to exchange their research results. Nowadays and after the generalization of the Internet, this network is still the efficient way to communicate information in order to develop scientific research. Moroccan researchers might take advantage from this possibility to deal with their colleagues inside and outside the country, exchange points of view, participate to common projects and be up-to-date with the latest research results. The Internet is the only way to be at the same level as developed countries at least informationwise. And it would maybe limit the brain exude.Another interesting application for us might be publication. Indeed, the major problem of publication in Morocco is the high cost of printing and distributing and the high risk of financial failure specially for specialized ones. The Internet make it possible to create a magazine (a simple web page ) with few means and having a high presentation quality equal to great magazine one. Besides, with the newsgroups everyone can participate to "international" discussions where he will learn from others and propose his points of view, make known and defend his culture, and thus enrich the universal culture. Also, we can (should ) animate thematic discussions concerning our local problems. Such debates between persons sharing the same interests can only be serious and thus beneficial for everyone. The points named above are not exhaustive and we can find a great number of applications limited only by our imagination. And one can hardly deny how much these applications would be positive for our culture and would enhance our intellectual level. More communication means more information exchange between people, more creative ideas and more added value to our culture. Furthermore, as K. HASSAN said "... greater communication between people always leads to a probability of greater economic interaction...". Indeed, through communication we discover new ideas and new needs of the market that can be exploited. Besides, with more than 45 millions of subscribers, the Internet constitute an important potential market that we should grab. What makes it more interesting is the quasi-charge-free advertisement possibilities (Arabia server proposes advertisement possibilities for $100/page/year) and the reduction of distribution charges. So, companies can take a big benefits from using the Internet. For example, their competitivity in the market can really be increased by building virtual shops and profiting from the low cost production in our country. The Internet can be used as medium to sell and buy several kinds of products. A virtual shop in an interactive area where you do your shopping. You don't need any longer to go to shops and check for new arrivals to choose what you need. From any machine connected to the net you can buy or order what you see just by filling an order form which contains your name, address and credit card number. This initiative can be very interesting for Moroccan handicraft tradesmen. They can sell their products which are relatively cheap to foreign countries and improve their trade.In general, any kind of production that doesn't need big means as for services or software production -or that is specific to Morocco can be a successful business for us on the Internet. Here is another application. The Moroccan economy counts heavily on its tourist activity. Morocco is in competition with other countries in this fields, specially by Mediterranean countries. Advertising can be a solution to improve tourism in Morocco, but it costs too much and it is not sufficient. It is difficult and expensive to make an advertisement and to spread it through the world. With the Internet, this task seems to be easy and free of charges. Since the infrastructure exists, we can just develop special web pages showing beautiful landscapes and the Moroccan hospitality and put them into a server. In that way, we can make money with a minimum of investment. However, we should be conscious of the Internet specificities and not do advertisement as we used to for traditional mass-media. In fact, the interaction in Internet makes it possible to the user to control and choose what he is watching :by one click of the mouse, and the ad message is gone. Thus, it implies new marketing techniques for this new medium. In the US, as J. CASTRO mentions it "...advertisers are developing interactive advertising that delivers the message in successive layers as part of a dialogue with the consumer. Once the individual shows interest in the initial pitch, the interactive advertiser moves to the next stage, which delivers a message designed specifically for that customer."

The other side of the coin

Unfortunately, as for most of the inventions the Internet may also be used for bad purposes, and on the other hand we do not have direct means to verify the truthfulness of the available information. If we take the example of virtual shops, each person can make his own virtual shop - which has never existed - and sell products. It's a very easy way to collect great number of credit card numbers. This is an example of a bad use of the Internet. There are also terrorism and money laundering networks developed in it. The telephone network is not safe so the Internet is used as reliable and secure support of communication since messages can be encrypted. It can not be controlled by government unless the correspondence confidentiality will be infringed.The Internet can also have a bad influence on youth and culture. there are a lot of webservers and newsgroups dealing with sexuality, pornography and violence. " How can we prevent our children from connecting to these kind of sites? " is now a frequent question in the US that sustains debates and fears among the citizens.

A survey of attitudes about the Internet

To identify more precisely the benefits and the problems that can occur the coming of Internet to Morocco, a survey was done and distributed to two samples : a sample of Internet users and another of non Internet users.The survey (only questions 10,11 and 13 )was put into Moroccan web pages so that Moroccan netsurfers could answer it. Other questions don't need to be asked for this sample because all Internet users are familiar with the Internet and they all use computers.

Some statistics about the whole sample:

Sex:

Male     50         68.49%   

Female   23         31.51%   

Total    73         100%     




Diploma:

Baccalaureate   54       73.98%    

Bachelor        11       16.45%    

Master          6        8.22%     

Ph.D.           1        1.35%     




Location:

EHTP                    15     20.55%    

ESG                     14     19.18%    

INSEA                   9      12.33%    

AUI                     15     20.55%    

Europe                  8      10.96%    

North America           7      9.59%     

Others                  2      2.74%     

Faculty of literature   3      4.11%     




EHTP: Ecole Hassania des Travaux Publics (Engineering school)
ESG: Ecole Supérieure de Gestion (Business school)
AUI : Akhawain University of Ifrane
INSEA : Institut National de Statistiques et économie appliqué.

