Tag Archives: democracy

Mobiles, Social Media and Democracy

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) and the ICT4D Collective and UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London convened a session on Mobiles, Social Media and Democracy (#SocMed4Dem) on 15th March at the ICTD2012 conference hosted by Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

This began with a debate on the motion that This house believes that the use of mobile supported social media is an effective means of promoting democracy.  Breakfast planning, led to a slight change of schedule!  So, the session began with Mario Maniewicz (Chief of Department, Enabling Environment and E-applications, ITU) providing an overview of some of the issues surrounding this complex subject.  Then the debate began in earnest.  Katrin Verclas (Co-Founder and Editor of MobileActive.org) set the ball rolling arguing vehemently in favour of the motion, to be followed by a sound rebuttal by Adam Salkeld (Head of Programme, Tinopolis).  Then the real challenge – both for me and the audience!  To balance things up, I filled in the gap by seconding the motion in favour – even though I would have preferred to speak against the motion.  Half way through, when I was arguing that anarchy is the only true form of democracy, I suddenly realised that one might say things that one does not necessarily actually mean when one is debating.  My short intervention should have had a health warning!  And the debate concluded with a brilliant tour-de-force by Alan Fisher (Senior Correspondent, Washington DC, al Jazeera).  After numerous interventions from the floor, the final vote (including contributions by Tweets) was 21 in favour and 19 against!  Thanks to Caitlin Bentley so much for video streaming the debate and managing the Twitter feed!

After the ‘refreshments’ break, we broke up into small discussion groups, each chaired by one of the speakers, to explore the policy implications of four of the most important themes to emerge from the debate: access (chaired by Mario), privacy and security (chaired by Katrin), the relevance of historical sociology of technology and democracy (chaired by Adam), and ICTs against democracy: the ‘dark side’ (chaired by Alan).

The mind map below provides a summary of the fascinating discussions as presented in the final closing plenary.

Click on the image for a large sized (readable) version!

Video of the debate

Caitlin Bentley has compiled a ‘story’ of the #SocMed4Dem debate at #ICTD2012 at http://storify.com/cbentl2/mobiles-social-media-and-democracy

Leave a comment

Filed under 'phones, ICT4D

Balancing democracies…

An invitation to give the opening keynote address (video) at the “Commonwealth, Human Rights and Development” conference held at Cumberland Lodge from 11th-13th March 2011, gave me the opportunity to pull together some of my thoughts over the last couple of years concerning democracy and human rights.  In particular, I sought to address:

  • the diversity of meanings attributed to democracy;
  • the coalescence of interest between the rhetorics of democracy and the free market following the collapse of the Soviet Union;
  • the importance of the notion of democracy in the Commonwealth
  • the character of democratic institutions; and
  • the need to challenge widely taken for granted assumptions about the benefits of democracy and human rights.

In so doing, I drew six main conclusions:

  • Notions of democracy and universal human rights should be contested and not accepted automatically as something ‘good’.
  • We need to contest many of the claims to legitimacy of democratic states and rulers. In particular, attempts by powerful states to impose democracy on other states, seem to me to be highly hypocritical.
  • Instead of seeking to impose democracy on others, those who believe in democratic values would be better advised to help support the development of democratic institutions, especially elected parliaments, the judiciary and political parties
  • Discourses on rights should be balanced by ones on responsibilities;  a shift of attention to responsibility might well be able to deliver more for the poor and the marginalised
  • The communal traditions of Africa may offer interesting insights to counter the negative aspects of the individualism associated with human rights, democracy and capitalism.
  • Finally, it seems to me that a practical focus on how we treat others, especially the poor and the marginalised, is of much more importance than claiming that they have universal human rights.

I remain to be convinced that humans do indeed have universal rights.

1 Comment

Filed under Commonwealth, Politics