Internetas a Tool for Democratization
Internetas a Tool for Democratization
Theuse of Technology has benefitted the world in different ways. Today,the world has become one global village characterized by interactionin almost all aspects of life through the internet. Perhaps thepeople who understand better the importance of technology are thosewho lived in the era that lacked the use of modern technology.However, the advancement of information technology has raised a lotof concerns among the governments and individuals because of thedangers it poses not only to the individuals but also to the society.The information technology is a tool of social and political change.There are several issues raised in regard to the use of technology.For instance, internet has negatively influenced the privacies ofindividuals and the governments. Issues in regard to the ethical useof information technology are common and increases with advancementin information technology. For example, the posting of nude photos ofindividuals without their consent or any other violation ofindividual rights or right to privacy is a major concern of internetuse (Anduiza,Perea, Jensen & Jorba, 2012).As issues of ethics on internet use continue to bring about massivechanges in the way people interact, do business or get information,or acquire education.
Purposeof the Report
Thisreport paper seeks to analyze the role played by informationtechnology/ internet on democratization. It recognizes the fact thatinformation technology is a tool for social and politicaltransformation. The report will focus on the role played by theinternet in transmitting the democratic ideas. The report is alsogoing to analyze some of the historical events in which the internetwas instrumental in mobilization of the masses.
Theinternet/ World Wide Web as a Tool for Democratization
Theimportance of communication technologies in democratization cannot bedenied. For instance, YouTube and twitter are great campaign toolsthat provide updates on the new information. The online tools act asa means through which the citizens can support a particular ideologythrough fundraising, mobilization (Polat, 2005). Democracy hasbenefitted greatly from the internet. Democracy is considered thebest political ideology by many nations and for a long time,democratic nations like the United States of America have sought toexpand it beyond the national boundaries. The progress ofdemocratization took place at a slower pace until the advancement intechnological innovation. Information technology is credited for thepolitical revolutions that have contributed widely to the politicalchanges around the world. Many people have argued that technologythrough tools like Twitter, Facebook among other application havehelped in spreading the liberal revolutions and democratic reforms.The Arab springs experienced in the past few years including Egyptrevolution, Saudi Arabian revolution as well as the political unrestin Syria is an indication of how social media has been able toperpetuate democratic and political ideologies across borders(Anduiza,Perea, Jensen & Jorba, 2012).
Internetfacilitates the increased participation and deeper engagement of thepeople on the democratization process. Through the internet countriesovercome the greatest barrier to people’s participation in thepolitical arena. The internet has reduced the costs of communicationand reaching a wider population within a short period (Polat, 2005).Internet generates greater levels of deliberation among the citizensand the worldwide population. Online communication offers a mechanismfor direct, low cost and instant interaction. Internet is a means ofbuilding social capital through developing horizontal networks ofcommunication and creating electronic public spaces. In fact,internet enhances participatory opportunities for the citizensthrough penetrating into their personal lives. For instance, therevolutionary changes that took place in Arab spring movements andthe protests in Ukraine attributed their success to the role playedby the internet in the mobilization of people to join, support andparticipate in the democratic reform. The countries that have fullyembraced information technology have an added advantage in winningthe public to participate in democratic reforms.
Mediareports suggest that the internet facilitated or aided the democraticrevolutions in Arabian countries. Internet promotes pro-democraticattitudes thus reinforcing the political climate of change itreinforces political change especially in countries that already havedemocracy or at least some levels of political freedoms. Demanddemocracy is high in countries with more people connected to theinternet and when the people spend more time online. Aninvestigation on the relationship between the use of internet and thedemand for democracy shows that a positive relationship existsbetween internet and democracy. In countries with authoritarianregimes, people have access to the internet but the leaders controlwhatever content is found on the internet. In such regimes, thepeople are afraid and limit their opinions due to fear ofvictimization. Authoritarian regimes limit access to information,especially that coming from outside the country (Polat, 2005). Forinstance, a study on countries supporting democracy like Singapore,Zambia among others indicates that the internet compels the citizensto demand for democracy. In the authoritarian countries like Vietnamand Zimbabwe, people’s desire for democracy is low and the citizensview democracy as something to be achieved in the far future.
Therise of NGOs that focused on exposing the violations of human rightsbenefited greatly from the internet. The NGOs focused on ensuringadherence to human rights and went ahead to challenge the countriesto adopt democratic ideals that included transparency. The mostimportant tool used by the NGOs in preaching for democracy was themedia and the internet. The free flow of information and ideasresulted in openness that could not be controlled by authoritarianregimes. Political oppression in any country is portrayed by themedia and the internet and the international community responds intime. The tyrannical governments especially in the post independentAfrica were exposed by the internet. The response to tyrannies wasthe sanctions from the international financial that compelled theauthoritarian countries to adopt democracy in order to gain thefinancial assistance and support (Nisbet, Stoycheff & Pearce,2012). The World Bank and the IMF made a condition for any countryseeking financial assistance to adopt transparency in governing. Forinstance, countries like Zimbabwe were sanctioned as a result offailure to adopt democracy. The media and the internet play a keyrole in exposing the authoritarian regimes thus giving theinternational community the chance to help citizens push fordemocracy. In a situation where the internet opens up the country fora push for democracy, people are sensitized and informed to push fordemocracy (Anduiza,Perea, Jensen & Jorba, 2012).
