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Democracy in Africa Blog - Principles of Digital Democracy

Guest article on the Democracy in Africa (DiA) blog on "Principles of Digital Democracy - Theory and Case Studies".

It is unfortunate that the term ‘digital democracy’ is often equated with social media, since if this were true it would mean that democracy is a form of government in which the vast majority of people are relegated to engaging in meaningless chatter, while an extremely narrow subset make the decisions. Indeed, according to this conception of ‘digital democracy’, democracy would be reduced to nothing more than a collection of armchair generals dispensing Twitter threads on everything from epidemiology to land warfare tactics to artificial intelligence in an endless battle of petty point-scoring.

This strange understanding of ‘digital democracy’ is all the more astounding, as, prior to the invention of the Internet, we did not view democracy purely as a talking shop.

Instead, we viewed democracy as rule by the people, a form of government in which popular will was translated into policy following the ascertainment of that will by voting. While only a tiny fraction of the population took part in public debate (e.g. writing opinion pieces in newspapers or giving public speeches), in many countries 70-80% of enfranchised adults voted in elections.

My new book, Digital Democracy: Theory and Case Studies, argues that to make democracy digital does not require us to invent profit-driven online forums like Twitter or Facebook for the sake of facilitating highly asymmetrical public speech, but instead to provide a system via which popular will can be transparently measured and translated into political action.

Read the full post at Democracy in Africa here.


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