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 1 …
The news nowadays is about how you respond to the news from the previous day and not about what you actually say in the first place. Mass media are broadcasting while social media can target specific groups; but bocial media are currently transforming the mass media. Millions of people listened to a few broadcasters in the US. The three main networks cover three different perspectives: conservative, democratic, moderate.
Singapore has the highest internet penetration in South East Asia and mobile connectivity is increasing. Print is still the main source of information in Singapore and the mainstream remains the main. Social media (and the phenomenon of getting viral) has an advantage concerning timeliness as they are faster than the mainstream. Society is getting more diverse in Singapore. The political elites don’t respond to public opinion and unpopular choices must be taken to keep services and to improve them. Politics is not online about persuading people; you have to provide facts. Diversity of society, complexity of government and the fractured media landscape change government and makes it open. In Singapore, the mostly watched news is not Singaporean news. 30 % of Singaporeans are online and the most popular Facebook site is the site of the police (Why? Curiosity?).
Singaporean government is used to vertical communication being top down. New media empowered citizens. Mainstream media is a rather inefficient way to communicate (only suitable for simplicity). New communication channels allow direct communication with various media, leading to an increase of direct democracy on various levels.
Singaporean government wants an official code of conduct for the internet. For activists, internet shall be open and free. Presently blogs are allowed freedom and they are information providers but also become important in political debates. The job of bloggers is not the alternative media, but to reflect on issues and follow their cause.
Social media (blogs) help governments to realise where communication (about politics) must be improved. Government shall distinguish between serious criticism (of real people) online and trouble makers (with hidden identities); but government shall attend to both.
Government must be trusted, that it follows the laws. Respect is based on the performance of the government. Political leaders must undergo a mind changes, as the present mind-set of leaders was created in the 1980’s.
Digital technologies (social media and mobile devices) are used to create the Singapore Memory Project. By 2015 (50th Singapore Anniversary) 5 million entries shall be collected. Civil society unites a different story than the government does. In Singapore, the official story is about growth, but society also remembers the downsides as well as the good parts.
In a case study, migrants with Indian background use mobile and social media to bridge the gap between their citizenship and not belongingness. The Indian population in Singapore (migrant workers) is not represented in government. Based on in-depth interviews, migrants can be clustered in four types: old party activist, disillusioned critic, apolitical individualist, and patriot. Social and mobile media technologies (phones) do not have specific impact on politicisation of the target group. There is no political representation in Singapore. The migrants live in-between two worlds: home country and Singapore. In Europe and the US migrants groups are more likely to mobilise via social and mobile media and utter a collective opinion such as demonstrations in front of embassies.
Social media and civic activism: Kony 2012 or Red Bull Stratos are two different examples of making themes go viral. The digital revolution doesn’t come from desktops but from mobile devices. It is a real time network that includes navigation (like a phonebook). Social media create ties. Interestingly, people who play games together seem to have closer bonds. In Facebook games you get rewarded for interacting with people. Receiving rewards (reaching benchmarks) attracts participation.