Democracy 2.0, Are We There?

In a panorama in which the digital media has become increasingly important, it is necessary to adapt to the terms that define our society, our culture or even our political system. For this reason, the term cyber democracy may be one of the most used nowadays

June 15, 2018, 1:41 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL.11, No.-22, June 15, 2018 (Ashad 01, 2075) Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Cyber Democracy is the use of information and communication technologies to practice democratic process by citizens. We know that information and communication technology is synonymous with Internet. Cyber Democracy has several names, cyber democracy, digital democracy, e-democracy, crowd sourcing democracy, democracy 2.0 and even up to 4.0.

In a panorama in which the digital media has become increasingly important, it is necessary to adapt to the terms that define our society, our culture or even our political system. For this reason, the term cyber democracy may be one of the most used nowadays.

Cyber democracy could be described as the use of ICT by different actors in the political processes of local communities, regions, nations or the international plane. ICT can be used in a variety of ways, not just for voting: From a bottom-up perspective, citizens and organizations can use them as resources to make their voices heard, parties use them for campaigns and governments and administrations use them to improve the services they are offering to citizens by introducing electronic forms for the request or consultation.

Almost as much as in any other areas, such as science or education, the development of information and communication technology (ICT) tools has the potential to impact democracy.

The effects of the digital world on politics and society remain difficult to gauge. The speed with which these new technological instruments evolve is often faster than the ability of an academic to evaluate them. The ability of a policy-maker is to integrate them into existing institutional designs.

Cyber democracy arises as an improvement or alternative to the current model of representative democracy - which is based on citizen participation through its vote once every four or five years. Cyber democracy is a way of promoting inclusion, transparency, and universality, which makes a new public sphere, an essential condition of democracy, possible.

With a glance at 2.5 billion Internet connections a day, 1.2 billion smartphones, 700 million Facebook users, 400 million tweets, online is a world on its. It is still unclear what this revolution in the field of information and communication technologies means in terms of the democratic use of political power. As politics is under the veil of money and big holdings, the promise of transparency and public participation in new communication channels will be fruitless. The Internet revolution, however, has a great potential for democracy renewal: the ability to participate, to have an authority, and to have a rational discussion can be achieved through the Internet in real sense. The end of the era in which the public reached only uniformed news through the media is now.

Digital spectrum in Nepal is quite promising. We have 71 licensed ISP and 20 of them are doing business in the market. As of Asar 2074, we have 16,867,599. 60% of this total user are active user. 15,399,952 is the number for GPRS/EDGE/3G/4G etc. users. Wireless/cable users (mainly through ISP) is around 260,000 (we multiply this figure by 5 to calculate the number of users because we assume each household account would be shared between 5 people in family) CDMA data users figure is 199,676 & WIMAX figure is around 16,700

We have 35,878,843 (number of subscriptions) and the rate is growing. In reality, the active subscriber base of NCELL is around 1 crore and NTC stands around 70 lakh. Future mobile data usage and traffic growth are getting higher and higher. As of now market data share of NCELL:- 44 % NDCL 52 % ISP's 2 % Others 2% respectively.

This data proves that the e-democracy is possible in Nepal. The Internet is becoming a political intermediary. The Internet is considered the most promising platform for e-democracy. The miniaturization and development of mobile telecommunications could also serve as technological support.

Access to information, expression, and production of citizen information, participation of community production etc are a few components of e-democracy.

Production of documents is made possible by the generalization of digital tools and the collaborative production of data or the provision of open public data (maps, statistics...). Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp are suddenly running a new wave. We can see political slogans, accusations, counter-debate, controversy and much more in social media. After the earth, the air, and the sea, a fourth force emerges from the shadows and this is the Internet. The rapid growth of digital domains begins to raise very relevant issues around the relationship between the internet and democracy.

In recent years, social networks such as Facebook and WhatsApp have proved to be a motor of democratic revolts, mobilizing the masses, calling large crowds and raising awareness. Social networks and smartphones are creating a new democracy in our society. Do social networks significantly alter the way democracy is working? Will they end up having a qualitative effect on it or will they just "facilitate" their practices? Democratic bodies are usually elected in periods of three to five years; however, the opinions of citizens seem to fluctuate daily. Democracy is not only exercised in the polling place but is daily lived and experienced online.

We are surrounded by people who really believe that the Internet has the potential that can change society for the better. The Internet is being increasingly used in our country for several nationalist campaigns. Even government leaders are maximizing cyberspace to promote unity and patriotism.

In the modern era, social media has emerged as a powerful tool of conceptual expression of public opinion. It is making important contributions to strengthening democracy. Social media has given everyone an opportunity to speak openly and give their opinions on every issue. The concept of democracy is based on public governance, for the public and by the public. It is very important to approach the voice of the public with this view. Social media is doing this work very well. So the interrelation between democracy and social media is very deep and comprehensive. This is the reason why the impact of social media is clearly visible in every section of the society. It has become an integral part of our lives. In the last few years, the younger generation has attracted it tremendously.

Disinformation is not false information. The problem is that disinformation is misrepresenting, presented in the wrong context, irrelevant, presenting only a certain part of the truth, creating the illusion of knowing something in the person, but really distracting the person. The problem is that television does not offer amusing content but all content is presented in a fun way.

While reducing participation costs, traditional means of political participation can be more effective with the use of ICT tools. Digital innovations can change the way democracy works by making it more inclusive and more deliberate. Real democratic inclusion occurs when it is understood, not in terms of the number of citizens and volume of participation, but in terms of target groups and policies addressed by new means of electronic participation.

The most important thing is that citizens know how to make good use of these platforms, they are tools that we have at hand and that we must learn to use them to strengthen our democracy.

A person who is better informed has a greater margin of participation, greater civility and develops traits of a leader. Digital democratic innovations can change the way governments govern, making them more reliable and effective. E-government and open data have become widespread tools to improve transparency and one can hardly call them innovations.

Cyber Democracy designs and not only enhances participation, but also enhances democracy, increases political inclusion, generates accountability, enforces the rule of law, and increases responsiveness. They can also promote social equality, as they include traditionally disadvantaged groups and provide channels for expressing those demands that are underrepresented.

While reducing participation costs, traditional means of political participation can be more effective with the use of ICT tools, they cannot be ensured that they are less subject to distortion and manipulation.
Can we put citizens at the center of legislation? The main motivation of e-democracy is to achieve through the involvement of citizens and their active participation in decision-making processes by Improving the quality of politics and democracy and to gain confidence and acceptance of the political process so everyone can share the responsibility of political decision-making.

Deepak Raj Joshi.jpg

Deepak Raj Joshi

(The author is a lecturer and IT consultant. He also writes fiction under the name of Kapeed Joshi. He can be reached by email at info@dipakjoshi.com.np.)

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