Internet Diffusion on Turkey and STS

Written by Sadi Evren SEKER, (in fact it is Şadi Evren ŞEKER in Turkish)

1. Introduction

This paper covers the political and especially the social effects of Internet diffusion in Turkey. The two discussions, ethno centric and cultural relative discussion and the SCOT1 and Systems Approach are joined on the case study of Internet diffusion in Turkey.

2. Small History of Turkey and History of Internet in Turkey

Today’s Turkish Republic is inherited form Ottoman Empire, which was established a legacy of government dominance of all aspects of the economy and technology.

Highly bureaucratic and protective of the power of the Sultan, the Ottoman Empire checked theemergence of a class of hereditary nobility, and managed the economy in minute detail. Prices of all goods, shipping procedures, the quality of yogurt, the ingredients used in making candles, and the hazard posed by chickens in flourmills were all subject to government decree and regulation [1]. Not surprisingly, such detailed control had a stifling effect on innovation. The Ottoman Empires contribution to the arts and the sciences was minimal. The sense that the government should take care of all the needs of the people was strong.

The Ottoman Empire declined from the late 17th century through the start of the 20th century. Dragged into World War I on the site of the Central Powers, the Ottoman State barely battled the Allied Powers seeking to capture the Dardenelles to a stalemate.

In May 1919, Greece landed an army in today's Izmir to re-establish Greek control over lands of classical civilization. Within days, Mustafa Kemal, the country's war hero, organized a nationalist resistance with headquarters in Ankara. One of the first measures by the successful resistance was to separate the temporal power from the religious power, banishing the Sultanate and later the Caliphate from the land.

The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 by Kemal, known as Atatürk, the "Father of Turks." Until his death in 1938, Atatürk introduced a number of social, political, linguistic and economic reforms that form the ideological basis for modern Turkey. Known as "Kemalism," the ideology integrates secularism, nationalism, and modernism and views the West as a source of inspiration and support. During World War II, Turkey fought on the side of the Allies. As part of an effort to stem Communist expansion in the countries bordering the Turkish Straits, Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952. [2].

In 1985, Türk Telekom introduced the first switched data network (X.21), with a capacity of 2000 subscribers. In 1986, an experimental X.25 packet-switched data network was built with one node in Istanbul with four Packet Assemble/Disassemble (PAD) devices [3]. This packet switched network provided a gateway to GTE's Telenet, establishing for the first time commercial data communication network for Turkish users.

The first activities to establish an IP based network started in 1989. The group of network managers of TÜVAKA2 nodes, which was called NAD-TR (Node Administrators of Turkey), first proposed such a 8 network instead of BITNET in the Fall of 1989 during an Istanbul meeting. The decision of the technical group was proposed to TÜVAKA and the first pilot studies were initiated between METU and Bilkent University in 1990. During this time, the structure of the IP based naming system was also determined by the TUVAKA. Among three or four proposals, TÜVAKA accepted one proposing the use of a second-level domain system similar to the generic top-level domains. Initially, five second level domains were established (,,,, Later, five more second level domains were added (,,,,

In 1993, METU and TÜBITAK established a dedicated 64 Kbps Internet connection between METU and NSF3 with funding from the State Planning Organization. The decision to connect to NSF rather than CERN was based on traffic analysis of the EARN/BITNET connection, which showed that about 80% of the traffic entering Turkey came from the United States, and most of the international traffic originating in Turkey also terminated in the United States. The connection with NSF marked the official birth of the Internet in Turkey. At the same time, METU and TÜBITAK4 also formed an informal organization known as TR-NET5 to promote the use of Internet technologies throughout Turkey [4]. Over time, this name has been used also for the first Internet network in Turkey, as well as for an Internet Service Provider currently operating in Ankara.

3. Does Internet in Turkey have politics?

Discussion under this topic is the politics of artifact of Internet so there are two contradictory ideas. "Internet is not a political instrument", it only helps us to communicate without any political background. And the second is "Internet has politics from starting of its first invention and innovation" with or without purposely.

Supporters of former idea claims that, today Internet in Turkey is in pure form, any local invention would yield the same result. This is closely related to the systems approach6. By the view of systems approach, Internet has its own momentum, it is isolated from the rest of the world and it has a linear path [5].

