Actually, the world isn’t flat | Globalisation at a second glance.

Common misconceptions about globalisation revolve around the notion that it is a complete, unified and dynamic movement which seem-lessly connects the world on a universal scale. Whilst O Shaugnessy argues “globalisation is characterised by a worldwide increase in interdependence, interactivity, interconnectedness and the virtually instantaneous exchange of information” (2008), economist Dr Panjak Ghemawat believes “we are not even close.” He insists the world is not a large and unified market, rather one of many small interconnected entities, with varying degrees of openness to one another. Through these ideas he suggests that even the most open of economies are closed, and that we live in a world of semi-globalisation at best.

The coining of the phrase “the world isn’t flat” in this instance is metaphorical for Dr Ghemawat opposing the idea that national borders do not in any way limit the opportunities for trade, economic growth and communication between countries. Ghemawat refutes the idea that there is a single global economy, instead arguing on the basis of various economic measures and indicators, suggesting “nations are much more disconnected than we imagine” (Harvard Business Review’s  2011). It is in this respect, the world is not a flat and one dimensional entity, rather an intricate and diverse mixture of culture, economy and technology – a delta between perception and reality in a not so hyper-connected world.

TEDBlog analyses key statistical information on which Dr Ghemawat uses to reinforce his claims that suggest our world ‘isn’t as globalised as we think’. In a TED talk delivered by Dr Ghemewat, he strongly opposes the influence of globalisation on global interactions, believing there are limited interactions between countries and economies.

Of the telephone minutes placed in the world last year, only 2% were made across nations, whilst online calls made through platforms such as skype accounted for that statistic to rise to 6%. Despite this rather underwhelming statistic, The Harvard Business Review recounts that a random survey of 400 people estimated the statistic to be around 30%. The same review claims that whilst most of us assume there is significant human movement between countries as a result of immigration, only 3% of the worlds population are first world immigrants – contrary to the same survey which estimated this percentage to be over 2o. Dr Ghemewat believes the most prolific evidence for lack of globalisation is evident through educational systems, where only 2% of all University students across the world are studying in a foreign country, which can result in a lack of dialogue and effective communication between countries in regards to future technological advancements.

Furthermore, foreign aid accounts for only 1% of funding in the United States, whilst Americans greatly overestimate the interactions that their country has established with nations from overseas, with samples of people believing the budget for foreign aid would account for upwards of 25%, believing 10% should be the bare minimum to ensure a good rapport with developing or under privileged nations (World Public Opinion).

It is interesting to note how the aforementioned issues relate to the ‘scapes’ of globalisation, and whether or not Dr Ghemewat’s claims are valid and more importantly relevant to globalisation in the future. By referring specifically to aid work, communications and education – the statistics challenge the nature of the ethno, techno and financescapes within globalisation. Whilst it is unclear that individuals are unaware of the apparent presence (or lack thereof) of globalisation and how it is applicable in a modern society, it is interesting to observe statistics highlighted by Dr Panjak Ghemewat in his aforementioned TEDtalk. Despite his claims, Dr Ghemewat remains neutral and encourages people to do their own individual research to make their own informed opinions on the matter of globalisation.


O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J, 2008, ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 458-471.


About alexdebs

Second year Bachelor of Communications and Media studies student at the University of Wollongong. I am an aspiring journalist with a passion for sport, music and travel.
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