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Petre Roman: “Internet democracy is based on the power of the message, the power of images and the power to act"

Petre Roman: “Internet democracy is based on the power of the message, the power of images and the power to act"

December 10, 2013

The Club de Madrid highly committed Member and former Prime Minister of Romania spoke about the role of digital media and new ICT on the quality of democracy during the second edition of the World Forum for Democracy convened by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on November 29, 2013

PM Roman spoke in front of a crowded audience during the forum, titled “Re-wiring Democracy: Connecting citizens and institutions in the digital age”. He addressed the issues of the role of digital media on democracy, the threats and opportunities that new information and communication technology brings about, how internet may affect the ways of practicing democracy, and the impact of this technological change on established democratic structures and institutions.

“Internet democracy is based on 3 powers: the power of the message, the power of images and the power to act”, said PM Roman. But he added that this power to act, the power to influence and change things, has always been on the side of the elites and the political establishment, even in the most established democracies. “And still is, leading to generalized disappointment with politics”, he said.

He also reminded that we need politicians’ leadership to create sound political projects, which are far more important than technical aspects in order to promote a social contract, at the very core of democracy.

Internet is pushing for a transition, according to PM Roman: “So let's have a transition to something better, towards something closer to the people”. He also claimed that political elites should allow more transparency and accountability, and listen to the pressure that is coming from internet.

The forum also addressed the issue of who holds the power on internet. Some of the participants stated that it works like a commonwealth, although there are some powers at play, and that decisions are taken every day by the major internet companies on which algorythms will be used hence, which info will pop out, which one is more or less visible. As we have no control over this, PM Roman declared that there is no such thing as an internet deonthology. “Do we need it? Should we create it?”, he asked.

PM Roman’s agenda also included meetings with senior officials at the Council of Europe, such as Mrs Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Director General for Democracy.

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As the Council of Europe states, in the last decades there has been a decline in traditional forms of democratic participation which is often viewed as a symptom of a detachment between citizens and institutions. At the same time, information and communication technology (ICT) is facilitating the dissemination of information on political issues, increasing citizens’ participation and opening up spaces for political discussions, thus offering new possibilities for democracy. It remains to be seen whether information technologies will have a positive impact on democracy or whether they will put democracy at risk, whether they will be used to build a virtual public sphere for political participation and deliberation, or whether they will be used to oppress and obscure. After all, technology is not more than a tool – it is our choice how to use it.

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  • Petre RomanFormer Prime Minister of Romania (1989-1991)

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