Why has technology not brought more democracy? | technology

New technologies offer new ways of empowerment, yet democracy remains in place. What’s wrong? Why has technology no longer achieved democracy in the world?

Two questions posed by Thomas Carothers, vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in an article in the American journal Foreign Policy, asked experts to know their opinions from different professional and national angles.

Before reviewing the experts’ answers, Carothers noted that many of the world’s democracies – both old and new – are suffering from serious institutional shortcomings and public mistrust.

How to reconcile these two conflicting global realities with the unprecedented advances in technologies that facilitate the process of empowering individuals, and the general inability to advance democracy worldwide?

Carothers quoted the answers of these experts and concluded with his own short notes. Here are their answers briefly:

Betting on local chips

The partial solution lies in the well-known and crucial fact that smart authoritarian leaders are able to limit the empowering effects of technology on ordinary citizens by cracking down on civilian space – as they do in many countries, says Martin Tesney, director of the Omidyar Network Policy. The use of new techniques for their own personal anti-democratic purposes, such as locating the whereabouts of pro-democracy activists and monitoring their actions.

In addition, new technology empowers individuals in many aspects of their lives that are not directly related to politics. Such as giving poor people access to previously inaccessible banking services and helping to define property rights for poorer communities.

Slower forms of social and economic empowerment are likely, according to Tesney, to have significant political impact in the immediate coming years.

New technologies empower individuals in many aspects of their lives that are not directly related to politics (Shutterstock)

tyranny and technology

One reason for this paradox is that the global fates of democracy are shaped by many different causal factors, says Larry Diamond, a fellow at the Hoover and Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies at Stanford University.

While some pro-democracy factors currently exist – such as large-scale economic development, the proliferation of “editing technologies” (especially mobile phones) that enable citizens to express their opinions, and the broader growth of civil society – they are becoming positive impact undermined by the damaging factors that abound Unfortunately these days; Such as the growing power and influence of authoritarian regimes, the decline in the effectiveness and determination of established democracies, and the “war on terror” that tends to undermine efforts to establish human rights and good governance in the major developing regions.

According to Diamond, a determined partnership between international and local actors is needed to prevent “fragile” new democracies from being derailed by problems such as systemic corruption and ethnic conflict.

The most difficult task

Rakesh Rajani, director of Democratic Engagement and Governance at the Ford Foundation, believes that the distribution of radio, television, independent newspapers, cheaper cell phones and the Internet; It allowed ideas to be generated and shared anywhere and by anyone at such unprecedented speed and cost that authorities could no longer hide what was happening and what people believed.

Intelligent authoritarian leaders are able to limit the empowering effects of technology on ordinary citizens (French)

The role of institutions

Diane de Gramon (student at Yale Law School) believes that technology can be a powerful tool in the hands of pro-democracy activists, helping them channel and publicize criticism of governments, track down potential allies, coordinate public protest, and thus naturally emerge as a liberating force.

However, the challenge of promoting or consolidating democracy in many countries is not only about providing citizens with ways of expression, but also about creating credible, representative institutions that can respond to the demands and needs of citizens.

According to de Gramont, political parties are the “weakest link” in most new (and also older) democracies; Citizens – in her opinion – do not trust or respect those parties, but political scientists generally believe that democracy is not viable without it.

It’s complicated

Thomas Carothers summarizes the experts’ answers to the reasons why new communication technology in recent years has not contributed to any progress in democracy in the world in 3 points:

  • First, it is too early to see the full effects.
  • Second, other factors partially outweighed or limited the potential positive effects of these technologies.
  • The third point is that technology does not solve some of the fundamental challenges for building democracy.

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