Tuesday 23 November, 7.00pm until 8.30pm, Landmark, Apex Plaza, Nungambakkam High Road, Chennai, India
Venue: Landmark, Apex Plaza, Nungambakkam High Road, Chennai, India
India is not only the world’s largest democracy, but also one of the most high-tech, having pioneered electronic voting machines. Technology has not only modernised the physical act of voting, however, but arguably transformed the practice of democracy more generally. Politics now pervades the internet, with politicians and activists taking advantage of everything from email to blogs, video-sharing and social networking sites. Laptops and mobile phones have become increasingly affordable and highly-effective political tools. People have the freedom to access public information like never before, and to publish their own opinions, challenging traditional sources of authority: ‘citizen journalists’ break stories and electoral candidates connect with their electorates via YouTube. But how revolutionary is new technology really? Does it really lead to a redistribution of political power? Or are political parties and multinational corporations simply using new technology for their own traditional ends?
New technology has certainly opened the door for the majority, rather than the minority, to create and have their say and engage in political activism. Chinese dissident activists can communicate beneath the radar of the authorities, while in democracies like India, individuals have the potential to communicate across great distances and regardless of social boundaries. But does the reality live up to the hype? Or do people prefer to use the new technology for more mundane purposes like entertainment and chatting to friends? Does the cost of technology unfairly exclude some of those who most need a political voice? As some fear with electronic voting machines, might technical flaws or ‘gremlins’ actually undermine democracy? And even when everything works perfectly, might the informality and anonymity of the web itself undermine democracy by encouraging incivility and offence, or allowing people to communicate only with others who share their own opinions? Can citizens and politicians alike harness the potential of the internet to develop new and more open forms of democratic engagement, or should politics come back down to Earth?
The discussion will be introduced by Claire Fox, director, Institute of Ideas
founder and CEO, Foodking; independent candidate, Lok Sabha Elections 2009, Chennai
associate fellow, Institute of Ideas; editor, Culture Wars; editor, Debating Humanism; co-founder, Manifesto Club
e-Governance consultant and social activist, Life Line to Business (LL2B), Chennai
executive editor, NDTV Hindu; host, Chennai Speaks Out; former National Debating Champion
director and co-founder, manyriversfilm; director, Emmy-nominated Cult of the Suicide Bomber
head of external relations, Institute of Ideas; chair, IoI Economy Forum; convenor, The Academy
It is tempting to see technology as a solution to problems that are really political. In the West, this has led to over-excited speculation about how Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can re-engage the electorate with politics and revitalise democracy.Dolan Cummings, Independent, 10 November 2010
India’s dynamism in the technology sector is well known, as is Gandhi’s legacy in India of civic action and bottom-up change. But today’s expo highlighted something very fresh: Indian civil society’s harnessing of innovation and technology to strengthen India’s democracy by fighting corruption, holding government officials accountable, and empowering citizens to be the change they seek.Samantha Power, GovMonitor, 8 November 2010
Jeremy Hunt's full speech at the Royal Television SocietyJeremy Hunt, Royal Television Society, 29 September 2010
It is time to stop thinking about the Internet as a kind of liberation theology (expressed at its most ethically naive through Wikileaks’ belief that the path to a just society is absolute transparency); the key issue facing everyone in the next decade is figuring out how to use the Internet and how to discern its societal benefits from its over-hyped Utopian promises.Trevor Butterworth, Forbes, 8 September 2010
Does politicians’ use of social media offer a positive way to engage an apathetic public, or is it a distraction from developing a more coherent and inspiring political vision?David Bowden, Debating Matters, 22 January 2010
A common techno-utopianism certainly played a role in this year’s demoralising political summer and Yevgeny Morozov is correct to call for a new realism about the impact of social media on authoritarian societies. Ironically, his digital brand of realpolitik may ultimately be the most effective strategy for making the world a more democratic placeAndrew Keen, Daily Telegraph, 18 August 2009
With over 700 million voters, India is the world’s largest democracy. Naturally, electoral fraud is a frequent problem. But social media may be changing that bleak picture. Guarav Mishra, a current Yahoo! Fellow and co-founder of Vote Report India, has been working to ensure fair (or fairer) elections, not by relying on international observers, but by appealing to the strength of India’s “digital” civil society.Chris Van Buren, Internet & Democracy Blog, 18 April 2009
Even as politicians are trying to use new media tools effectively, agencies specializing in digital political campaigns have sprung up in response to the opportunity, and are even offering money back guarantees .Gaurav Mishra, Gauravonomics Blog, 22 March 2009
The battle for the reader
"There was an astonishing range of opinions expressed while I was there, some of them pure nonsense, others profound, all of them provocative."
Daniel Moylan, Deputy chairman, Transport for London