Advantages and problems resulting from the using of the Internet (questions 10 and 11)

Concerning the sample of non Internet users, the ranking of the advantages and the problems that can occur the Internet to Morocco was as follows:

Advantages

  1. Rapid access to information.
  2. To develop scientific research.
  3. To increase companies competitivity.
  4. To allow distance learning.
  5. To discuss and exchange points of view.
  6. To make Moroccan culture better known and to defend it.
  7. To have more democracy.
  8. To improve Moroccan tourism.
Problems
  1. People don't have enough knowledge to use the Internet.
  2. To use it for bad causes.
  3. The truthfulness of the information.
  4. An overabundance of information: how to choose?
  5. Bad influence on youth and culture.

Concerning the sample of Internet users, the ranking of the advantages and the problems that can occur the Internet to Morocco was as following:

Advantages

  1. Rapid access to information.
  2. To develop scientific research.
  3. To allow distance learning.
  4. To discuss and exchange points of view.
  5. To make Moroccan culture better known and to defend it.
  6. To increase companies competitivity.
  7. To have more democracy.
  8. To improve Moroccan tourism.
Problems
  1. To use it for bad causes.
  2. An overabundance of information: how to choose?
  3. People don't have enough knowledge to use the Internet.
  4. Bad influence on youth and culture.
  5. The truthfulness of the information.
There is considerable agreement between the ranking given by users and non users of the Internet concerning the advantages of the Internet.And concerning the problems, Non users of the net found that people don't have enough knowledge to use the net is the main problem. This is can be justified by the fact that they still don't know the level of difficulty of net use. Their lack of experience made them rank the problem of overabundance of the information with the lowest rankings, while the Internet users who are well experimented gave this problem a high rank. This last sample don't worry about the truthfulness of the information found in the Internet.

Who's going to use the Internet in Morocco?

The profile of a user of the Internet must respond to some basic conditions. He should first master the English language and should be familiar with computers. He should also have an account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). So, considering these conditions this question seems elemental.It is important to try to answer it because most of the information in the Internet is written; and, as we know, the illiteracy rate in Morocco is very high. In addition this information is mostly written in English (80%). To take a maximum of profits from Internet, the users should imperatively learn English. Moreover, people in Morocco are still not familiar with computers. And nowadays, both the Internet access cost and computer prices are still high.

Necessity of a policy

The necessity of an urgent policy seems then obvious. The problem of illiteracy is wider than Internet use and should be resolved anyway. However the literate individuals represents about 14 millions that could not be neglected. Therefore, democratization of computers and Internet has as well great priority. We can begin by making the Internet available in schools and public libraries for free. People should have the opportunity to discover the Internet to judge its utility. They can be encouraged to invest in a subscription with an ISP. If the number of subscribers increases, the connection fees should go down. Phone charges should be reduced. And concerning high computer prices, the government should reduce custom fees and even make computer purchase for personal use exempt of taxes. Moroccan companies can also be encouraged to assemble computers in Morocco. A second step would be resolving the divide between haves and have-nots or in other words poors and others by helping them purchase secondhand material for example. Another perspective would create a new criterion for social classification and would widen the gap between the social classes. Indeed, if we believe that in the next decades most of the information will vehicle through the information superhighway, exclusion from cyberspace means exclusion from active life; and we would be far from the democratized society we are seeking to build. Concerning the language problem, the number of Arab servers is increasing and we should build up national servers where our language will be used. However, we should give more importance to English in schools because its necessity is undeniable while using foreign information servers. We wish to add here that necessity of local servers is not only due to language problems but it is more global. One can barely believe that others will take the initiative of developing servers of information that is peculiar to us. In that case, attempts to bend our political and cultural image would not be unexpected. Once these problems solved, some questions will subside :how can we believe in the information found in the Internet? Cyberspace is reachable by any user and controlling it besides its great difficulty would make it lose its richness and essence. In addition, as was said before, there are a great number of computers connected. Hence there is an overabundance of information: how to choose? It's embarrassing to be bombarded with too much advertising once connected to a site.We think that these problems will be resolved by every user through practicing. We will learn how to deal with information, analyze it, "shell" it, and take the best of it.

Conclusion

We saw what the Internet is and what might be its advantages and disadvantages, but nobody can predict exactly the face of the future and what will become of the Internet. However, we can be sure that we are living a third wave economic revolution and we must take the necessary dispositions to not miss it. The technical connection is just the first step into a marathon that leads to honorable seats among the greats of village Earth. To win this challenge all the main sectors must be mobilized : telecommunication, education, culture, industry, trade, tourism... They should work altogether to make of our society a society of information and communication. Integrating the Internet into our life-style is not an objective by itself but a mean of development. As says R.MAHO, UNESCO director: there is development when science becomes culture and civilization. Reaching these goals is far from being easy but it is up to our will to realize our dreams. And for once let this revolution be ours too.
;-)

Bibliography