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The future of digital politics in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, politics have gone digital, and digital technologies have been politicized. The next decade will be one of digital politics, and Dr. Pun-Arj Chairatana outlines some of the main factors involved.

He says,

“In a broad sense, digital politics is a process, by which groups of people make digitally collective decisions. Digital politics is mainly about the intersection of politics, internet and other wireless technologies among Netizens and their particular societies within a non-physical space through connectivity and content. In a narrow sense, digital politics is an interactive process among key stakeholders in the digital economy, who seek for specific long-term benefit and control over digital infrastructure and content.

Today, Southeast Asia offers many examples of the increasing embrace by mainstream political parties of online platforms on social networking sites (especially Facebook and Twitter), individual and official party blogs and websites, community radio and SMS to communicate with voters. The networks, which are powerfully anti-censorship, offer alternative platforms for news, information, and political mobilization, Social networking sites are thought to be a factor in the organizational effectiveness of the April-May street protests in Bangkok.”

Implications

In this new political cyber-battleground, old rules don’t apply. Cronyism, long entrenched in Southeast Asian power structures, will have to make room for the newcomers- powerful incumbent groups of cyber-libertarians. But this won’t be seamless, and he offers 3 scenarios for the next decade, focused on the relationship between government and citizen use of digital technology. Through these, he raises some key questions central to the future of digital politics. In a society with an urban-rural digital divide, how will citizens participate? What level of political dissent will be tolerated, and how might the new-found tools for mass political mobilization destabilize nations? In a world of government censorship crackdown, will citizens succeed in finding alternative routes to safeguard their cherished freedom of expression? How ready are users to protect the rights of others to defend their digital rights?

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Sources:

Noviscape, Sept 2010, page 3 - 5: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/Noviscape_Sept2010.pdf

Abbott, J. P. (2004) The Political Economy of the Internet in
Asia and the Pacific Digital Divides, Economic Competitiveness,
and Security Challenges. New York: Praeger.

Atkinson, R. D. and Ham, S. (2003) Does Digital Politics Still
Matter? In The New Atlantis, Fall 2003.

Boonruang, S. (2010) New media to continue growing in importance:
Piracy, censorship remain user concerns, in Bangkok
Post, 31 January 2010.

Levy, S. (2001), Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government
-- Saving Privacy in the Digital Age, Penguin 2001,

Shearer, J. and Gutmann, P. (1996) Government, Cryptography,
and the Right To Privacy, the Journal of Universal Computer
Science (J.UCS), Volume 2, No.3, p.113

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7914828.stm