Democracy is a process of self-governance where every citizen has the right…well, it’s not that simple. To remain democratic, governments have been challenged to embrace technology fully, especially in supporting citizens’ voices, which are easily lost or can be suppressed in many parts of the democratic world. Technology has evolved the registration of voices from simply signing your name or filling in blanks to registering your vote digitally. This has made it easier for good governance and easier to identify who should be held accountable for the same. However, as technology advances, what other means could we use to ensure voices don’t get lost?
Following the Participatory-Representative Hybridisation in Hybrid Democracy Hexagon, our author shares his experience around the importance of “voice” in Democracy and what technologies potentially will be significant in protecting it in future.
Arvind Patil is a Social & Business Impact Experience Designer working in the social development and economic inclusion domain. Currently, he’s involved in projects ranging from financial inclusion, menstrual health, urban loneliness, industrial migration, and female leadership. His areas of interest are collective bargaining, future of work, worker voice and representation and organisational design.
Towards Blended Democracy
By Arvind Patil
I was introduced to the term “democracy” aka Lokshahi (in the Marathi language) when I was 10. They told us Democracy is a rule of the people, for the people and by the people. And, I voted for the first time in secondary school elections! I come from India, which is the largest Democracy in the world. I have seen many polls and careful curation of all the electoral processes, which lack user-centricity. The essential aspect of any democracy is the “voice” of the citizens. People participate in electing representatives, who are assumed to be the mediums of the voices of individuals.
I am interested in the voice of the citizens, employees and individuals in politics, the organization and personal relationships. Prof. Albert Hirschman published his seminal work Exit, Voice & Loyalty in the 1970s. His experiences inspired his work as an immigrant during the second world war. He essentially argues about the importance of voice in socio-political settings and its effect on the satisfaction level of the people. The figure illustrates how citizens behave in a socio-political environment.
Now, why is this being discussed here?
We are living in the era of a technological revolution; we can all access any information from any part of the world and express our views on social media platforms using a handheld device called a smartphone! Technology has empowered billions of people, and it gives them a voice! I am keenly interested in “how voice affects institutional structures?” A micro-level digital transformation ensures a more participatory democratic system over conventional representative democratic frameworks. It is laying the foundations for more inclusive democracies. However, the dark side of Big Data and its use to manipulate public sentiments is the biggest threat to this inclusive democratic revolution. The democracies of the past inclined towards the “Neglect” quadrant, technology is empowering the following billion users, and we are moving towards the “Voice” quadrant. Testing the resilience of legislature, bureaucracy, and statutory bodies in the current times and time will answer how technology will affect the overall ecosystem.
In the distant future, from a speculative design perspective, I want my vote to be considered a Non-fungible token, which is essentially anonymised and protected by the rule of the land. Of course, this is just a fairy tale, but in reality, we must question how voices are registered? What role blockchain technology will play in documenting the journey of democratic decisions, and how does it need to be made available for access to the masses? The future of Democracy isn’t a balanced democracy (balance is a metaphor borrowed from the universe of physics, and we are essentially bio-chemical beings). The future Democracy would be a blended Democracy, where the following billion users will shape the democratic settings effectively through their voices. Technology will play a pivotal role in the construction of voices.
What measures as citizens can we take to protect our voice in changing democracy? What tools can support us in this.
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