I promised to report back if I learnt whether legislation to restrict the free flow of information over the Internet would be introduced in New Zealand (see my earlier post Save the Internet).
So far I’ve got some very definitive (and reassuring) news. According to Andy Williamson, a leading thinker and activist on citizen use of the Internet based in Waitakere City, “net neutrality is here to stay”. Apparently, the current Minister of Infomation Technology, David Cunniliffe, has indicated no changes will be introduced under the current government’s reign that overturn the openness and diversity of the Internet.
We shouldn’t be complacent as governments change, as do telco CEOs, so we need to make sure undemocratic ideas from USA are not propagated here by profit hungry coporations.
When I caught up with Andy a couple of weeks ago he gave me an update on his Phd research. He’s looking to understand how information and communication technologies (ICT) facilitate and influence the democratic process in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In a nutshell he says that the transformative potential of Internet needs to be grasped, not just applying new online tools to entrench people and parties who already have power. It will take grounded leadership for citizens to claim this space.
I can’t really do justice to Andy’s research in a nutshell, so it’s best I point to a couple of places you can find out more. You can read an interview with Andy published last month on an Australian eGovernment blog, check out a paper he presented in October 2006 (entitled “Disruptive spaces and transformative praxis: Connecting a community’s past to their electronic future”), or finally, go straight to Andy’s own website, eDemocracy.co.nz.
It’s important we keep talking about how to make sure citizens claim their space online, and about how the web can be used as a tool for bringing about social change. It’s a pretty tough battle so I’m glad Andy is raising issues on our behalf.