On the other hand this idea has objections from supporters of the latter idea. This group of people claims that, Internet has a political background. And it is both shaped by society and shapes the society. This approach is called the social constructivism of technology7 [6].

On the applications of Internet I am afraid I see a huge political foot print of Politics. For example the domain names on the Internet can not be in Turkish character set, which forces users and system designers to use only a subset of Turkish alphabet. Again such a restriction adds foreign letters in to the Turkish, such as "w, x, q" which are originally not in Turkish but available on the Internet. This naming issue has a huge social effect in Turkey. I know lots of families abstaining to name their children from the set of characters special to Turkish. Because names in the emails are extremely difficult to pronounce (and sometimes funny) after converting them to the closest letters in English alphabet. So diffusion of Internet in Turkey slowly pushes the sub consciousness of people to use English characters while naming anything like their children, companies or any other artifacts. The aim of this paper is not to discuss the circumstances of Turkish language, but it is a well known truth, that language is one of the core components of the culture and society. So the diffusion of Internet brings the diffusion of English and English letters to Turkish. I will not carry the debate, whether changing a language is good or not but until this debate, it is clear that Internet is an engine which increases the speed of this change.

Beside the claims about Internet that defends Internet is a democratic media, still the IP8 numbers are assigned by RIPENCC9, which is founded in USA, and again yields some political side effects. Until now there has been no lack of IP number in Turkey but it is always possible to be in the future, which may create an obstacle for a country to connect every point of access to the internet. On the other hand there is a debate on United Nations while I am writing this paper, which is about giving UN the right of assignment of IP numbers.

Another Problem about the Internet is the designers are still changing it. For example the IP numbers are limited by 4 billion numbers10. So IP is a limited resource and its assignment will be a problem in near future. Solution of this problem yields another problem also. The Internet designers11 announced a new version12 of IP about 2 years ago, which yields an economic problem, because every Internet user, should upgrade their Internet devices13 and operating systems14, which yields an economical load on internet users and service providers. So it creates a problem for poor countries. It is not a big problem for Turkey, because technology spends on Turkey is quite enough, but for example it is obvious that it will hinder the decrease of Internet usage prices for any single user. And this will continue the problem of internet diffusion (relatively poor users should wait more to access to the Internet). Roberts E. McGINN, declares the eight dimensions15 of a society in the first chapter of the book. One of these dimensions is the flow in the society. By the high internet access prices, some part of the society is lack of this dimension, which yields undeveloped societies and its all worst effects [7].

Another problem about internet Diffusion in Turkey is the extension of domain names. There is a naming rule for international domains16, like any commercial website should have the “.com” extension or any organization should have the “.org” extension. These extensions come from the words “commercial” or “organization” in English. So most of the countries try to adapt them. But in Turkey because of lack of technology politics, this naming concept is applied without any change. So the domain name of any company in Turkey should have a “” extension. But the Turkish translation of commercial is “ticari”, which has no relations with “com”. Other countries such as Germany do not use the same extension in USA. Any web site in Germen ends up with “.de” extension and they do not force to differentiate the commercial or organizational or net related web sites.

Internet also creates a universal problem with domain names. For example registering the name of a multi national company was possible for everybody before the new regulations17. Since socio-political shape of Turkey is not exactly same with whole world there are some difficulties related with the regulations of Internet in Turkey. For example about a year ago, a new rule was so close to become a law, which was including sending the content and changes of any web page on internet to governor. It has been commented as the first step of creating an authority which can declare the contents of any internet web page. So semi-governmental18 structure of Turkey has carried such a plan to the agenda of Turkey for a short period. In fact this is not a Turkey specific problem19 but it is also out of the social constructivism.

4. Viewing Internet Diffusion in Turkey from STS perspective

Aim of this chapter is concluding the political shape of Internet with STS perspective.

4.1. By the perspective of Politics of Artifacts

Langdon Winner, defines two types of politics for the artifacts. First they may be political from the starting of their design, invention or arrangement. Second they may be inherently political.

