Throughout 2012, Web 2.0 contributed to improved governance, with or without the help of the government in question, and irrespective of whether the country is developed or not.Throwing traditional wisdom to the winds, the Web 2.0 story is continuing to unfold in a way that was not predicted by researchers and experts of the development community and outside. What will happen in 2013 ?
Lets look at 2012 first. From Egypt to Syria, social networks played a role in disseminating news across the world. Twitter, Facebook and blogs providing fascinating live coverage of the various uprisings across the world. Citizens managed to circumvent any attempts to block Twitter, and often flooded the site with their versions of the breaking stories.
Going beyond the issue of the “how”, namely the different ways that Web 2.0 is being used for improved transparency and governance, what is the “why” i.e. what is it about Web 2.0 that is making it so successful in improving governance ?
First, the democratization of the web, meaning anyone can create content without much trouble, means that there is a high amount of granularity of information or opinion on a diverse range of topics.
Secondly, with the advent of mobile technology, and the accompanying fall in computing costs, computing ability has become ubiquitous. Whether it is cell phone use in the poorest African or Bangladeshi village, or the Amazon, more and more people have the ability to communicate their thoughts, photographs and news.
Thirdly, the Web is the modern equivalent of the Wild West – it cannot be governed by any central authority. It is also extremely difficult to track Web activity of millions of people. So repressive governments or even companies find that they cannot completely monitor what people do.
Finally, and this is not a characteristic of the web, but a Web 2.0 innovation, the “push” technology which, forces or pushes information to the members of the social network, as opposed to requiring users to go to the web pages that they are interested in further helps in transparency.
So, when you combine the democratization of the web, mobile technology/falling costs of computing, the decentralized nature – and hence the independence of the Web, with the push technology, it creates the perfect storm for increased transparency. We will have to wait and see though, what eventually happens.