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E-Democracy

Democratic societies throughout times of digital changes
A characteristic feature of new communication technologies is their ambiguity.

The rapid dissemination of new communication technologies, in particular the internet as the information medium of society, raises questions concerning democratic-political possibilities and dangers. Is it feasible to foster democratic developments through the internet? Does it extend equal opportunities or is it more likely that it will enhance social injustice? How do political institutions use the possibilities of the new information technologies? How do we overcome the division between those easily accessing information technologies (information rich) and others having to cope with social and educational barriers (information poor)?

Realistic assessments referring to the democratic use of the internet (see Claus Leggewie's contribution) draw a more sobering picture. Nevertheless, there is no reason for exaggerated euphoria or unfounded fear. The importance of the internet as a means of democratic publicity and political decisions is, provided that the chances are used properly, evident. One has to keep in mind though, that various hopes of democratisation have already been destroyed: so called "FreeNet-Movements", "Online Communities" and other net initiatives, dating back to the early days of the internet, lost their power and significance through commercialisation.

Since the 1980s industrialised countries have to face far-reaching reforms, which are characterised by liberalisation, convergence and globalisation. This caused a changed role of the state in communication sectors.

In the meantime new debates emerged, revolving around key words such as E-Democracy and E-Government. Their aim is to show how citizens can be included into the democratic-political system by using better, more transparent forms of information. Public participation shall be supported as well as processes fostering formations of opinions.

Gertraud Diendorfer
(Last update: 02/2006)

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