Wednesday, April 6, 2011

digital citizens and cell phone democracy


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Mr. President, we are ready for your web cast.
The digital die has been cast and the trending is clear. The sea change rocking the Middle East provides a glimpse into the dramatically different mode for global government that awaits in the decades ahead. There is no turning back. The marriage of social media and mobile tools to modern democracy has been consummated. Now we must encourage and nurture it. The binary genie is completely out of the bottle and it won’t be going back in.
Back in 2008, Obama began coding the template and shifting forward the paradigm for 21st century citizen/government interaction. He and his audacious young team of fearless tech whizzes birthed this new model. Using blogs, Twitter, email, Facebook, Google apps, the Web - they hacked apart the aging archetype of how politicians interact with constituents and left the competition looking dull and dated. I still love getting emails with embedded videos from President Obama.
In June of 2009, Mr. Obama greeted Muslim students at an ancient university in Cairo in Arabic. This speech was delivered to a first-world educated population, 50% of whom are under the age of thirty. It resonated across the Middle East. Young people who embrace the tools and technologies the President used to get elected are now using them to voice their own vision of hope.
Social media is certainly playing a key role in toppling these long-standing regimes, but the tool set is far broader. In the past several weeks, we have seen cell phones used to capture and share video with a level of immediacy never before achievable. Tweets breaking the latest news. Google Earth used to develop location-based strategies. Tap a few keys, create a Facebook page and within hours a crowd has assembled to dissent - an activity which is then exposed to the world. The finger has indeed become mightier than the sword.
We find ourselves witnessing an accelerating paradigm shift: socio-cultural changes being implemented in a whole new way. We can watch and weigh in - support or condemn - activities occurring on the other side of the world. We are all now digital participants.
These newly-minted and emergent governments will have to find ways to incorporate the power of these new technologies into their day-to-day operations once the proverbial dust settles. Just as today’s digital natives are using these new tools and capabilities to interact with each other, they will more and more expect to use them in their interaction with elected officials.
What are the implications for modern government? Innovation. Accelerated interaction. Improved efficiency. Imagine if a bill was posted to the Web, people were given 48 hours to review and then share feedback with their elected officials. These politicians in turn conduct on-line fora using 3D TV or Webcasts for discussion, interaction and collaboration. Then voting was conducted via Web tools or smartphone.
These are historic times. Everyday people empowered by social media and emergent technologies are driving real change in the world. I look forward to participating in the disruptive innovations these approaches will create as they are assimilated into global citizen/government interaction.

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