Can we future-proof our democracies with a new transatlantic digital agenda?

We seem to lean towards disagreeing with one another rather than coming together on the big issues. A statement we may all agree on is that the exponentiality of digital technologies creates opportunities and challenges far greater than we can imagine. If our own minds are unable to grasp exponential progression, how confident can we be in the linear, but tedious decision-making process of governments to handle the digital transformation of our society? This is a key question we need to ask ourselves on both sides of the Atlantic. It's answer may well lie in a new transatlantic paradigm shaped by a common digital agenda. Like many of you, I also see the division within our societies. They are very real. I see political leaders shocked by the fact that their messages have stopped resonating with their constituents. Voters are trusting new sources of information, beginning to rethink old policies and questioning the institutions that govern them. The campaign signs of politi

Citizen Journalism in Times of the Internet – Giving a voice back to civil society during sociopolitical instability and conflict

A predisposing cause for sociopolitical instability is often a failing social contract. Citizens stop accepting state authority due to the inability of the government to uphold i.a. economic stability, social services, basic human rights, public safety, or an impartial judiciary system (Nafziger & Auvinen, 2000). The intensity and speed of civic engagement in light of such issues is often contingent on how information is created and shared. Before the advent of new media and modern-day technologies, newspapers, radio and television were examples of common sources of information. Also, organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and religious gatherings at Churches, Mosques or Synagogues were used to distribute information. All of these sources still play an important role and have certainly not been replaced. However, the ability of an individual to report and distribute information, without the constraints of an overarching organization for example, has become easier. New t

What the 1500s can teach us about Digital Enlightenment

There has been a lot of press recently around the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Parallel to that, we are seeing the omnipresent debates and discussions about the role of technology in our lives and the importance of educating more people in the field of computer science. You may now ask what the reformation of a religion 500 years ago has in common with the technology-driven world we live in today. I want to show how we can actually learn from the reformation movement and its critical examination of the religious status quo at the time in order to question our understanding, usage and often blind dependance on computer science and it's underlying frameworks and codes. Quick note on my intentions here: This is not meant to be a pessimistic take on technology or the internet or computers, nor should it be understood as promoting any religious beliefs. I just want to use the historical context in order to encourage us to question and learn more

Foreign Policy Negotiations: A Three-Level Game

Robert Putnam has coined foreign policy to be a two-level game in the past. Diplomatic decision-making between states was based on two types of negotiations, one being between the states themselves and the other being between each state and its domestic constituency. Successful diplomacy is thereby contingent on the agreement between states and how each state mediates public opinion and interests back home. Example: Country A negotiates with Country B about a bi-lateral agreement. Diplomats from both country A and B lead the negotiations on a state-to-state level. Both states also communicate and manage public sentiment back home in order to receive buy in from the constituency. Negotiations are held on an intra-national and international level. David Faris in his article “ From the Age of Secrecy to the Age of Sharing: Social Media, Diplomacy and Statecraft in the 21 s t“ adds another level to the game. This third level is known as the Networked Elite – a mediating variable between pa

U.S. Election Results on Bing and Google

If you currently search for “Election Results” on Google or Bing, you will see an infographic showing up-to-date results of the 2014 U.S. Elections. Both search engines offer a map of the United States colored in accordance to the outcome or likely outcome of the elections (Red for Republican and Blue for Democrat). Both Bing and Yahoo cover three elections: Senate, House and Governor. The information is sourced from the Associated Press – on both search engines. On Google, users have the option to click on the states to find how different districts voted. Picture from Bing offers an election trivia and information on where and when to vote.  Picture from It would be interesting to see whether these infographics create more awareness and whether they can influence voters. It is known that live news commentary on television and radio on election day may influence on how the undecided vote. The infographics the

The USB Security Key: More Protection for your Online Accounts?

The launch of Google’s new Inbox, a new app and web service that set out to redefine how we organize our emails, has overshadowed another update from Google regarding account safety and email security. Google has added another option to its two-step verification solution: a USB-stick. Let’s first clarify what a two-step security process is. To put it in Google’s own words : “With 2-Step Verification, you’ll protect your account with something you know (your password) and something you have (your phone or Security Key).” Essentially, your password for your various online accounts – ranging from email to online banking – can be hacked in various ways. We have all heard of lists with email passwords floating around in the internet as a result of security breaches. Having only one layer of security is frankly not enough if you want your account to be adequately secured. That is why various online service providers have introduced a second layer. This layer is essentially another piece of i

Government 2.0

Whilst roaming through the corridors of government buildings, one often encounters stacks of paper, old copy machines and rather depressed staff sorting through piles of reports, petitions, legal texts and other bureaucratic texts. The European Union is a well-known example of just how inefficient bureaucracy can get. Every month around 2,500 boxes are transported by five trucks between the EU’s parliaments permanent base in Brussels and its official home in Strasbourg. The estimated annual cost of moving the parliament between the two cities is about 285 million USD . Now, I will not go into the details of why this move is or is not necessary (if you are a EU citizen, you would probably then question the sanity of your representatives). I just want to point out that inefficiencies in governments are costing the taxpayer millions every year. Now, how do we solve this? Estonia, a country not larger than the Netherlands with about 1.3 million inhabitants, is renowned to have one of the