Redrawing the Pentagon’s new Map

In 1999 Ryan McCormack and I wrote a marketing piece on Globalization for Sapient Corporation. Aimed primarily at raising awareness of the issues involved in building global Internet systems it also touched on national market analysis and selection. I was reminded of this diagram showing income and connectivity for every country in the world from that piece while reading various articles on US Foreign Policy recently. These articles included this piece called the Pentagons new Map by Dr Thomas P.M. Barnett a US military Strategist on Globalization and US Foreign Policy and this more >jaundiced view from the Washington Monthly.

Basically I think Dr Barnett is on to something when he claims that “disconnectedness defines danger”.

Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and “most important” the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap.

Having said I think Dr Barnett is on to something I don’t think his conclusions are correct! He makes three mistakes;

1. He confuses poverty with danger. Deliberate disconnectedness is dangerous for everyone, whereas poverty is only dangerous for the poor. Lumping the poor and the dangerous together is callous.

2. He attempts to define a contiguous geographic region of the World that he calls the “Non Integrating Gap”.

In this regard he makes a fundamental mistake. Conectedness is a network property and networks are fractal not contiguous. There is no contiguous region that is disconnected. Within each disconnected country there are islands of connection and within each connected country there are islands of disconnection. This is true at all levels, continents, nations, regions, cities, and companies, right down to individuals. There are terrorist cells in US cities fighting to disconnect the world and Journalists with satellite cell phones in remotest Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia working to connect everything.

3. A corollary of the contiguous region hypothesis is the idea of seam states that buffer the integrated core from the non integrating gap. As there is no contiguous region there can be no border, or rather the border is infinitely long. Either way the concept of Seam States is meaningless.

Income and Connectivity

I believe a better analysis can be produced by considering relative income and connectedness. I used per capita income as calculated by the World Bank and the number of Internet hosts as counted by the Internet Software Consortium (see assumptions). By plotting these two factors against each other for every national economy a picture emerges. Not surprisingly there is a correlation between these two factors – richer countries tend to have greater connectivity. But countries also tend to cluster by geographic region. The graph below clearly shows clustering of Sub Saharan African, Middle Eastern and North African and European economies. Over time economies tend to move to the top right of the graph – they increase per capita income and Internet penetration. The rate at which they move seems to be determined by their per capita income. Wealthy countries can adopt the Internet more quickly than poor countries. But there does seem to be a limit to the speed with which a country of a given per capita income can adopt the Internet. Most countries seem to move at this limiting speed and so a wave front of countries seems to have developed all rushing as fast as they can afford toward greater connectivity and wealth. One interesting feature of this graph is the countries that are not in their expected place on the wave front. It is these countries that are the subject of rest of this article.

The Outlier Economies

The graph above identifies several exceptional economies. These economies do not behave according to type. They are significantly different from their neighbors. They are outliers, islands of relative connectivity in a sea of disconnection like Israel, South Africa, and Kuwait or the reverse such as Burundi, Ethiopia, and Yemen. For example Israel, unlike it’s middle eastern neighbors behaves like a European economy with respect to income and connectivity, South Africa is significantly more connected and wealthier than the rest of Sub Saharan Africa. While Kuwait and Yemen show opposite extremes, one enjoys fabulous wealth while the other suffers crushing poverty. These outlier economies are similar to Dr Barnett’s seam states, however they do not surround anything in fact they are themselves surrounded. As a result of their isolated status they tend to get involved in conflict with their neighbors.

The Reluctantly Connected Economies

There are many economies that are unable or unwilling to achieve levels of connectivity that economies with similar incomes manage to sustain. These economies fall behind the wave front, they are the reluctantly connected. There is a significant risk that these economies will backslide and become disconnected. Preventing this backsliding and ensuring these nations realize the full benefits of connectivity should be a major objective of the connected world.

The Disconnected Economies

Finally there are economies that could not be plotted on these graphs because the necessary data are unavailable. I believe these fall into three main categories. There are a few dependant territories like the Faroe Islands, Guam, and Greenland that can be discounted because their data are included in other economies. Then there are the economies disconnected by paranoia, fear and hatred and finally the economies disconnected by secrecy. The table below is ordered by population size and shows a fairly clear division. The larger states are the pariah states – dangerous, paranoid and in some cases anarchic states that refuse to publish economic information even if they have the capability to gather the data. The smaller states are the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil bankers, protecting their clients and their own economies. These offshore tax havens and centers of secretive banking often serve the pariah states, and their corrupt leaders. Both these types of economies are dangerously disconnected. The world would be a far better place if they became fiscally transparent, connected economies.

