The Internet Revolution

Although not every politician thinks of it as the “Internet,” most elected officials and candidates seem to treat this as nothing more than a new way to raise money, just one big, virtual ATM. This is sort of like showing farmers and ranchers in the 19th Century the first steam engine, and their first question is: “Can I use it to transport my horses to the field?”

Our leaders are suffering from a massive imagination gap. And the clueless-ness is clearly bipartisan.

The establishment, much of which could not tell a server from a waiter, is not going to get it on its own. They are going to have to be hit over the head with a giant memory stick.

That’s why this challenge is really our challenge now. As “techno-politicos” who sense the unique opportunity of the moment, we have a unique responsibility to push our government and elected representatives to embrace the promise of progress.

So far, we have not set the bar high enough. All the blogs, Meetups, Friendsters, wikis and RSS feeds mean nothing if all we can show for them is a downed Senate Majority Leader here and a disgraced CBS anchorman there.

In my humble opinion, we have it backwards. Too much of the energy about technology’s impact on politics is focused on elections and what it can do for, or against, individual politicians.

We techno-politicos should instead be focusing on how we can restore health to our civic life — and in particular, how we can get more people connected to each other and their government to raise issues, share ideas and solve problems.

After all, there are lots of good reasons that most Americans hate politics. It’s been taken away from them and turned into a cynical game that is more focused on winning elections than getting things done, where tearing the other side down matters more than lifting ideas up, where people are treated as commodities, and the only ones who get any attention are the people who can pay to play.

So it’s not enough for us to use our skills and creativity to figure out a better way to block a bill or dial for dollars.

We need to aggressively advocate new ways to use technology to foster a more open, responsive, and accountable government.

We also need to show how technology can dramatically enhance access to information, which in turn can deliver substantially more power to people so they can solve their own problems. The fact is, today more than ever information IS power.

And we have to remember that this isn’t a panacea, and that we have a obligation to see that everyone — not just a wired elite — can share in the benefits of this new age.

Sure, the blogging explosion is cool, and we’re going to hear a lot about it today. But before we get too excited, let’s bear in mind the ghastly fact that today, here in New York City, public schools kids still only get access to computers for a ridiculous one hour a week.

The nub of the problem is that no establishment gives up power on its own. I’ve spent the last five years telling politicians about the opportunities provided by new technology, and I’ve gotten a lot of polite nods following by fundraising calls asking for $5000 checks.

That’s a big reason why I was motivated to start this Personal Democracy Forum and our ongoing online magazine. And your presence here confirms my instincts. I wanted to do something to raise awareness of the almost limitless possibilities of technology to change our politics for the better, and help our leaders understand what they are missing.

But as I have learned, it’s just not enough to talk the talk. Some of us are going to have to roll up our sleeves and break down the walls of the establishment until real changes start to happen.

The good news is, we’re not alone and our ranks are growing. Today, you’re going to hear from many of our leaders, thinkers and best practitioners, from both sides of the aisle and from inside and outside the electoral arena. Those speakers, and you in the audience, are the future. If you want to know what’s coming next, the answers start here.

Click here for the cheapest UK car insurance!

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved