- ISSUE 4
3increasing embrace by mainstream political partiesof online platforms on social networking sites (espe-
cially Facebook and Twitter), individual and ofcial
party blogs and websites, community radio and SMSto communicate with voters. The networks, which arepowerfully anti-censorship, offer alternative platformsfor news, information, and political mobilization, So-cial networking sites are thought to be a factor in theorganizational effectiveness of the April-May streetprotests in Bangkok.In this new political cyber-battleground, old rulesdon’t apply. Cronyism, long entrenched in SoutheastAsian power structures, will have to make room for the newcomers- powerful incumbent groups of cy-ber-libertarians. In this article, we present three sce-narios for digital politics in Southeast Asia - Boost,Block, and Ban. These scenarios consider alterna-tive perspectives of the impact of digital interactionamong these three groups of power players and their constituents.
SCENARIO A:BOOST ME UP wITH MOREByTE!
This scenario stems from the powerful and oftenoligopolistic market power of ICT / telecoms sectors
in Southeast Asian countries. Economic benets
(pricing, taxation and monopoly power) will continueto constrain network coverage, bandwidth and costs,thereby exacerbating the rural-urban digital divide.The good news is that Southeast Asia’s digitalinfrastructure is slowly being upgraded, allowing
wHAT IS DIGITALPOLITICS?
The rst decade of the New Millennium saw a dramatic
increase in the extent and dynamism of the interfacebetween humans and information and communica-tion technologies (ICTs) in Southeast Asia; this erawas marked especially by many new applications of wireless and internet technologies. The emergenceof this ‘digital economy’ signals a new era of growththrough exploitation of a new asset or production fac-tor- information. Over the past decade, technologyhas greatly potentiated the power of information toshape the regional socio-political terrain. With ICTsclosely correlated with the spread of democracy, newspaces and modalities for political debate and par-ticipation have opened up, giving new meaning andmomentum to the democratic process.Over the next decade, we can anticipate these still-rudimentary tools to evolve towards a much higher level of sophistication. Waves of ICT applicationsin politics have empowered groups of political neo-phytes (‘netizens’, ‘cyber-libertarians’; ‘digitized-latecomers’), extending the power of people at thebottom of the pyramid to shape and transform theconventional Southeast Asian political game into astage of ‘virtual democracy”=’.The seeds of such a potentially disruptive shift havealready germinated, as groups of increasingly net-savvy citizens share political content in real time. In just seconds they can create exclusive cyber- andon-air societies in order to engage in political lobby-ing, networking, amplifying their own views, co-devel-oping tools for movements demanding free speech,transparency and human rights. Such groups canempower citizens, e.g. in roles such as watching thewatchers, political protest, or arranging direct action.It is important to note that direct action may manifestitself in violent, as well as non-violent ways.Today, Southeast Asia offers many examples of the
BOOST, BLOCk, AND BAN:
THE NExT DECADE Of DIGITAL POLITICSIN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Dr Pun-Arj Chairatana,Managing Director –Noviscape Consulting Group
Disclaimer : The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reect the ofcial positions of Noviscape Consulting Group or the Rockefeller Foundation.
Copyright © Trendsoutheast 2009 - 2010. All Rights Reserved.