I posted yesterday about my remarks to the 5th Ministerial eGovernment Conference in Malmo, Sweden.

The first wave of democracy established elected and accountable institutions of governance, but with a weak public mandate and an inert citizenry.  Citizens listened to speeches, debates, and television ads.  They gave money and voted. But when it came to having input into policy and real decisions, citizens were relegated to the sidelines.

Today’s democracy should be characterized by strong representation and a new culture of public deliberation built on active citizenship.  This is appropriate for the new world and a new generation of digital natives that I call the Net Generation.

Aged 13-30, the Net Generation are the children of the post WWII generation, and are the first generation to come of age in the digital era.  These young people expect to collaborate with everyone – including politicians.  They want to be involved directly: to interact with them, contribute ideas and scrutinize their actions, not just during elections but as they govern.  And they will insist on integrity from politicians; they will know very quickly if a politician says one thing and does another.

We need major initiatives to re-invigorate democracy.  For example,

  • As a step towards Democracy 2.0, each government leader should create bold citizen engagement initiatives, beginning with a three-day ‘citizen jam’.  All citizens would be invited to join an online discussion of an important issue.  This will lead to other programs to engage citizens in solving important issues such as the economic crisis, climate change, corruption, or other issues on the global agenda.  This is not direct democracy: it is about a new model of citizen engagement, policy development, collaboration, mobilization and learning.
  • A Digital Marshall Plan.  World leaders should launch a global initiative to take broadband to every corner of the world.  This infrastructure is essential to collaborative innovation and the new business models required for economic development.  It is also essential to modern government and the new models of democracy.  It would give us better warning systems for problems in the global economy, and would enable new forms of global cooperation and governance.   The costs would pale in terms of the benefits.