Dear Mr. Friedman,
My name is ____________, and I am a second year engineering student in Pune,India at a government technology school. While discussing the 'flatteners' in your latest book you seem to have ommited a major sub-reason for the rapid disemmination of information and powering, of the Indian masses in particular and the Indo-China in general. That is 'illegal information purchasing capability' in the form of PIRACY.
As you have rightly pointed out, the internet (unlike telecommunications) is highly language specific (only english speakers are sufficiently empowered) and such capabilites in regional(indian) languages also depend majorly on literacy. In a country with about 60% literacy (pls verify) this is too less, add to this the figures for English literacy and internet penetration, the percentage that seem to be driving this flattening,from India, is small, but nevertheless significant.
However, you must realize that almost all of the 'zippie' generation can hardly afford to even dream of purchasing original software and indeed other intellectual content that is powering this knowledge drive. The whole zippie generation runs on pirated software, right from their copies of the latest Windows xp and Office to movies, music and even niché products at home use like Photoshop and Macromedia Flash.
The government crackdown on this phenomenon is incredibly minimal and mostly related to office spaces. However, the INDIVIDUALS that are powering today's flattening in the third world do so on mostly pirated stuff, and you will be astonished at the extent of this problem. The risks of getting caught are vitually minimal for a young teenager installing unauthorised copies of Windows, and so even those who can afford to pay, don't. Though companies (esp. large ones) rarely risk reputations, the small, young home user has hardly anything to lose when using a piece of pirated software.
Therefore content, made not by open source platforms but by corporations , (which Bill Gates claims to be better), is ALSO FREE. Therefore due to a laxity in the implementation of these laws, the third world has the added advantage of listening to the latest American popstars, tuning into Harry Potter 4 as soon as it is released, at home, and buying extremely cheap, pirated books off the roadsides, is incredibly simple. The First world simply cannot even realize how easy, and how cheap it is, for me in a India to get a pirated copy of 'The World is Flat' for a measly Rs. 150 compared to an enormous Rs.710 in licensed bookstores. [The normal teens monthly spending would be around Rs. 1000 - 1500 and he can't afford to blow half of it on this book]
Therefore this free information that Indians have access to, is a major driving factor in accelerating the pace of the-catch-up process. And this problem is spread out in esp. the South-East-Asian markets and also probably China. (that is for you to investigate!) The 'empowered' zippie that you make out to be, is reading stuff on the net off a pirated copy of windows (obtained from his local dealer), wearing fake Nike boots and a fake Manchester United jersey (though manufacturing piracy is less prevalent in India and more in SE-Asia) listening to an amazing playlist right from Bob Dylan's country grooves to the latest Bollywood number.
The issue is not the 'morality' or 'outrageousness' of the observation - but simply the fact that this is a major factor in giving third world countries an edge over the first world. Thus in this case, a law and order breakdown has actually benefited the intellectual revolution. Or has it ?
PS : If someone really knows TLF's email ID, please tell me about it.