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GOVT 2063 Digital Citizen and Cyber Politics Essay

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The university of the west Indies

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The University of the West Indies
GOVT 2063 - Cyber Politics
Exam Q&A (2020)
As a “Digital Citizen,” discuss the challenges and possible solutions to using the internet
to enhance citizen participation. Use examples where necessary. (25 marks)
In the 21st century, the internet is one of the most impactful facilitators of
communication and can be considered a global village
1
. Consequently, today, most
people have digital citizenship. “The concept of digital citizenship is the ability to
participate in society online and highlight the continued need for policy that promotes
effective use of the internet, including literacy, skills, and regular access”. Educational
competencies are crucial for digital citizenship, just as they are for political participation
online and offline (Chadwick and Howard 2010). “Citizenship is a legal status and an
identity and represents a relationship between the individual and the state, in which the
two are bound together by reciprocal rights and obligations” Thus, there is an objective
and subjective dimension to it. (Heywood, 1994). Persons who relate to the concept of
digital citizenship, are digital citizens. However, despite living in a civilization that
comprises many space-biased mediums
2
, everyone does not have equal access to the
internet and is not a digital citizen”. I am a “digital citizen” as I use the internet daily
and I possess the educational competencies to do so. Through this paper, I aim to
practice technological citizenship by discussing the challenges and possible solutions
to using the internet to enhance citizen participation.
1
Term coined by Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan in his 1962 book, “The
Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. The term indicates that global
audiences can produce and consume media content as well as connect with people across the
globe each day regardless of space and time in which the internet seamlessly facilitates.
2
Term coined by Canadian political economy professor, Harold Innis which describes
mediums that can be used to disseminate and reproduce information to large audiences over
large spaces in a short period of time.

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1
Research has established a positive association between internet use and citizen
participation, including voter turnout” (Tolbert and McNeal, 2003). In the 1940s, a
study called “The People’s Choice”, proved that the media and interpersonal influence
greatly impacted undecided voters’ decision-making processes (Katz et. al, 1964).
During the general elections in Trinidad and Tobago for example, popular social media
platforms are used to persuade undecided voters to vote for a party and possibly gain
marginal seats if the target audience favourably interprets the party’s online political
advertisements. Therefore, internet access and use are essential to the productivity and
political participation of citizens. A lack thereof can be attributed to the digital divide,
a challenge that surrounds other challenges (such as poverty and illiteracy) to using the
internet. According to (Steele 2019), “the digital divide is the gap that exists between
individuals who have access to modern ICTs and those who lack access, globally.
Thus, persons comprising this gap are unable to practice technological and political
citizenship and cannot identify with the social dimension of citizenship. Such people
may feel alienated from the state due to being disadvantaged. Therefore, implementing
mechanisms to combat the digital divide is imperative to enhancing citizen
participation.
In order to combat the digital divide, one must understand what causes it. Some
causes include inequalities based on someone’s income, age, ethnicity, geographic
location, gender, language and educational level. An elderly, illiterate individual
residing in Mayaro who experience absolute or relative poverty is likely to be a part of
the digital divide. Cornfield and Rainie state, that “those engaged in political
participation online tend to be disproportionately young, educated, and affluent (as
quoted in Chadwick and Howard, 2010 p. 147). A person’s age, gender and ethnicity
are uncontrollable. However, income, education and geographic location can be altered
to realise the hierarchical approach to closing the gap of the digital divide. For example,
if an illiterate woman becomes educated, she would not only attain the educational
competencies to manipulate ICTs and utilise online information but would also
eventually earn a substantial income. This can subsequently enable her to migrate to a

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The University of the West Indies GOVT 2063 - Cyber Politics Exam Q&A (2020) As a “Digital Citizen,” discuss the challenges and possible solutions to using the internet to enhance citizen participation. Use examples where necessary. (25 marks) In the 21st century, the internet is one of the most impactful facilitators of communication and can be considered a global village1. Consequently, today, most people have digital citizenship. “The concept of digital citizenship is the ability to participate in society online and highlight the continued need for policy that promotes effective use of the internet, including literacy, skills, and regular access”. Educational competencies are crucial for digital citizenship, just as they are for political participation online and offline (Chadwick and Howard 2010). “Citizenship is a legal status and an identity and represents a relationship between the individual and the state, in which the two are bound together by reciprocal rights and obligations” Thus, there is an objective and subjective dimension to it. (Heywood, 1994). Persons who relate to the concept of digital citizenship, are digital citizens. However, despite living in a ...
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