In The Second Machine Age, Brynjolfsson and McAfee explain that this new revolution will globally improve the quality of life for population around the world, as some digital progress already did (smartphone, music, cabs apps, etc.). Could we also imagine that this new age lead to a more transparent, accountable, and participatory democracy ?
Indeed, new technologies and new platforms will probably enable citizens to voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, challenge their governments and even maybe supervise public authorities. However, the reverse is also true and governments could obtain bigger technological powers to increase their control over populations, putting democracies at risk. How could we avoid such a risk and guarantee that digital progress won’t obstruct people’s freedom ?
We can also wonder if new technologies like mobile apps where people can propose their own public policies and vote directly for them online (STIG for exemple) or the potential evolution of participative financing of public projects via crowdfunding platforms will change the way public policy are going to be made and financed. How far can this go ? Should we let the citizens take all the decisions ?
These questions are crucial.
As you explain, the digital revolution brings the people new opportunities to express their wants and to organize themselves in order to take part to the policy of their country.
Nonetheless, I think that it is complicated to generalize those issues. Indeed, some poor countries are facing huge problems (health, security, education, economy…) and won’t concentrate their policy on the access to those innovations. On the other hand, other poor countries led by a government less concerned by the living conditions of the people, will see innovation as a new weapon to control the people and have more power. You just have to think to Big Brother in 1984. Here, innovation is just a new tool, which deprives the people of its freedom.
How to control this use of digital and technologies in the field of policy making? Must the regulators think to an international treaty regulating this use? But, how to apply it in different countries facing different huge problems?