Technology is changing every aspect of life today and the world politics is certainly not an exception. Young IT experts are getting into the traditional bureaucratic world and they represent a new force that uses IT innovation to improve communication and government transparency. Some of them came to DLD today.
“Technology has brought a great power shift from hierarchy to citizens and network of citizens. What happened in Arab Spring is just the manifesto of that,” said Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Khaled El-mufti, a Libyan digital activist shared his experience that added a new perspective to the discussion. The Gadhaffi regime blocked Internet access in a bid to control the spread of uprising. Getting Internet back was then the priority. “In the Western context, social networking sites are often used for daily communication and leisure time, but in countries like Libya, they are platforms to let families know that you are alive” said the moderator Felix Marquardt. However, mobile phone provided an alternative. El-mufti and his team managed to reconfigure the mobile phone network and make the million registered users to reconnect to the internet via phones.
”The level of energy I felt in Libya was amazing.” described Nicolas Princen from his own trip to the country. Princen is an advisor for New Media and Information Technology at the office of President Nicolas Sarkozy, and he argues that in the case of Libya, the first priority is to build internet infrastructure and then, to ensure access to social network and service.
“Open exchange of information can have an impact on the world. There are voices to be heard and amplified, no matter where you are” commented Katie Stanton, the vice president of Twitter. She said it was remarkable the way twitter was used during the Arab Spring, or by the South Sudan government, the youngest in the world, to get the messages heard by the world.
Changes are also taking place in Britain. Rohan Silva, Senior Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, said although his government pioneers in publishing data and crow-sourcing public input into legislation, but itself still need to learn how to make use of the open data. “It is as if no Digital Revolution has ever happened in Downing Street No. 10”, said Silva who is now working on an iPad application for Prime Minister better use the government data available to him.
Close to the end, Alex Ross raised an important issue that while technology empowers individual to speak out, it can also facilitate the evil when in the wrong people’s hand. In the US, he said, the state has invested $70 dollar to protect individuals just with technology. “The Panic Button’” for instance, can be used to delete contacts and communication stored in the mobile phone.