E-democracy: participation next? (2) Germany

8/13/2007 | Christian Kreutz

Overview First of all, I would like to thank Jan Amos and and Rolf L├╝hrs for their comments. Yes, I agree that in Germany some initiatives around e-democracy have been taken (e.g. e-petition in the German parliament), however, in comparison to German's vibrant political life, its web is politically inactive. In that regard, politik-digital.de is a lighthouse for many years and a think tank that discusses and analyzes politics and the net. The European counterpart, Europa-digital.de, has done a lot for independent coverage. Their latest initiative, e-participation.net, is great but it also shows how only so little has arisen. Another website is abgeordnetenwatch.de, where citizens can address politicians directly, leading to direct pressure, as Jan nicely pointed out. It is this kind of approach which opens a two-way-conversation.

Politik2.0 and campaigns However, taking a look at the German political activism in the web or initiatives for e-democracy you get the impression that web2.0 has not arrived in Germany. For example, if you look at the blogosphere, you will hardly see any political blog and rarely grassroot activism. This was also regretted on a discussion called "Politik2.0" last Spring on the 'Re-Publica' conference. Only few blogs are different, such is the case of netzpolitik.org, which works as a watchdog dealing with all sorts of topics around the Internet and liberty rights. Right now they are part of a campaign against the Minister of Interior's latest idea of Stoppt die Vorratsdatenspeicherung"Vorratsdatenspeicherung". The current government initiated a law that will allow the saving of all personal web traffic including email, etc. for half a year. The minister of interior also elaborates the wrong idea to allow private investigation through hacking software. Another interesting recent campaign was the one of flickr and censorship in Germany.

Some challenges The challenges that keep e-democracy from moving much further in Germany are multifold. Markus Beckedahl said on the Politik2.0 discussion, that the political arena has still not yet embraced or even understood the web. Best prove is a an interview on German television given by kids, who asked Germans such as the Minister of Justice about different browsers. She replied: "Browsers? What are browsers again?" Another problem is surely the missing transparency of the German political system in some regards. For example, information about politician salaries have been made public just recently. But shouldn't that missing transparency make the web more political? Most surprising is the fact that civil society has not embraced the recent web developments and has not even started to use web2.0 potential.

Web2.0 and politics But what strikes me the most is that web2.0 is purely seen as a business topic. It surely is a buzz word, but it does offer a new form of participation. For example, on bar camps blogger, politics and activism play no role. In the realm of web2.0, German blogger focus mainly on start-ups. The great potential for participation, being it political or for knowledge sharing and social change, is not been seen here in Germany in the wide blogosphere. The best example of this development is trupoli.com, a new political web2.0 platform which offers "true politics" that can be experienced free from media show. What really occurs to me is that trupoli.de is a corporation! Will participation and political discourse be now a part of demand and supply? I am looking forward to see a maplight.org application analyzing trupoli in the future.

Nevertheless, I am optimistic, especially right now, that an unconference about e-democracy takes place in Berlin. I am eager to hear about the outcome.