In the run up to our Summit on the Global Agenda, we asked you to put your questions to Jared Cohen, from our Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government. The digital revolution is transforming politics. What would you like to know about e-government, online campaigning and citizens’ rights in the digital age?
Questions from our Facebook followers:
Karima Maach: To what extent can we define democracy in the digital world?
Jared Cohen: Democracy in the digital world is defined by the same things that lend it strength in the physical world: free expression, rule of law and some form of representative government. Technology has an amazing capacity to grow the public commons and give people the power of information, but it comes with certain risks. Privacy and security are the ultimate shared responsibility. All of us have a role to play in this, from companies to individuals. Companies need to provide tools that safeguard people’s rights, and make sure the tools are easy to find and use. The public has to utilize those tools, too.
Access to information will always be one of the greatest forces for democracy. In the case of the digital world, this means reliable, open access to the Internet, free of censorship and government repression.
Melody Polson: Can we secure online voting? If we can, might we become more ‘directly democratic’ and make information more available, and have forum discussions around the pros and cons of legislation? Rather than wait for journalists or activists, we might access the arguments without a filter.
Jared Cohen: Technology offers people all sorts of ways to become better informed. It seems reasonable to assume that in many countries, secure online voting isn’t that far off. I would argue that the Internet already provides an incredibly robust platform for public discussion, journalism and civic engagement, and that this will continue and grow.
Questions from our Twitter followers
umikael @ushindim: Are developing nations going to be digital colonies of those who own the digital infrastructure?
Jared Cohen: Keeping a free and open Internet is crucial to maintaining a balance of power online.
Alexander Simon @Alexander_Simon: How about privacy? On one hand there is the chance to gain transparency, while on the other, surveillance is omnipresent.
Jared Cohen: The balance between security and privacy is one of the most important questions facing policy-makers today. It’s something we will always wrestle with.
Alexander Simon @Alexander_Simon: More transparency, better ways to stay informed – do these pave the way for an increased level of participation?
Jared Cohen: The Internet has the capacity to vastly expand civic participation and good governance – assuming we keep it free and open.
Author: Jared Cohen is Director of Google Ideas at Google and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.
Image: A man uses a smartphone in New York City REUTERS/Mike Segar