Information and communication technology are transforming democracies worldwide.   In fact, we are only beginning to tap their true potential

Rating the Impact
of New Technologies
on Democracy

Published in:


Whether on values as it does on scientific theory and data.  My own view is that stronger, more open, and more inclusive democracies provide the greater good for the greater number. There may come a time in its evolution when a point of too much democracy is reached. However, nowhere on Earth is this true in humanity's and civilization's evolutionary trail.

In my opinion, we are nowhere near a strong democracy, or a participatory representative system, or teledemocracy anywhere on this planet, with the the single exception perhaps of Switzerland where citizen initiatives and referenda are available to the citizenry at all levels of government and used widely.  The Swiss are constantly involving themselves in legislation to augment and sometimes undo the work done by their representatives and/or government officials.

However, even in Switzerland, there has not been much improvement in their system by the new information and communication technologies (1CTs).  In fact, the country's voter turnouts are in a steady decline.

I think that modern ICT is absolutely essential for helping democracies transform themselves toward a strong democracy or a more participatory stage of democratic evolution.  The use of such technologies, particularly computers, permits much higher levels of democracy at greater distances and includes much greater numbers of citizens than ever before possible.

Because of these new ICTs, we can improve and expand direct democracy---well-informed citizens deliberating complex issues for long periods of time at vast distances from one another---in big cities, in states, nationally and transnationally.  As Francis Cairncross so eloquently stated, the new ICTs have tolled "the death of distance" while simultaneously heralding a new era for democracy.

Thanks to the development of one of the most important ICTs---the Internet---I have been able to launch a Web site into cyberspace dedicated to the transformation of democracies into stronger states whether it be from thin to strong or from dictatorship to limited-rep states. The site, called Teledemocracy Action News + Network (TAN+N), can be found at http://www.auburn.edu/tann and is characterized by a lighting bolt rating system that runs from one bolt to six bolts with each successive bolt indicating a greater level of citizen empowerment and greater level of democracy.


Please choose a one of the sections below to read a description of the rating. 

Zero Bolt 1-2 Bolts 3-4 Bolts 5-6 Bolts

Concluding Thoughts

I've tried to show in this brief article that new and future ICTs are good friends, allies, and supporters of democracy, no matter what its stage of evolution or wherever it is practiced. Many more examples of two-six bolt empowerments exist, but space here is limited. Readers interested in reviewing more examples should visit the TAN+N Web site. Furthermore,
there is every reason to believe that present and future ICTs will be put to more use---beyond the limits of our imaginations---and will synergize this movement as never before.

We realize these very same technologies can be and are being deployed defensively by hostile political powers to crimp and/or cripple these very same movements. However, whenever the powers-that-be are thrust into a reactive or retroactive mode of operations, they create at least the appearance, if not the reality, of suppression, repression, and oppression. This does not always work well in democracies and, in fact, often leads to big scandals and even stronger movements and broader coalitions to overcome the tyranny of that state.

Am I optimistic about seeing the positive and supportive role of ICT for future democracy prevailing over the negative and destructive uses of ICT against democracy? Indeed, I am. I also think my view is supported by a long history that demonstrates over time that democracy, not dictatorship, has been, remains, and will always be the political wave that drives real human social and economic progress.