Sunday, 21 October 2012

The next age of participation

Democracy, the haloed form of government championed by the 20th century, has developed a few dark spots lately. World over, we have seen citizens stand up demanding accountability from their representatives - whether it's the Occupy movements or wikileaks that call the actions of public officials to scrutiny. 

India itself saw an awakening of sorts with Anna Hazare making a stand against corruption, Jaago re calling for more people to vote and so on. Most of these movements have reached a sort of plateau, a place where a few "faces" speak on behalf of the movement and the common man has gone back to being a mute spectator. This is chiefly because it is expensive in terms of time and effort for the common man to participate, to seek information - the key enabler of direct participation. While laws such as the Right to information exist, they are wrapped in bureaucracy making it lengthy, cumbersome and painful for the common man to have direct access to government departments, debates and documents.

Technology however, now enables us to tackle the problem of information in a democracy in innovative manners. One such example is Nulpunt - an app that makes available all documents under discussion or scrutiny by the Dutch government. it even allows people to highlight and mark comments and share it on social networks. As a developing country, it is innovative solutions such as this that we must look to to enable and empower our people and to make politicians and politics more answerable.

Fast co design

PS: Also check out this TED talk by Clay Shirky on how social media can change government and organisation structures