Strasbourg, 18.11.2013 – Social networks, blogs and online media offer citizens unprecedentedly direct access to democratic life. Is the internet revolutionising our concept of democracy? A new study prepared for the Council of Europe invites governments and civil society to take advantage of the web as a tool for participatory democracy.
The study indicates declines in election turnout (in 40 out of 49 democracies worldwide from 2007-2013), party membership, trade union memberships, and other forms of democratic expression. It acknowledges recent “overblown expectations” of the Internet’s usefulness in promoting democracy, and that individuals participating online are often the same as those participating offline. It also notes the risk of the use of web censorship or surveillance to undermine democracy.
Prepared to inspire discussion at the 2nd World Forum for Democracy, the study proposes new ways forward in the practice of digital democracy. For example, it suggests that governments and parliaments pay more attention to Internet-based initiatives and avoid reproducing outdated tools, like consultations or public assemblies, online. Il also encourages civil society to make full use of potentially powerful opportunities for engagement such as crowdsourcing, crowd funding and viral social media campaigns. The web can also serve as a platform to better hold authorities to account.
University of Oxford scholar Amanda Clarke prepared the report - “Exploiting the web as a tool of democracy: new ways forward in the study and practice of digital democracy” – for the Council of Europe. (read more...)