The hot issue

Making your mind up

Which “horse” would you bank on, if you had a choice? Classical democracy, as it used to be in the time before the internet, or digital democracy? Two “state operating systems” in comparison.

  • A day without the internet – it’s become almost unimaginable. Whether we’re at work or at play, it simply makes our life easier. But only a small minority use the internet to take part in political decision-making. What new options does the net offer us for shaping our world and what risks do those options bring with them? Does the digital revolution clear the way towards direct democracy or even to an entirely new form of democracy – to a form of “digital democracy”?
Representative democracy
Name Digital democracy
People interested in politics
Politicians who run for election
A functioning state under the rule of law
Requirements In addition:
A properly functioning internet
Accessibility for all
Traveling to the ballot box
Postal voting
Possible election methods In addition:
E-voting – easy and time-saving, can vote from anywhere
Polling card
Election advertising
Invitation to participate in election In addition:
Online invitation to participate
Addressing target voters appropriately
Can reach target voters who get their information primarily online
Regular circles of acquaintances
Family, friends and neighbors
Election posters
On-street party presence
Campaign events
Personal contact with politicians
Opinion formation In addition:
The internet as a source of political information: e.g. search engines, websites of public institutions, NGOs
Unfiltered first-hand information
Virtual, cross-border exchange of information
Voter advice platforms
Fact checking
Filter bubbles
Social bots
Fake news
Reliability of information sources
Information overload
Exercise your franchise
Become a party member
Referendums (in certain cases only)
Letters to the editor
Signature collection campaigns
Participation in political decision-making processes In addition:
Online discussions, initiatives and polls
Anyone can provide information without having to join an organization
Political campaigns, inexpensive and quick to organize, e.g.
Signature collection campaigns, reaching large numbers of people quickly
Direct exchanges with politicians
Issue-based, time-limited commitment
Internet anonymity may encourage people to take part
The digital divide: anyone who’s not on the net or is unfamiliar with how it works is excluded
Abstention from voting
Complaints to official bodies
Letters to the editor
Avenues for making complaints In addition:
Social media
Direct consultation with politicians
Military coups
Non-participation in elections
Abuse of ballot boxes
Countless others
Possible malfunctions In addition:
Network failure
Server failure
Bugs in software
Hacker attacks
There are mechanisms available to make processes more secure:
  • This overview is definitely not exhaustive but it does show how the digital revolution can in principle at least facilitate more citizen involvement in democratic politics. There are, however, a few homework tasks for politicians and industry, including the need to ensure access for everyone to the internet, to promote media literacy throughout the population, to optimize data protection and security and, last but not least, to ensure that the focus is always centered on the individual human being. And in order to make sure that the we don’t all get bogged down in a mire of bots and fake news or stagnate in our own filter bubbles, each and every one of us has a need to inform ourselves, and to do so well beyond our comfort zone. And when doing so it’s important not to forget the offline world. Face-to-face exchanges are always helpful in our efforts to broaden our horizons.

    For all our commitment to the digitalization process, we should be careful to remember that all the internet provides is the technical prerequisites. Democracy is not to be taken for granted: all state power comes from the people, a fact that implies the need for us to want to participate. Radical forces are well aware of that fact. What those who do not exercise their right to participate, even going so far as to squander their right to vote, are doing is abdicating their power in favor of others. They shouldn’t be too surprised by the consequences.

    We at Deutsche Telekom want to make sure that the citizens of Europe benefit from the digital revolution. That’s why we are investing billions of euros every year in devel­op­ing the network. For us, the highest possible standards in data protection and secur­ity are an essential attribute of our brand. And through our “Media sure! But secure” initiative we are actively helping people improve their skills in dealing with the media.
What's your opinion? Classical or digital democracy – what would you choose?
Classical democracy Digital democracy

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