You are here: Home Knowledge Base Economy Optimizing Information Use through the Internet and Social Media Proposals Tackling obstacles which prevent the internet from functioning as a powerful tool for information sharing in an increasingly digital age.
Symposium 2012

Proposal - Tackling obstacles which prevent the internet from functioning as a powerful tool for information sharing in an increasingly digital age.

The Challenge

Unprecedented recent progress in information and communication technologies (ICTs) is enabling people and organizations to overcome personal and regional restrictions on information acquisition. The I ...

Unprecedented recent progress in information and communication technologies (ICTs) is enabling people and organizations to overcome personal and regional restrictions on information acquisition. The Internet and social media are particularly important for facilitating access to an unparalleled wealth of information, as well as providing opportunities for new innovative activities and social interactions.

The astonishing pace of the digital revolution has meant that top-down messaging has become a thing of the past. Digital progress has enabled normal people to engage, communicate and assert their voice into their community, which increasingly is no longer separated by geographical boundaries. Blogs, forums and social networking sites provide a powerful arena for the democratization of people and opinions, in a new era of ‘digital democracy.’

Whilst over 1/3rd of the global population are now online, provisions must be made to include those who risk being ‘left behind’ in the age of digital empowerment. Even in developed economies, there are many who do not have access to digital and social media, or do not have the skills to leverage these powerful tools in their personal and professional lives.  A cohesive effort must be made by nations not only to provide citizens with access to the internet but also to ensure governments/authorities provide web-based learning platforms for citizens to learn basic skills that will optimize their online experience and their place in society. [1]

We could: Create a multi-functional organization that deals with priorities, streamlining and issues of the online community.

We need to listen to the new intelligence of the digital age and understand the potential that effective information sharing can have for citizens.  The shift towards digital represents a cultural transformation as much as a technological advancement. Nonetheless, an organization  could be formed to regulate the internet whilst also establishing clear social and legal priorities for the online community. Countries/states should be encouraged to practice radical transparency and disclosure, whilst industry and sector-specific experts should participate in building an informed knowledge base that ensures fair regulation of the internet as whole. The whole of the digital community should be responsible for instigating awareness campaigns that highlight the potential dangers of using the internet.

Guidelines should be circulated that sites and forums can adopt as they manage and share information. Increasingly though, the onus should remain on the people to collaboratively mediate good practice in their online community. Understanding how information is captured, how information is recapitulated and how it can be used to benefit both businesses and society are key elements in optimizing information use through the internet and social media. Clear strategies should be declared by websites, forums and online brands about what the footprint of their digital communications will be; given their accountability will be more important than ever as digitally empowered citizens re-calibrate and implement their own views on the kind of society that they want to live in.

We could: create blueprints to support initiatives that share information in innovative ways and strengthen the community.

As we shift towards our society becoming ‘digitally native’, online programmers and developers should receive incentives to account for the new thoughts emerging from citizens in their work. Adaptable blueprints for networks and platforms that positively impact how society functions should be made available to everyone. People will feel empowered and more socially responsible as new platforms for sharing information are made available to them.  Effective sharing of information in this way helps to close the gap between the virtual and physical community and shows how crucial communicative platforms are as our society evolves.

Ushahidi (http://ushahidi.com/) is a NFP tech company that develops open source platforms for collecting information.  During the Japanese earthquake crisis, Ushahidi opened a platform where victims/carers could text in their health and whereabouts, and family members could locate them, obstacles and emergency centres on an interactive map.  Several hundred reunions were made through crowd-sourcing information in this way. This is a key example of optimizing information use through the internet that also corroborates the proposal that active digital partnerships that build the common good should be promoted as a key priority for the new digital generation. Platforms like this can help us learn from the wisdom of the crowd.

We could: ensure the accountability of online users is correctly safeguarded and quality information sources are duly commended.

A recent EU investigation discovered that 74% of Europeans see disclosing information as a part of modern life but that 72% of internet users are worried that they give away too much personal data. Action should be taken to ensure citizens feel in control of the information they share online. Businesses and organisations should be obliged to remove the personal data of internet users from their records if they request it and sites which require personal data should be wholly transparent about data use. Tougher regulation should be implemented to prevent the sale and profiteering of data taken from websites for telesales and marketing.

A global online ‘kite mark’ system could provide online users with assurance of a website’s standard and quality. Websites that have aligned themselves to accommodate the preferences of the digital community would have a kite mark to indicate their transparency in handling personal data and their effective management of content and information.  As a consequence of possessing the kite mark, websites would be more trusted and would likely receive greater volumes of site traffic. Higher site traffic enables better engagement with a broader pool of people; provides a stronger platform for people to interact with each other on and provides a critical facility for measuring the public opinion of the digital community and beyond. Simply put, websites that didn’t adhere to the kite mark standard would miss out.

But more than this, as the evolution towards a digitally empowered age unfurls, businesses, governments and citizens alike must acknowledge that the cornerstone of this new environment is accountability. Despite the increasing speed with which information can be shared, institutions must strive to be accountable to citizens and vice versa .We see an inevitable shift in the balance of power moving away from institutions and towards networks of citizens;  but a renewed sense of shared value calls for transparency and cooperation. These are the missing link. The rise of the digital age results in a kind of information distribution chaos: but taking heed of age old virtues such as truthfulness, fortitude, prudence and temperance bring stability to a global culture in digital transition.

Tang Hui, a Chinese mother who was exiled to a forced labour camp for suggesting to local authorities the prison sentence delivered to the multiple rapists of her 11 year old child was not long enough, was released from incarceration after a public outcry eruption on the micro-blogging site Sin Weibo. Although the local Chinese government made no public statement regarding the case, the release of Tang Hui, the amended (longer) prison sentences of her child’s rapists and the review of the use of ‘re-education through forced labour’ as a punishment in China speak volumes about how Sin Weibo and other social/digital sites can be used as a tool to hold institutions accountable to their behavior.

 


[1] In less economically developed countries, over 70% of children under the age of 25 do not have access to the internet – this indicates the scope of opportunity for better access, education and development of the internet in less privileged environments.  It also indicates that for almost 1.9billion people, the age of digital empowerment has not yet arrived, which is something that requires urgent attention from the global body politic.

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