Allan Takes Aim Blog

Is technology destroying democracy?

Posted on: 30 May 2013

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 Is Technology destroying democracy?

The caption may be a slight exaggeration of the present state of state of affairs but, like it or not, the day is looming when if we want to find out what our local parliamentary representative is doing on our behalf we’ll have to check on his /her twitter site to find out. Additionally, if we want to get a message to our representative we have to send it to their parliamentary twitter or e-mail site.

You may disagree with me but, websites aside, there’s no doubt that Twitter is now taking a major role in the parliamentary communication process to the extent that constituents will need to go to a Government’s Twitter site to see any tweets announcing where and when Cabinet will be in attendance to talk to the community.

Sounds very democratic, doesn’t it? But midst the Government’s use of Twitter, what attention does it pay as to how older people without access to Twitter who, even if provided with the technology that would give them access, either through reading and hearing about it had, nonetheless, become anti Twitter or wouldn’t know how to use it. The result: instead of Twitter enhancing their lives they have become prisoners in a society dominated by technology and worse, make their lives and possibly democracy, deteriorate.

Not that all older people are in the same boat. Some can afford the technology that gives access to Twitter and e-mail and can also afford to pay for the advice on how to use it. Unfortunately in Canberra, whose aged population grows by the day, many older people without the necessary financial means find themselves in difficulty.

And so they look for information to guide them. Coming from a generation that relied on the local telephone directory for that purpose they turn to the directory again. Like the phone the directory and information system has changed also. Indeed when they call the information number they face a barrage of instructions that says they can get all the information they need by logging on to: or, if they hang on they will (eventually) be answered by a human asking: how can I help.

The next stage can be more confusing than helpful because they have to answer questions by pressing numbers on the phone’s keypad. This also makes them even more confused and so they discontinue the call.

This is not an imaginary situation. I have tried to explain the system to my wife – who has a memory problem common to people of her age – and is also intelligent. But intelligent as she is and as hard as she tries, unless she gets an answer immediately, she will discontinue and try again – and again. She also becomes stressed.

Many older people in Canberra are in the same age bracket as my wife but without her problem. Like her, many have not as yet adjusted to the age of technology nor, I suspect will they adjust. And the same thing applies to older people in the rest of Australia and to communities in many other parts of the world.

It seems to me that on a universal basis, it behoves governments to make sure that older people do not get left behind as younger people rush to take up the latest piece of technology. That apart,  who knows how long Twitter and e-mail will last?

Finally the young should remember that without the efforts of these older people they might not be enjoying the technology they currently use. And Governments should do the same.

Comment welcome.

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