Can democracy survive in the information age?

Since the 1970-s, the contemporary world has been experiencing the Digital Revolution, the change from mechanical and electronic technologies to high tech, digital technologies. States have always used a combination of diplomatic, military, economic, and informational measures to advance..

Since the 1970-s, the contemporary world has been experiencing the Digital Revolution, the change from mechanical and electronic technologies to high tech, digital technologies. States have always used a combination of diplomatic, military, economic, and informational measures to advance their national interests, and technological change has altered each of these levers of power. The Information Revolution, however, has most radically reinvented the way in which states wield information power, ushering in changes to the nature of state competition, conflict, and international relations in the 21st century. 

Introduction 

Democracy is a term that constituted individual freedom and the power to a voice. It is a built on a crucial compact that citizens will have access to reliable information and can use that information to participate in government, civic and corporate decision-making. During the latter half of the 20th century, democracies had taken root in the most difficult circumstance possible - in Germany, which had been traumatised by Nazism, in India, which had the world’s largest population of poor people, and, in South Africa which had been disfigured by apartheid in the 1990s. Decolonisation also created a host of new democracies in Africa and Asia, and autocratic regimes gave way to democracy in Greece (1974), Spain (1975), Argentina (1983) and Chile (1989). The collapse of the Soviet Union created many fledging democracies in Central Europe. By 2000 Freedom House, an American Think-tank, classified 120 countries, or 63% of the world total, as democracies.  

The Information Age, also known as the Digital Age, is a historic period of the 21st century characterised by the rapid shift from traditional industry to an economy based on information technology. It creates a knowledge-based society surrounded by high-tech global economy that spans over its influence on how the manufacturing and the service operate in an efficient and convenient way. The technologies of the Information Age were largely built on the assumption that they would strengthen this compact. The trajectory of data-driven technologies, including machine learning, the internet of things and other aspects of artificial intelligence, will increase the scale, complexity and effectiveness of adversary information operations. however, as typified by Russian’s ongoing use of information operations against the United States and Europe, information technology has evolved over the last five years and been weaponised against democracies. 

Democracy in the Informative Age 

The advent of internet and social media, was once widely hailed as creating new opportunities to spread democracy and freedom. We are now living in a Digital Age and in the same way that the internet transforms economies by allowing companies to work efficiently, it is gradually changing the relationship between the government and citizens. Advances in information technology are transforming democratic governance. Power over information has become decentralised, fostering new types of communities and different roles for government. A transformation in modern representative democracy is well underway and information technology is a key component in the evolution of more participatory democratic governments. The increased involvement of people in political debates is evident on a greater scale on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The internet allows for greater freedom of expression, facilitating citizen’s ability to challenge and criticise: a basic democratic right. These social media sites also have the power to bring democracy about - the Egyptian Revolution 2011, being a prime example. Hence, the main advantage of Internet age in politics in general is its ability to promote citizen involvement. In the long run, it would help increase the transparency of institutions and their responsibilities. 

The primary drivers of advances in AI is growing abundance of data. The quantity of data available in the world if gradually growing at an exponential rate (90%of data created today was created in the last two years). According to data, by 2020 there will be close to 20 billion ‘Internet of Things’ sensors embedded around the world - collecting data from wearable devices, home appliances and city infrastructure. Firms with more data are able to create better AI softwares: for example, Facebook trained its algorithms to recognise faces by learning from billions of users ‘tagging’ pictures of their friends. Today, nearly every industry is either using or exploring machine-learning applications. 

The Information Age brought about significant changes not only in how people communicate with each other, but also to the broad political landscape.With technological advancement, geopolitical and ideological tensions between democratic and authoritarian states rise leading to information operations becoming more numerous, insidious and difficult to detect. Democracy is resilient: few democracies might crumble under the new wave of information. These information technologies threaten to jeopardise the democracies ability to govern and protect their national security, and to undermine people’s trust in democracy as a system of the government. 

The Vulnerabilities of Democracy 

Free speech is a core value of democracy. However with the advent of social media platforms, the Internet is not longer just a static bulletin board but a place where individuals can participate in real time public debates. The nexus between the Internet and social media signifies that without resorting to diplomacy or conflict, adversaries can change a democracy’s behaviour by influencing its citizens in real time. This would lead to the weakening in mechanism for distinguishing the facts from fiction. 

Elections are the cornerstone of a democracy. They are made vulnerable to both information operations and cyberattacks in the information age. The future of political campaigns will resort to the Internet, social media and data analytics. This in turns leads of a long, media-driven nature of elections to drive media coverage and mobilise probable voters. 

A healthy democracy would rely on the private sector to drive economic growth in a way that is compatible with the overall public good. Over the past decades, profit focused technology forms like Facebook and Twitter, have amassed an enormous amount of valuable data and honed the capability to drive citizens decisions and opinions. This has resulted in developing a tech sector profit-oriented culture. 

Technology indeed has transformative power in promoting transparency. Due to the simplicity of communication and it's rapidity nowadays, the entrenched monopolies of voice are not as powerful as before.In the nature of democracies, the executive and legislative branches perform the inherently government functions of security and regulations. However, in the United States, the government has not kept pave with adversaries strategies of exploiting information technologies. moreover, information technologies, fall into the seams between the public and private sector. This has lead to the inability of the government to oversee and coordinate issues related to the information environment. A skeptical attitude toward ICT and Digital Democracy is reinforced by some arguments that the use of ICT with in local communities has little bearing on the goals of re-engaging people in politics and strengthening the democratic process. 

The Authoritarian Information Paradox 

Authoritarian states have also started deploying information operations in order to advance their foreign policy. Propaganda and censorship are becoming an essential mechanism for maintaining jurisdiction. They have countered these innovations by building increasingly sophisticated systems of internet control and regulation. Technological innovation provides authoritarian governments a wider set of tools with which to conduct preventive repression. We refer to this effect of technology as the preventive control effect. Authoritarian leaders have consistently and effectively used technological tools for their own anti-democratic ends. Authoritarian governments, in the current information age, discern that the internet and their related technologies are becoming major vectors for instability - since it allows for news and ideas to be publicly accessible but also easily monitored. 

Conclusion 

The contemporary world witnesses Digital Revolution, which provokes deep transformation of economy and societal structure. Digital Revolution brought about Information Age and Information Society with new goals and missions. Digital Democracy became a new product of these revolutionary changes in the society and became a new challenge of traditional political paradigm of country’s government and management. 

Information technologies have not just revolutionized lives, societies, and economies; they are also reshaping the nature of 21st century politics and conflict. Leaders in democracies must also realize that they can no longer advance and defend their national interests through conventional military, economic, and diplomatic means. For America, there remains a narrow window in which a coherent whole-of-nation strategy can be devised to combat the threats of the Information Age. Innovations in technology and social media have had a significant impact on democracy globally. 

Technology has empowered citizens to amplify their voices and hold governments accountable. But while citizens have begun to harness tech innovation, many democratic institutions — governments, parliaments and political parties — have been slower to react, often using outmoded processes to respond to increased citizen demands. Information and Communication Technology has aided forces that favour a stronger influence by citizens in a representative government which is already in the process of being transformed as nations move towards the global economy and citizens insist on self-governance. 

Democracy gave birth to the E-government and new level of intergovernmental communication, including communication with business and population. However, the main challenge of advanced democracies remain: imperfection in societal communication; interactivity with government; and quality of public debates, especially the participation of grass roots, local communities in decision making process and self government process. 

Digital democracy – as we envision it – has the ultimate benefit that it supports society’s historical achievements: self-determination and freedom, the division of power and fairness, social inclusion and participation as well as diversity and resilience.