Same ol’ politrix…just a different shade

Ok, so now we have the Internet, this new technology that’s open to all, allowing everyman expression. That sounds great!

The notion of democracy is based on issues of representation and participation. For any democracy to be strong it needs the masses to be politically active, engage in public debate and be able to express their views and concerns.

The web is an open medium that allows the average man a voice louder and more far-reaching than any other. The gate-keeping mechanisms that come with traditional journalism can be bypassed with great ease.

It’s really simple; you start up a blog about cyber-politics and publish your own work…for free. No printing units, no media houses, no distributors, just you the masses and your opinion.

The connectivity and interactivity of its users allows for networks to be created between users with the same views, interests and concerns.

In my third year politics class, our lecturer went on about how the details of where South African parties get their funding for political campaigns was hidden and near impossible to get a hold of. Clearly he never Google searched “who funds South African politics”.

With the Internet information that was previously, near impossible to get a hold of is now just a couple of clicks away. From who funds local political parties to questioning why the ANC Youth League still exists, it’s all on the net, available to every user.

However this is in no way an answer to the question of political apathy or weak democracies. The Internet is open medium only to those who have Internet access and who are computer literate. A quick glance at local statistics, clearly shows that South Africa is far from celebrating the effectiveness, or even just the birth of cyber-democracy and cyber-politics.

Although Internet use increased from 5.5% in 2000 to 9.9% in 2005, these figures are extremely low. This becomes increasingly apparent when looking at the United Kingdom’s 55% and the United States’ 71% figures. The third world simply does not have the capacity to compete.

South Africa’s illiteracy rate is just alarming. Between six and eight million adults are not functionally literate, never mind computer literate. Statistics show that “65% of whites over 20 years old and 40% of Indians have a high school or higher qualification, this figure is only 14% among blacks and 17% among the coloured population”.

The digital divide speaks heavily to the issues of Internet access and use and to education levels. This means that even in the advent of this great cyber-democracy, those who were marginalised by the politics of the apartheid regime are still marginalised by the politics of this new virtual-democracy.

If democracy is about the majority, then we can only really speak of cyber-democracy when the masses can at the very least send an e-mail with a basic attachment.


3 responses to “Same ol’ politrix…just a different shade

  1. Statistics to me is another way to justify academia’s bullsh*t because the way I see it is that the internet is an answer to many of the world’s problems biggest one being ignorance’. But academia likes to down play its value by questioning the validity of information published on the net. Take Wikipedia for instance it is criticized by academics as not a credible source. Information is the most powerful weapon and academia has the monopoly on prescribing what is assessable to who and how much you have to pay to belong in the circle of the enlightened few, it is almost a class by itself those who know and those who don’t. It actually fit right into Imperialistic nature of the West and the indoctrination is reproduced by academia! Which is ironic that academia enjoys the privileges of knowledge but you have to pay to enter this group of elite. Not everyone can afford it academia is systematically spreading ignorance. GO Free Access To Information!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I agree Mbali. Technology is simply a new way to marginalise the already marginalised. In the 90s the internet was sold to the masses as a way in which they can have their voices heard. of course you had to be literate and have computer skills. Can you really see some woman out in Bityi in rural Eastern Cape, logging onto a computer to express her concern at the fact that she still has to walk 10 kms to get water in 21C South Africa? I don’t think so… she’s busy carrying water, tending to her family, feeding her kids and struggling to survive. For her, this ‘cyber-democracy’ is worth nought because it doesn’t have any direct impact on her life.
    Face it: If South Africa’s “real” democracy is struggling to establish itself, “cyberdemocracy” is nowhere near manifestation.

  3. Pingback: A Global Voice can be heard « Politrix·

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