The Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government in Asia 2012 took place for the first time in Singapore on 14 and 15 November 2012. CeDEM is looking to open a new forum in Asia for the exchange of ideas, networking, and collaboration on the topics of e-democracy and open government.
Notes from Day 2 …
Psy, a Korean music star, made a song that went viral on social media within very short time: Gangnam Style. His video was liked, shared and re-tweeted by various famous people in the music industry.
Theorizing on the role of social media in politics is based on the following entities: Social media, users, and political engagement. New communication technologies have the following use patterns: informational (news), relational (social with friends and family), recreational (solitary vs. social as games). Users of social networking sites are not equal and politicians and political parties can make use of social media to reach targeted audiences vs. far reaching broadcasts. Social media sources are likely to be credible and foster interactivity.
Who benefits in the context of politics? Are social media relevant for people with more or less resources? People who have competences in the use of technology benefit from social media only when they use social media often; not when they use it only seldom. Young people are generally good in new technologies but less interested in politics. Old people are generally less competent in technology but interested in politics. Young people under 29 and old people over 50 do not gain political knowledge from social media. They have other sources. People in the age group of 18 to 29 are more likely to use social networking sites. Young people get a lot of messages “to vote” and fewer messages on “what to vote for”. Social media serve as gateways to further information; they foster soft participation – slacktivism.
The prime minister announced via the TV not to read certain blogs and civil servants were not allowed to watch these blogs. The results were 32,000 hits per hour on the respective sites. The real power of the internet is to privately and publicly allow for a more efficient public sphere.
In Vietnam, there are no private media. Traditional media is run by the governing communist party. Many traditional media use social media as information source to see the common perspectives of certain issues. Now, traditional media use social media as distribution channels. Social media shall be used by society to check the work of journalists, and journalists shall control government.
People are encouraged to talk about politics on local level. Blogs have a audience and criticize the government. Blogging politically endangered bloggers as they could end up in prison. People are allowed to make ‘noise’ but no ‘big noise’ as this makes people a thread.
All forces in society in Vietnam had to follow the same goal when becoming independent. Nonetheless, the opinions are not monolithic as discussions at all levels of society takes constantly place. In Vietnam, the uptake of the internet and social media takes western perspectives.
Internet penetration increased over the last 10 years from 1 % to 35 %. Social media is an upper class and urban issue. Censorship in Vietnam is less than in China, as only China has the technical means for exact and instant blocks. There is a competition and market of service providers in Vietnam.
Social media usage in the public sector changes public administration. The relationship with the public is affected and it can be integrated into decision making processes. Most research focuses on the Western context. In Korea, 23 of 32 ministries opened Twitter accounts in 2010. In Singapore only 3 of 17 ministries’ accounts have no followers. Twitter relations reflect real politics. While administrations from other countries follow the US, the other way around is almost inexistent. Japan is isolated. Also the links of public administrations within a country can be analysed.
Twitter is very popular in Japan and the use of social media shall increase efficiency in civil service. Japan has decreasing funds and decreasing population. During an earthquake in 2011, Twitter was used to respond to problems. Consequently projects about how to use social networks for public services are currently funded and further information about one of these projects can be read online in the conference proceedings.