The Impact of ICTs on Democratization and Good Governance
On June 5th, 2003, DOT-COM and InterAction co-hosted the first session in its speaker series on ICTs and Development, on the Impact of ICTs on Democratization and Good Governance. Over 60 participants attended the session held at AED's conference center in Washington, DC.
George Sadowsky, Global Internet Policy Initiative (GIPI) & dot-GOV, Ari Schwartz, Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and Michael Hudson, School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University presented from their particular experiences related to how ICT interact with democratization efforts around the world. Eric Rusten of dot-ORG moderated the session and kicked off the discussion portion of the presentations.
George Sadowsky: Changing Internet Policy: Experience from 17+ Countries
Dr. Sadowsky opened the session by describing the legal and regulatory reforms and the policy framework necessary to the development of an open and democratic Internet in developing countries.
Based on his experiences with GIPI and dot-GOV, he reviewed the history of the growth of the Internet over the past 15 years, documenting the tremendous increase in penetration in developing countries.
Key challenges remain, however, to further growth:
Ari Schwartz: E-Government Toolkit for Developing Nations
Mr. Schwartz spoke on the effects of e-government on democratization and good governance, and described the E-government tool-kit developed by CDT to create effective e-government programs.
During his presentation, Mr. Schwartz reviewed the three phases of e-government programs - Publish, Interact, and Transact.
Examples of E-government information publication are:
You can also learn more about the CDT/infoDEV E-Government Handbook at http://www.cdt.org/egov/handbook
Michael Hudson: Impact of IT on Civil society and Democratization in the Middle East
Dr. Hudson shared his expertise in the Middle East to discuss the impact of IT on civil society and democratization in the region, and give us some hints for development in the future. Dr. Hudson started out by giving the audience the current political context in the Middle East. Two authoritarian political systems have emerged after the end of colonial rule: monarchies/sheikhdoms (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco) and revolutionary socialists that tried to establish progressive military regimes.
In the past 20 years there has been a gradual challenge to both models, a transformation from those authoritarian systems to two alterative models: liberal, open political systems or Islamist regimes. In addition to this transformation, the region has suffered economic stagnation, despite its oil wealth. He mentioned the example of Iraq in particular to illustrate the political pivot point many countries are currently balancing on.
Dr. Hudson then sketched out the history of information and communication technology in relation to political mobilization in the Middle East, Starting with the long history of coffee houses and trade routes, he traced the use of television, fax machines, cassettes, cell phones, and web based journalism as methods for political advocacy by a variety of different groups.
The political networking effect of new ICTs in Arab world today has been accelerated by these new technologies, and spilled over to civil society impacts. For example, Al Jezeera and other such journalism has broken the culture of deference and enabled speech within authoritarian regimes, putting them on the defensive, and connecting people with a global society.
Internet connectivity is a window to outside world for Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, gender roles have traditionally prevented women's ability to communicate, but the Internet has really affected how women see themselves and expect to be treated.
The Internet revolution is breaking the state's information monopoly. It is socializing the children of elite, who are learning subversive information that's not censored. It is also creating new information networks, encouraged by the state, top down with censorship. However, business communities are pushing e-business and driving Internet development.
Islamists have also developed effective uses of the Internet with a leavening effect. However, effective and ingenious utilization of Internet might spillover to terrorism.
Dr. Hudson's full presentation "Impact of IT on Civil society and Democratization in the Middle East" can found by clicking the following link. https://dot-com-alliance.org/ss_hudson.html.
After the three presenters spoke, the discussion was opened up to the audience to ask questions, such as
DOT-COM/InterAction ICT Speaker Series Background
The DOT-COM/InterAction ICT Speaker Series, funded by USAID (DOT-COM) and the Markle Foundation (InterAction ICT Working Group), is intended to explore ways in which Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) impact development efforts.
The main goals of the speaker series include sharing information about innovative and effective uses of technology in development efforts, building a community around a broad spectrum of information technology interests, and exploring gaps and challenges to effective implementation and use of technologies in our work.