Turkey and the Internet

My wife loves to travel, and spring break for my kids is always the perfect excuse to get away. But this time was different; for over a year my wife had been planning a trip to Turkey with a family we tend to travel well with.

Of course April is always a busy time in life as well as at work, and yeah, there’s never a good time to get away. But my wife assured me that every hotel we were staying in had Internet access. Now you know, it’s been a decade or more since the Internet became mainstream, and that seemed sensible to me. But what transpired I could never have expected.

Internet access in Istanbul was perfect in the hotels. My Blackberry and iPhone worked very well. Once outside one of Turkey’s main cities, Internet access became very spotty. In fact, in one town I got on the Internet one day, and then it was out for two whole days!

Now I consider myself part of the Geek Technorati, and I offered my services to help. I rebooted the router at the hotel, then reset it, then plugged directly into it – and nothing. They told me perhaps I wanted to go to an Internet café. I grabbed my two boys and hiked down to the Internet café where I found tons of Turkish kids playing games that were downloaded onto the hard drives of several desktop computers. When I inquired about Internet access, they huffed and puffed a bit then decided to turn on their dial-up modem! Here is a five-year-old “Internet café” with one dial-up modem! They too were unable to connect to the Internet after trying for a half hour. Upon returning, I was told by the hotel that “the Internet was down all over the city.”

Here is the Point …

Clearly the Internet is playing a large role in connecting everyone across the world. And businesses from all over the planet have come online to sell their wares. But my report to you is indicative of where were stand in connecting even the most remote places of the world. Bottom line: We are just not there yet.

What was curious to me was the pervasiveness of mobile in Turkey. Use of cell phones not just for calls or SMS messages but for taking pictures and shooting video was surprising to me. Many native Turkish people used their phones for everything, more so than their American counterparts.

When I was pitching the idea for this article to Internet Evolution, the Editor James Johnson responded to me with this case study.

Internet Development in Turkey: A Case Study

The paper makes the point that: The main problems in Turkey are the ISP monopoly and the speed of international connectivity. It takes nearly half an hour to receive 10 e-mails from an out-of-country mailbox. This means that it is practically impossible to use the Internet in Turkey.

The Internet gives developing countries the incredible opportunity to catch up with more developed countries, and any governments that try to control or ban the Internet will be giving up this chance.

We have definitely come a long way. But we still have some of the last miles to go!

NOTE: Please don’t let any of the above deter you from going, my family and I had a great time despite the fact that I am a workaholic that needed to be connected to the internet 24/7 – but I did some awesome Twitter-ing while there as well at took plenty of great pictures and videos.

3 comments to Turkey and the Internet

  • Casey Hibbard

    It’s very surprising how disconnected many places are. We are friends with Kenyan athletes training in the U.S. We gave one of them an old laptop we don’t use anymore. Then he asked about how long the battery lasts. He said he’s excited to have it, but next he’ll have to get electricity in his home so he can use it more than a few hours!

    For Internet, he’ll have to go down to the local cafe and hope he can use their connection with his laptop.

    The point is, Kenya is one of the more developed countries in Africa, and electricity and net are both still hard to come by. How can countries even begin to be part of the global economy without better connections?

  • Paul Dunay

    Wow Casey – great story

    We do have a way to go to getting everyone connected even if we give out $100 laptops!

  • Nate Nash

    We run into this all the time in our work in Emerging Markets. To your point about the proliferation of mobile usage, it has impacts on business conduct as well. For example in dealing with any sort of business in certain countries in the middle east, you can write and execute a significant contract over SMS. However, emails typically produce radio silence and are not regarded as a means by which one can conduct business.

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