As it is already discussed in the third chapter, Internet is both political because of its design and arrangement issues and the political structure it has inherited. In fact it is impossible to design a pure culturally relative artifact. In every culturally independent artifact design, there is always a piece of ethno centric effect, which is also valid for Internet too. I think in the days of its innovation, Internet has the best possible cultural relative design, which is also proven by the world wide implementation. But this does not acquit the political and social effects of the Internet. All the side effects of Internet discussed in the third chapter also prove the both first and second claims of Langdon Winner.

First in the design phase of the Internet, it is designed for English only. Its innovation is done by the American artifacts (hardware). Every country still tries to adapt this technology to their social background, which is almost impossible. Second the Internet has a political shape, which is considered as the closest form of pure democratic and also liberal media for many people. This liberal shape of the Internet is also inherited from the political shape of utopias in USA. So the Internet overlaps both claims of Langdon Winner, and we can conclude that, yes, the Internet has politics in Turkey and world wide.

4.2. From the View of Systems Approach

Is it possible to cut the Internet of Turkey? I think answer of this question in most of the people is No, in Turkey. Because it has reached a huge and non-returnable scale and its diffusion on the future can only increase by time. This increase is considered as the progress and its linearity is also a discussion area in Systems Approach.

I think, since its growth is not related to a single individual but all of the societies, momentum of the technological artifacts are in fact the momentum of societies. Another sub consciousness is its isolated structure. Any individual knows that, its diffusion will continue with or without his internet usage. So any person in Turkey can easily comment about internet as an isolated technological artifact. Its growth, its decisions, its effects can not be decided by the society, but the experts. This is also clearly defined in the systems approach as an isolated artifact.

So internet diffusion in Turkey has a momentum, linear progress and it is isolated from the society.

4.3. From the View of SCOT

The claim of social constructivists is the decisions of the artifacts must be done by social participations. The main idea behind SCOT is the democratization of technology. The referendum of technology is always done in the market but shaping it is not always possible for the society. Internet users may be seem as the supporters of the Internet. Since 6,3% of population20 in Turkey uses Internet and over 90% of population21 supports the diffusion of Internet.

Turkey is lack of any social platform, which decides the future of Internet in Turkey. There are several internet related organizations listed below.

Turk Telecom: Most important key organization in internet usage of Turkey. It is the biggest service provider and all other service providers are dependent on it. It is a governmental organization22 and decisions of this organization are politically effected. Now a day making it private is on the agenda, which will hopefully open the market to the competition. Because of the scale of such an organization there are some effects of politics of large scale technology. Very close to the example of Langdon Winner, Turk Telecom can be considered as an authoritative society. Every decision on the organization is done in an authoritative order and most of the time these decisions are strongly related to the political party in power. But on the other hand Internet should be independent from the politics of the political parties.

Middle East Technical University (METU)23. Located in Ankara, METU played a leading role in the establishment of the Internet in Turkey, for many years serving as the nascent networks main Internet Service Provider. For a short time it was a member of the consortium chosen by Türk Telekom to build Turkey's first Internet backbone. By design, its role has been decreasing in recent years as commercial providers, Türk Telekom, and government organizations assume responsibility for both the operation and planning of the Internet. METU continues to hold responsibility for the country's Domain Name Service, managing the .tr domain. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) employ former METU students. An academic organization is more social than the governmental organizations but still they should be considered as governmental organizations because of the funder is the state and academic life is another authoriterian life. On the other hand there is a technocratic pattern in university driven technologies, which is also not suitable for a socially constructed technology.

Internet Executive Council. The Internet Executive Council is a body that was organized by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications. Formed in 1997, it had its first meeting in January, 1998. The council consists of representatives from key government, commercial, and academic organizations. Meeting every month, the council conducts and sponsors detailed discussions and reports about every aspect of the Internet in Turkey. On a regular basis it makes recommendations regarding such matters as pricing, backbone architecture, cyber law, and so forth. In general, it provides a forum where all voices can be heard. The quasi-public nature of the forum makes organizations like the ministries and Türk Telekom more accountable to the public. By the definition it is the most social organization beside all other powerful organizations, but however people shaping this council covers people from civilian society communities, most of the members are computer backgrounded people24. Again this has contradictions with the SCOT approach. SCOT defends the democratization of technology to as much as possible different social communities.

