Digital colonialism: US empire and the new imperialism in the Global South

This article proposes a conceptual framework of how the United States is reinventing colonialism in the Global South through the domination of digital technology. Using South Africa as a case study, it argues that US multinationals exercise imperial control at the architecture level of the digital ecosystem: software, hardware and network connectivity, which then gives rise to related forms of domination. The monopoly power of multinational corporations is used for resource extraction through rent and surveillance – economic domination. By controlling the digital ecosystem, Big Tech corporations control computer-mediated experiences, giving them direct power over political, economic and cultural domains of life – imperial control. The centrepiece of surveillance capitalism, Big Data, violates the sanctity of privacy and concentrates economic power in the hands of US corporations – a system of global surveillance capitalism. As a feature of surveillance capitalism, Global North intelligence agencies partner with their own corporations to conduct mass and targeted surveillance in the Global South – which intensifies imperial state surveillance. US elites have persuaded people that society must proceed according to its ruling class conceptions of the digital world, setting the foundation for tech hegemony. The author argues for a different ecosystem that decentralises technology by placing control directly into the hands of the people to counter the rapidly advancing frontier of digital empire.


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