Power to the People

Twenty-Eleven has been a year of social media. From the Arab Spring to the London Riots and now even the Wall Street protests, this year's unfolding events have sparked discussion about the impact of social technology in our world. Understanding the connections between social change and social media has become a priority for activists, organizations, and governments alike. But the story isn’t straightforward.

The discourse around Twitter and Facebook has become more critical as experts, news stories, and even humor websites have started questioning the influence of such tools. A recent Washington Post article challenged five common misconceptions about social media. This article raises interesting points about who’s actually using these tools, how governments are reacting to them and what they are actually accomplishing.

Measuring the impact of social media on democratic movements is not a simple task, and interpreting the results is even more of a challenge. Trying to assess this field has been compared to a ‘blurred snapshot of a moving bullet.’ The rapid rate of advancement in the field, paired with the tumultuous nature of social change creates an environment that is impossible to pin down. But technology and social media has become so ubiquitous in every day life that maybe a precise understanding of their influence misses the point. As this article points out, a social movement that didn’t use social media would be out of place today.

While the debate surrounding social media is far from settled, it is important to remember that the people remain the source of power. Here at NDITech, we focus on making democracy work by making technology work for people. NDI continues to incorporate social media in its projects, from election monitoring, to supporting political parties and improving governance, tailoring tools to meet the challenges of each unique context.