Researchers have found a number of economic, technological, and political factors to be associated with the diffusion of information technology in developing countries. But cultural factors generally, and national identity in particular, have almost never been viewed as consequential. Castells and Himanen’s 2002 study of the information society in Finland, in which the authors identify Finnish national culture as an impetus to the development of the country’s informational welfare state, is the most prominent exception to this pattern. This article provides a critical overview of Castells and Himanen’s research, and revises their conceptual framework to focus on the specific choices states make in constructing their national identities and the effects of these choices on information policy and information technology diffusion. It demonstrates the value of this revised framework through a comparison of the historical trajectories of Turkey and Malaysia’s nation-building projects, the incentives these projects have created for the two countries’ social and political elites, and the public information policies and programs that have resulted.
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