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Challenges and opportunities for freedom of expression in the networked environment

Democracy - the debate

info: Submitted by Lisa Horner on Wed, 2006-11-15 12:20.

Can the networked communications environment change how we ‘do’ politics, empowering people & strengthening democracy?

Yes.

The networked communications environment offers new opportunities to bring governments and citizens closer together. It can help to remove bureaucratic boundaries and make state services more accessible and efficient. E-government facilities combined with new information rights make governments more transparent and accountable to their citizens. New communications make it easier for citizens to engage in politics and for interest groups to participate in developing public policy. The networked communications environment could revolutionise the relationship between citizens and government, re-establish trust and dialogue and create new possibilities for truly participatory democracy.

No.

Governance systems that make use of these new technologies will only be as democratic as the governments that design and use them. Communications technologies themselves can neither make political systems more democratic nor change political institutions. Many governments are using technologies to introduce more pervasive surveillance and store more personal data – often without citizens’ knowledge or consent – rather than using them to increase transparency and dialogue. Citizens’ rights to privacy are being gradually eroded, particularly since the ‘war on terror’ began, and government control is increasing in insidious ways.

Read the project paper Democracy in the age of modern communications here