Government, New Media, and Civic Space – By Jekein Lato-Unah

Government, New Media, and Civic Space – By Jekein Lato-Unah

10 Oct 2018 1 Comment 136 Views

Media and means of communication have evolved over time to where they are now, in the digital age. Information has become faster and easier to access or disperse. A few decades ago one might need to get information to the printing press in order to make the newspapers the next morning, but fast forward to today, it is all one click away. This access has also made the world seem smaller, and as a result of this, a global community has been built on the Internet, especially on social media platforms.

The Government, (a (non) democratic one) will be a topic one time or the other on these platforms, especially in Nigeria given the fast-approaching 2019 elections. Nigerians from all parts of the country and all over the globe with Internet access will use their social media platforms to express their thoughts towards the government. While social media is a space for every Nigerian to receive information and air opinions, it has also become a platform for “hate” speech. This is one of the cons of social media; Everyone has an avenue to spread information even when they are inaccurate.

The circulation of false information does more harm than most of us actually think. One of the ways in which this can be curbed on the Internet is by stating the sources of whatever information is being passed across. Mandating posts on government or election related news should have a source can possibly aid easy identification falsified news from facts and accurately described events.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter also verify accounts of certain people and organizations or corporations. This is also a way of making sure that information relayed out by such accounts are most likely very credible and accurate. Frequent users of social media tend to believe information more if it comes from a verified account. The reason for this is not far-fetched.

According to Wikipedia, Civic space is created by a set of universally-accepted rules, which allow people to organise, participate and communicate with each other freely and without hindrance, and in doing so, influence the political and social structures around them. In the light of global social engagements including the use of hash tags like #StandtoEndRape and #MeToo, one can say that our Civil Space also extends to the Internet. These hash tags have created awareness and made very strong motions for ending stigmatization of rape victims, and have given survivors of sexual violence a voice. This is very important, especially in a society like ours where victims are usually shamed into silence and blamed for their own assault.

Nigerians can influence the government with hashtags and help implement laws, statutes already ratified by States. The discussions on social media platforms concerning the injustice women are subjugated to are the truest thoughts of Nigerians and the government can and should play a big role in putting an end to all forms of abuse.

If our government is indeed Democratic as it claims to be, then civic space should also be a very safe space. No one should be at risk of harm, assault of arrest for criticizing a democratic government. Since our civic space is also on the Internet the government should be involved actively online too, in order to know what the people truly think and how they might be able to improve the lives and standards of living of the citizens of our country.

The PVC, Permanent Voter Card required for adults who intend to vote in next year’s coming elections was greatly campaigned for online. This is one way of making use of social media in line with the election. Social media is an important space to encourage young people to vote during the elections as this demographic make up more than half of the entire population, even on social media.

Applications can also be created to help locate the nearest polling units, among other things. This process aids government (as a unit) becoming an affair of the people and elected individuals can be held accountable for their actions, whether or not the so-called actions are beneficial to the society. When the people vote for a government, it is expected that the government fulfills their manifesto and also curb the social ills in the society such as domestic violence, rape, child abuse, female genital mutilation amongst others.

This can only be possible if the citizens vote for a government that is socially conscious and not living in their own aristocratic bubble. The political parties and their aspirants in all levels of government should communicate more with the citizens and enlighten themselves on how these social ills affect the lives of our people and our nation as a whole, so as to solve the problems using effective means. The world is changing, developing every single day. We should also develop in our own way so that we would not be left behind.

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One thought on “Government, New Media, and Civic Space – By Jekein Lato-Unah

  1. Amazing piece!
    Digitization of Governance would play huge role in ensuring we have a listening Government. Sometimes you wonder why it takes so long for them to respond to the cries and hashtag movements from Social Media.
    How many Politicians are Tech and Social Media savvy?
    How many have realised their shortcomings in this space and have set up a Social Media team to bridge this gap?
    How many Politicians are verse and knowledgeable in Industry 4.0 technology (emerging technologies) and their numerous applications.? most of them can’t even navigate beyond the “whatsapp” on their phones. This ‘digitization’ can only be spurred on by a “youth-led” or “youth-focused’ Government.

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