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Category Archives: Digital Society

Since the presentation of the iPAD it is discussed how it will shape the future of internet. Many stress that it is a content consuming device rather than a content creating device. The New York Times application as well as the iBook-Store underpin this. Hence Apple enables traditional media companies like book and newspaper publisher to gain power back in a world which was flattened by the internet.

An article in the German FAZ points out that Apples products in combination with the appstore turns the iPAD into a remote control for the internet. With the advent of the remote control for TVs zapping through the channels came along. As a result media consumers wanted to see something to happen rather than wait for a plot or a political debate to evolve and in which different perspectives can be presented in detail. Hence something I consider to be the basis of a good discussion culture eroded more and more. With the internet a new space for this discussion culture emerged making it possible to discuss topics which are not covered comprehensively off-line. However, holding devices in your hand which you use to enter the internet through applications might limit the chance to stumble over new interesting debates. You’ll get what your apps offer you. Is there any evidence that supports this assumption?

As mentioned at the beginning the iPad is a content consuming device not creating. A recent PEW study reports that blogging decreased among younger internet user and instead micro-blogging booms. It is argued that the advent of smartphone might have caused this development as people enter the internet with devices that are not convenient to engage in lengthy discussions as it is rather painful to use those devices to present a comprehensive argument. So what does it imply for eGovernement?

Andrea DiMaio points out the potential impact of the iPad (or a comparable device) can have to tear down the wall of the digital divide. There is no doubt that such a device can connect technically uneducated citizens more easily to the internet and hence to services offered by public authorities online assuming easy to use applications will be provided. However, this is eGovernment and not Gov20. Also applications which use open data-sets can offer citizens to gain more insights but gaining new insights is still not Gov20.

Gov20 implies the interaction of citizens, politicians and officials. Having realised that content generating highly depends on the device you use the iPad can have a negative effect on active participation. I wouldn’t have written this blog-post if I had an iPad. Probably I would have communicated my opinion just via twitter.

I have to admit that I am afraid that the deterioration of a healthy debate culture declines further. Everyone who read Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” should be aware of this development. When I read about the hourlong debates presidential candidates had with each other across the country and have a look at todays debating culture I wish we could have preserved some aspects of the old days.

Don’t get me wrong I love the aspect that a device like the iPad has the amazing potential to bridge the digital divide but it won’t necessarily enhance interactions with politicians. Hence the iPad and any similar device will be more eGovernment than Gov20.

The German coalition will set-up a parliamentary enquete commission dedicated to “Internet and Digital Society”. This commission will be set up by 13 members of the parliament with all parties represented and 13 experts still to be announced.

According to netzpolitik.org the focus will be on the following areas:

  • Culture and Media
  • Economy and Environment
  • Education and Research
  • Justice and Interior
  • Society and Democracy

I will post a more detailed list later. For everyone who can read German may take a look here. So far the list seems to be quite complex and rather ambitious as the final report shall be delivered in 2012. This report shall provide guidelines how Germany can tackle challenges and leverage opportunities digital technology offers.

It is interesting that the last enquete commission that dealt with the challenges of our digital era took place between 1996-1998. Obviously in the last 12 years a lot happened, new opportunities and new challenges as the recent issue of Google and China shows. However, I hope the results will be less prone by a protective mindset but by one that actually embraces the new technology. Let’s surprise DiMaio who sensed “that German government people tend to overplan things”.

Besides my proposal for a twitter hashtag for this commission is a bit lengthy but unique: #eDeutschland.