Thedemocratic revolutions over time have inspired more revolutions.Citizens who fight for and gains democracy inspires other countriesto push for democracy. Internet provides a wide range of informationon the fight for democracy and what it takes to gain democracy. Theexistence of the internet with positive democratic regulations is initself a step towards democracy. The internet helps embrace t amulticentre world that leads to democratic change. The capitalistsargue that internet helps tic activists attract a wide readership andthus people can easily create a workforce that naturally lends itinto the democratic values (Polat, 2005). Other than exposingauthoritarian rulers, the internet consist of major blog networksthat provides news and opinions outside the existing have proved toattract a wide readership. The blogs that provide information onmajor or influential persons, major trends among others have reachedthe international communities through the facilitation of theinternet. Popular democrats, therefore, pass their ideas through theinternet thus speeding the process of democratization.
RecentChallenges on the Role of the Internet in Promoting Democracy
Therole of the internet in promoting democracy is supported by manyevents. However, recent studies have challenged the role of media inpromoting democracy. Studies show that internet is only beneficial insome situations. The internet only promotes pre-democratic attitudesamong the countries that had already conceived the idea of democracy.Internet, therefore, does not promote political change but it onlyreinforces the existing political change because it cannot mobilizethe citizens to fight for democracy in countries that are extremelyauthoritarian. For instance, countries run by authoritarian regimeslike Vietnam and Zimbabwe limits the use and the contents of theinternet thus limiting its use in the democratization process(Nisbet, Stoycheff & Pearce, 2012). This has greatly hindered thepeople’s power or democratic rights as they are locked out from therest of the world. When information access is curtailed, people tendto be reserved and unaware of what the people elsewhere areexperiencing or are anticipating. Zimbabwe has been successful in itsinternet censorship and is the only African country where democracyhas never been achieved. Developed economies like China have alsoengaged in curtailing the use of internet although in a lightermanner. Whereas such countries cite security of the country as amajor reason for control of internet use, it has greatly affected thedemocracy of the people.
Secondly,the question of internet access needs to be considered. Researchindicates that demand for democracy is particularly high in countriesthat more people are connected to the internet. In many third worldoften countries that are often undemocratic or in the process ofdemocratization, majority of the population are not connected to theinternet (Anduiza,Perea, Jensen & Jorba, 2012).Large part of the population in the third world is illiterate, lowclass and is ignorant on the use or the need to connect with theinternet. The inaccessibility of the internet becomes a barrier inreaching the targets of democracy. For instance, research carried outin Africa on the relationship between democracy and connection to theinternet showed that the more connected the citizens, the greater thedemand for democracy. The accessibility of the internet, therefore,affects its role in the democratization process (Nisbet, Stoycheff &Pearce, 2012).
Thirdly,there are countries in Asia and Middle East that the internet hasfailed to promote democracy because the negative democraticregulators denied or limited the use of internet. For instance,self-censorship in Middle East accounts greatly to the inability ofthe internet to promote positive democratic changes. In otherinstances, the dominance of the Marxist theory, internet politics areapplicable with the ruling class protecting or controlling theirpolitical status through refraining from the internet use forindecent political purposes. As for the western nations, the failureof internet to promote democracy can be attributed to people focusingon the internet for international news (Polat, 2005). People inwestern nations focus on other stories on the internet rather thaninvolve themselves in civil society or democratic issues.
Indeed,the internet transforms the society politically. There is asubstantial relationship between the internet and democratization.The relationship was greatly transformed by the globalization of theinternet. Through the observation of evolution of democracy since1992, it is clear that transformation in technology transforms theprocess of democratization. Internet, therefore, is a positive toolfor democratization. The citizens who have been empoweredtechnologically or the digital citizens who constantly revisit theinternet to upgrade their knowledge appear to be more informed.Informed citizens are passionate, participatory, outspoken and proudof themselves, their culture, and are committed towards ensuring freeand democratic nation. The empowered citizens focus not on the pastor the present but the future thus focus on development. Internet initself has been democratized and is, therefore, a good example ofdemocracy. However, there are cases in which the internet fails tofoster democratization. The success of the internet indemocratization supersedes its failure to encourage democracy in somecountries.
Anduiza,E., Perea, E. A., Jensen, M. J., & Jorba, L. (Eds.). (2012).Digitalmedia and political engagement worldwide: A comparative study.Cambridge University Press.
Nisbet,E. C., Stoycheff, E., & Pearce, K. E. (2012). Internet use anddemocratic demands: A multinational, multilevel model of Internet useand citizen attitudes about democracy. Journalof Communication,62(2),249-265.
Polat,N. (2005). The internet and political participation. Europeanjournal of communication,20, 567-576.