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Why Technology Has Not Revolutionized Politics, but How It Can Give a Little Help to Our Friends

  • Archon Fung

Information and communication technology platforms have transformed many aspects of modern life for many individuals around the world. They have revolutionized the realms of commerce, sociability, and even production. The realm of politics and governance, however, is more resistant to ICT revolutions. In this paper, we argue that there are fundamental dis-analogies between politics and these other realms that make the pace of innovation, and to the incidence of transformative ICT platforms, much lower. Instead of looking for "the next big thing," those who wish to understand the positive contribution of ICT to political problems such as public accountability and public deliberation should focus on incremental rather than revolutionary dynamics. We examine these incremental dynamics at work in six important ICT-enabled political accountability efforts from low and middle-income countries (Kenya, Brazil, Chile, India, Slovakia).

Archon Fung is the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship at the Harvard Kennedy School. His research examines the impacts of civic participation, public deliberation, and transparency upon governance. His books include Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency (Cambridge University Press, with Mary Graham and David Weil) and Empowered Participation: Reinventing Urban Democracy (Princeton University Press). Current projects examine democratic reform initiatives in regulation, public accountability, urban planning, and public services. He has authored five books, three edited collections, and over fifty articles appearing in journals including American Political Science Review, Public Administration Review, Political Theory, Journal of Political Philosophy, Politics and Society, Governance, Journal of Policy and Management, Environmental Management, American Behavioral Scientist, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and Boston Review.