Future of Politics

Technology will win future elections

David Plouffe, President Obama’s top political and campaign strategist and the mastermind behind the winning 2008 and 2012 campaigns, wrote in a forward looking op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that future campaigns will increasingly be fought out on mobile devices as much as television and computers. He cited, how in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke new ground by using 3D holograms throughout the country to extend his reach. David envisions that with further advancements in artificial intelligence, one could soon have holograms of presidential candidates at your door, interacting with you and asking and answering questions.

The 2015 Parliament election in England saw the British political parties moving away from traditional electoral broadcast methods following the successes Obama enjoyed in 2008 and 2012 through heavy investment in digital technology. The leading parties hired communications experts integral to the Obama campaigns, upped their expenditure in social media, and could now target people on Twitter via postcode.

Apart from using the Internet, social media and smartphones for reach, campaigns will be personalised to the extent of individual voter. Big data will play an influencing role swaying the results to favour parties who could target personalised message for each individual. The Guardian points that the prospect that data presents is wider than just targeting. It emphasises that the real opportunity for parties is to get to know the electorate better and focus their manifestos and leadership around popular opinion. It is widely held that politicians are out of touch with everyday lives. These new methods of understanding what really matters to people may go beyond the election and change the face of politics as a whole.

The adoption of technology in elections is not limited to campaigning but is covering all aspects of the process. Already a few states in US have initiated online voter registration and perhaps online voting will also be commonplace in future.

Technology will also ensure that the elected politicians remain honest once they assume public office merely by the volume of public data available on their past. This data will be ubiquitous, stunning in its depth and accuracy, and totally impossible to deny. Importantly, it will be beyond the control of political manipulations.

Dan Cregan of The Age quips, “The life-cycle scrutiny to which all future leaders will be subjected may produce surprising results. Political scientists suggest that trust in leaders and institutions is now at multi-generation lows. It is possible that a change in the way we perceive our leaders – from remote and distant to immediately human – may assist in repairing the political compact, or the bond between ourselves and our politicians. In an age of disarming transparency, issues, rather than personalities, may even retake the high-ground.”

Our perspective

Back in the 1960’s a political commentator once said: “Show me a modern political candidate who doesn’t understand television, and I’ll show you a loser. ”

Coming back to 21st century, the same could be said about the Internet and social media in particular. The impact on mainstream political battle was first seen in the 2008 American presidential election and in the Indian context , it was witnessed in the 2014 general elections.

The impact of technology will be more and more visible not just in electing the political candidates, but also how they go on conducting their business post elections. It’s often said that public memory is short, and people usually forget the misdemeanours of politicians years later, when they face the elections again. However, the permanence on the Internet can dig out a politician’s speeches, conduct and action and refresh it in public memory with just a few clicks.

On one hand, e Internet will be able to put politicians on stricter public scrutiny and make whistleblowing easier, thus shifting the power to the people. On the other hand, it also makes the government more powerful as they can snoop on people’s digital lives and thus curb any possible dissent before it gains traction.

The Internet and technology is positioned to play
a huge role in elections and politics. Whether it will
keep the politicians on a tight noose or it is exploited
by the politicians/government for their own goals is yet
to be seen.

Gazing through the crystal ball

  1. Politics could be a career for our children, if not for us now. Politics has to change for the better and one way for the same is better people. Discuss politics as a career option in medium term for your children.
  2. Mobilising opinions online and swinging public thinking is very much possible online. Thus, mainstream politics is not the only way one can actively participate in politics. Build communities around public interest subjects close to your heart and educate people.
  3. It’s also possible to organize and maintain communities around issue based support to elected representatives and ensure that they deliver on the promises.
  4. The internet and other ICTs are double-edged instruments of change; if the governments get the better of it, democracy will be easily stifled and if people remain vigilant and use the digital tools affirmatively, democratic roots will deepen.

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