Digital Governance and Democratization in the Arab World

Digital Governance and Democratization in the Arab World

D. Wheeler (United States Naval Academy, USA)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch050
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Making the choice to be an Internet society is not a process governed simply by a state’s attitudes towards computers and the data that flows between them. Rather, being an Internet society means fostering the wide embrace of perspectives modeled on the technology itself. The basic components of designing an Internet society include a commitment to the free flow of information across and among hierarchies; a belief that it is best not to privilege any single information node; a realization that censorship is difficult if not futile; and a commitment to the idea that communities, companies and individuals have the right to represent themselves within electronic landscapes. All of these information attitudes have spill over effects in the real world. While constructing an Internet society is also about building information infrastructure and teaching people to use new tools, it is the clear spill over effects linked with the technology’s design principles that have most developing countries proceeding with caution. For many countries around the world, especially (semi) authoritarian ones, no matter how strong the economic incentives for being an Internet society are, politically and socially, accepting such processes of change without selective state intervention is uncommon. Nowhere are these interventions more apparent than in the puzzling mosaic of Internet led development in the Arab World. This article entertains a series of questions regarding emerging Internet societies in the Arab World: 1. To what degree is the Internet spreading in the Arab World and what factors are most commonly driving (or inhibiting) these processes of technological change? 2. In what way is the Internet contributing to processes of political change in the region? And how is the authoritarian state intervening to regulate Internet use in an attempt to control the spill over effects of such use? 3. What might be the longer term impacts of emergent Internet cultures in the region?  

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