We are in the age of social media. Cheap processor power and data storage capability means that Facebook can have 14 million photos uploaded to it everyday and be used by over sixty million people to organise and record their social lives with other Internet users. This, coupled with the widepsread availability of broadband Internet access, means that we are seeing a revolution in the way the Internet is being used to collaborate, share information, and connect with other people. The Web 2.0 revolution is here, and it has changed everything. Only recently there has been debate in the blogosphere about the rise of the socialprise, an enterprise that actively uses its social connections with other people to trade and create new business. Social media is set to make a difference to other aspects of society too. And one aspect of society it should make a difference to is Government.
It is time for social government to arrive. Virtual democracy has been predicted by people for many years, and we have the technology and cultural conditions now to make it happen. In the age of Internet banking, where we can arrange overdrafts and transfer funds at the click of a mouse, we should have Internet government, where white papers and bills are wiki-compiled by the public, like open source software, and votes in the House are not made by elected representatives, but by the population itself, in all our tens of millions. In an age where distributed and user constituted auction systems and encyclopedias can exist and thrive, there is no reason why user government could not also thrive.
It would be interesting to see what the UK population would vote for, if put in charge of their own country. More public holidays? An increase in civil liberties? A legalisation of soft drugs? Some people in Government would instantly look askance at the idea, given that last example. But is that because they represent the view of the general public, or of an establishment that imposes its will on the public? If fifty million people participated in a House of Commons vote, and eighty percent of them voted to legalise soft drugs, is that not the will of society? Should not the Government and Home Office exist to serve the will of the electorate? Or are we to be ignored and lied to, the way we were lied to about Iraq, a war that was waged in spite of two million people marching on the streets of London to protest against it happening?
Virtual democracy would be a truer model of democracy than the one the population has at the moment. It would be one where vested interests would be less able to subvert and frustrate the democratic will of the electorate. We have the technology to empower people with social government. The only question is, are the Government we elect to represent us really prepared, in an age when they are clamping down on our civil liberties, to give us that kind of power?