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Digital Politics also a tool of politicians and government actors

Digital technologies have helped radically change citizen participation in political processes, served as a platform for guerilla politics, but it’s worth noting that traditional political structures have also adopted them. Citizen v government isn’t the only source of digital-political struggle, and we should see increased use of ICT in familiar political arenas.

Poomjit Sirawongprasert writes,
“Politicians and political parties across the region are increasingly developing digital content and engaging in online communities. All of them have online public relations departments to announce party policy, offer opinions on certain issues, obtain feedback, and track results. Many politicians have set up their own blog sites, and high-profile figures make daily use of their Twitter and Facebook accounts to rouse support, attack their opponents, comment on current affairs and publicize their political messages.”

Political parties – not just citizen-action groups – are using these tools in traditional campaign strategies.

“the Malaysian ruling party’s loss of its two thirds parliamentary majority in the March 2008 general elections was credited largely to increased access to information from digital sources. Because the opposition was denied balanced coverage in mainstream media, it relied on alternative media such as the Internet, blogs, SMS, mailing lists, Listservs, and YouTube to communicate its campaign messages to the public.”

Implications

Adoption of ICT by government can help de-radicalize political uses of digital technology. Plus sides include opening channels of communication and outreach, and not isolating tech-savvy electorate. Downsides include government learning more about ICT so they can censor it more effectively, or finding new avenues for media manipulation. Regardless, it suggests possibilities of a mild transformation of political structures, possibly without radical rebalancing of political power. It’s possible to look to other countries – where ICT meets politics at the bottom-up and the top-down – to see a future of digital politics in Southeast Asia.

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Sources:

Noviscape, Sept 2010, page 10,11: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/Noviscape_Sept2010#page=10