Economy Hosts GNI (Atlas Method $) Population (1000s) Status
Congo (Democratic Republic) 113 0 52360 Pariah State
Myanmar 2 0 48315 Pariah State
Sudan 0 330 31687 Pariah State
Afghanistan 2 0 27248 Pariah State
Iraq 0 0 23750 Pariah State
Korea, Dem. Rep.   0 22384 Pariah State
Syrian Arab Republic 0 1000 16593 Pariah State
Cuba 848 0 11222 Pariah State, hold over from the cold war
Senegal   480 9769 No Internet Host count available
Somalia 1 0 9089 Pariah State, Anarchic
Haiti 0 480 8114 Pariah State
Benin 0 360 6437 No Internet Hosts in 2001
Libya 59 0 5410 Pariah State
Nicaragua 1655 0 5202
Puerto Rico 1667 0 3950 US Dependent Territory
Liberia 0 0 3216 Pariah State
West Bank and Gaza   1350 3091 Dependent Territory, Pariah State, Emerging Nation ?
United Arab Emirates 29029 0 2976 Fiscally Secretive
Oman 646 0 2452 Fiscally Secretive
Qatar 0 0 598 Fiscally Secretive
Equatorial Guinea 0 700 469 Pariah State
Brunei 4398 0 345 Fiscally Secretive
Netherlands Antilles 104 0 217 Dutch Dependent Territory, Fiscally Secretive
St. Lucia   3970 158 Fiscally Secretive
Guam 149 0 157 US Dependent Territory
Channel Islands   0 149 UK Dependent Territory
Mayotte 0 0 145 French Dependent Territory
Virgin Islands (U.S.) 58 0 122 US Dependent Territory
St. Vincent and the Grenadines   2690 116 Fiscally Secretive
Aruba 785 0 104 Dutch Dependent Territory, Fiscally Secretive
Isle of Man 116 0 75 UK Dependent Territory
Northern Mariana Islands 13 0 72 US Dependent Territory
Andorra 876 0 67 Fiscally Secretive
American Samoa 915 0 65 US Dependent Territory
Bermuda 4892 0 63 UK Dependent Territory, Fiscally Secretive
Greenland 2229 0 56 Effectively a Dutch Dependent Territory
Faroe Islands 1588 0 45 Dutch Dependent Territory
St. Kitts and Nevis   6880 41 UK Dependent Territory
Cayman Islands 533 0 35 UK Dependent Territory, Fiscally Secretive
Liechtenstein 762 0 32 Fiscally Secretive
Monaco 434 0 32 Fiscally Secretive
San Marino 673 0 27 Effectively an Italian Dependent Territory
Timor Leste 6 0 0 Emerging Nation, Destitute

Assumptions and Sources

All the data used was for 2001.

I assumed that the number of hosts that use the assigned Top Level Domain (TLD) for a given country is an excellent indicator of the connectedness of that country. I believe this because hosts (computers) themselves are tradable commodities that must be purchased from abroad and that connection to the Internet is a very real sign that someone in a country wants to realize the benefits of connection to a global communication medium. Data for the number of hosts per country came from the Internet Software Consortium July 2001 Survey. Assuming Top TLDs actually map to countries leads to errors. In particular for the US since very few US hosts actually use the US domain. I totaled the following TLDs to get values for the US (net, com, edu, org, mil, us, arpa, gov, unknown). This of course is incorrect but I assumed it would tend to boost the US values higher and reduce the values for all other countries proportional to the number of hosts in the country. Three TLDs were ignored (int, biz, info), they have so few host that would make no difference anyway.

Data from the World Bank was used for population values and per capita income.

I have not produced charts for all regions of the world. Here is the zipped excel spread sheet I used. Feel free to play with these data yourself. I’d be interested in seeing what you come up with.

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  • John R Harris

    This article Poor Connections: Trouble on the Internet Frontiers from the Rand Corporation identifies a few of the reasons for reluctant connection and disconnection. And this article The 20 Enemies of the Internet an August 1999 report by Reporters San Frontieres (RSF) shows a close correlation with the Pariah States I have listed.