What is a country now when we have Internet?

Today we live our lives not only on the physical Mother Earth, but also in the digital cyberworld where borders between the earthly countries are less important. We connect with people from anywhere in the world based on their interests or personality and even if we notice which earthly country they live in, the meaning of it has changed. Our inner images of people living in other countries change when we can see glimpses of their life on internet and recognize ourselves in them. ”She’s like me! He’s like me!”

It can’t be only me that feels a new kind of connection growing over the world, a new sense of belonging and being together, all of us (well, that is all of us who has access to internet) being cyber people or internet persons.

In this global dimension we sometimes get reminded of our earthly countries, like when some country censors the access to internet because there is a conflict between intentions. Trade has always been a great connector between people in different countries – I live in Sweden, the land of the Vikings and I know how much we have to thank the vikings for doing their brave journeys to new places. They learned about other places, they brought home both knowledge and goods. Some of them also moved to other places, like England. (Okay, lets not talk about violence in this blogpost…)

Today I can buy music, books and magazines from all over the world from my iPad and have it delivered in a few seconds. (What do you think about that mr Viking?) I can buy physical items and have them delivered to my house here on Gotland, which will take some days. I can also be the one that sells goods on Internet, if I want to. As soon as we start to trade over the borders we have to deal with the currency issue. It’s a piece of cake in most cases, because the payment solutions deals with it with us hardly noticing it. But if you want to trade globally on the internet, then currency and also taxes might become an issue that’s not so easy to solve.

Where does the transaction take place? Which taxes are applicable? And if the transaction involves not only two countries, but three or four it gets even more complicated. Wouldn’t it be nice if the internet also was a country with it’s own currency?

I found it interesting to read this article in Cult of Android, Google’s executive chairman Eric Smith says:

That businesses must be run more like countries, with diplomatic meetings and the like. He said that “the adult way to run a business is to run it more like a country. They have disputes, yet they’ve actually been able to have huge trade with each other. They’re not sending bombs at each other.”

When a company expands in ways like Apple and Google the earthly borders don’t matter in the same way as they used to, but they still matter.

So, what is a country? I checked Wikipedia. The definition begins with: A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. And it ends with: Regardless of the physical geography, in the modern internationally accepted legal definition as defined by the League of Nations in 1937 and reaffirmed by the United Nations in 1945, a resident of a country is subject to the independent exercise of legal jurisdiction.

When we buy music at iTunes, who’s exercise of legal jurisdiction are we the subject of? When we register an account at Google to start a blog like this or to participate in Google+, who’s rules do we have to follow?

Eric Smith points out an issue that will become more important over the years as our global connections via Internet will expand and establish it’s position as a natural part of our lives. Businesses must be run more like countries, yes. But what if we also need a new ”country” in cyberspace to make it easier to handle money and laws?

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