By the light of above organizations, it is not difficult to say that social construction of Internet in Turkey is impossible, but it is not done yet.

5. Conclusion

Internet is an interesting artifact in Turkey. Only a limited percent of population can access to the internet but it is increasing exponentially every year, parallel to the diffusion of computers. Turkish people are very open to the technological artifact by the effect of their history, which also increases the diffusion rate of Internet. But effects of the Internet over the culture are catastrophic for Turkey. There are only a small number of people aware of this problem and they only try to aware other people. On the other hand Internet has great advantages for the Turkish people. It is the new way of communication and it destructs the frontiers between cultures.

On this paper the two ideas, Systems approach and SCOT is applied on the case Internet on Turkey and they have analyzed by two philosophies, the ethno-centric and cultural relative views. I have tried to summarize them in an objective way, but as a conclusion, I think cultural relativism should be the way to follow and the Internet as the most democratic and best communication artifact has positive effects more than the negatives. It must be shaped by the society, the trade off here is, its democratization gets easier for the technology but its democratization gets harder for the society day by day.

6. References

[1] Eames, A. and B. Bell, Eds., Istanbul, Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

[2] “Turkey: Background Notes”, Released by the Bureau of European Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Feb. 1999, <> (June 23, 1999).

[3] Akbalik, N., “Development of Telecommunication in Turkey”, <> (21 May 1999).

[4] Özgit, Atilla., K. Çagiltay, and E. Taner, Turkish Internet (TR-NET): Policies for Organizational

Framework and Funding, 30 April 1995. <>

(May 29, 1999).

[5] Summerton, Jane, “Changing Large Technical Systems”, Westview Press, Introductory Essay: The Systems Approach to Technological Change.

[6] Pinc, Trevor F. and Bijker, Weibe E. “The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts: Or How the Sociology Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other”

[7] McGinn, Robert E. “Science Technology and Society”, Standfor University, Prentice Hall, Chapter 10, The Charachter of Everyday Life


1 SCOT, stands for social constructivism of technology

2 TÜVAKA, is shortcut of Turkish Network of Universities and Research Institutes (Türk üniversite ve araştırma kurumları ağı) See Figure 1 in Apendicies

3 National Science Foundation, USA

4 Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Institute, somehow similar to the NSF.

5 See Figure 2 in Appendices

6 Mainly supported by Thomas P. Hughes

7 SCOT, is mainly supported by Trevor F. Pinch and Wiebe E. Bijker

8IP stands for Internet Protocol, which is a unique number that every computer should have on the internet.

9 Ripe Network Coordination Center,

10In fact there are some other limitations but this is the maximum number of IP available on the world. Because IP is a group of 4 hexadecimal group of numbers which can be maximum 255, so 255*255*255*255=4228250625. So if every person on the world can somehow access to the internet there will be 2 billion people without access right. In fact most of this numbers are assigned to the servers, not the users, so the maximum number of Internet users is more catastrophic.

11Internet is mainly designed by IETF (Internet engineering task force) and W3C (W3(which means world wide web) Consortium,

12Current IP version is Ipv4 and the new possible version of IP is 6

13Such as routers, bridges, switches, etc.

14Such as Windows, Linux or any other operating system.

15 These 8 dimensions are: Multiplicity, Material Abundance, Flow, Pace, Transience, Scale, Mobility, Technicity.

16Domains in US is also considered as international, and most of international domains are hosted in US.

17Before new regulations it was working in First come First serve basis. Now is a company can prove it is a MNC, than the domain is automatically transfers to this company. But the real life applications are still problematic.

18 I have mentioned this semi-governmental subject in the “Small History of Turkey and History of Internet in Turkey” chapter.

19At the best of my knowledge China also tries to put such restriction on users.

20 From the 2002 statistics, Turkey is 29th country in both internet access and computer access.

21 This percentage is from the people are aware of the Internet.

22 Please refer to the semi governmental background of Turkey in the history chapter


24 There is a list of members on the Internet, but it is only written in Turkish.