Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Future democracy - networked?
The Internet can be seen to have already made the world smaller in a number of ways. It also can be said to have improved democracy and there are many examples of coalitions of communities separated by geography but united by a cause across the net who have come together to deliver a message or lobby their point of view. Indeed in some less open countries, the ability to bring local what is global has caused some Governments some trouble with their misguided attempts to prevent information reaching their citizens. I noted today that China has again limited the ability of its people to view certain content from the BBC for example, a practice which was suspended to some extent during the period of them hosting the Olympic Games. Similarly there was an interesting radio programme I heard while in the car the other morning about the way the net has allowed people to express themselves in ways that the public culture would simply not allow in some middle-eastern countries for example. Even closer to home in the UK, the Government now accepts official e-petitions via its website.
The net is also often criticised for creating a divide between those who have access and use it and those who do not or choose not to. The effect of being offline will continue to be more marked in future. So what will the balance be between the democracy supported and the exclusion that results? Not being able to participate due to not being online rather runs contrary to the democratic ideals it can provide.