• New technologies play key role in strengthening democracies | G. Fraser-Moleketi

    14 Sep 2012

    A bank representative helps customers in Fiji manage their electronic bank accounts. (Photo: Jeff Liew/UNCDF)
    A bank representative helps customers in Fiji manage their electronic bank accounts. (Photo: Jeff Liew/UNCDF)

    International Day of Democracy this year underlines the crucial role that informed people everywhere can play in realizing the benefits of democracy.

    The UN Secretary-General has called for focus and creativity in bringing democracy education to all, with special attention to societies in transition where this education is needed most—and where people often have much to learn about their rights and responsibilities under a democratic system.

     The call for creativity in pursuing democracy education resonates uniquely at UNDP.  Since the early 1990s, we have harnessed the transformational potential of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development, promoting e-governance and access to information with the specific aim of empowering people to influence public decisions.

    The social movements we saw in the Arab awakening and elsewhere showed just how powerful these technologies can be—especially through social networks and mobile technologies that have “democratized” access to the public sphere and given a voice to people who previously had none.

    Mobile technologies have, further, seen explosive growth in developing countries, where nearly 80 percent of the world’s more than 6 billion mobile subscribers live. This phenomenon has unleashed a new wave of innovation by social entrepreneurs and civil society organizations, led by young people, who are taking matters into their own hands and devising local solutions to local development challenges.

    These same innovative approaches can help us promote democracy education.

    People are learning about democratic governance “by doing,” claiming their rights—economic, social, cultural and political—and demanding that they be respected. This doesn’t mean that democracy education is a fait accompli, or that traditional channels are irrevelevant. Technology builds on what came before, providing new paths to build democratic cultures and instill values that will take root and flourish over time.

    Talk to us: How does education contribute to democratic governance?