After attending a Discovery Institute forum last night on economics and democracy featuring Ghana's Franklin Cudjoe of the Imani Centre for Humane Education, I just have to say, the DI is impressive. DI President Bruce Chapman himself conducted the event for over twenty five people like a gathering of friends - and set the tone for deep and insightful questions following Cudjoe's insider report on economics affecting west Africa.
It was great to meet DI's rising star Yuri Mamchur, and talk about the work he is doing with Russia Blog. And it was just a treat to be able to meet DI Director Robert Wiley III and talk about my favorite subject: promotion of democracy through blogging.
I am also passionate about blogging and the role that it can play in promotion of democracy around the world, especially by giving name and voice to young people who might otherwise resign themselves to cynicism. Blogging is an explosive new media channel, and it has agencies like the Federal Communications Commission wondering aloud about it - especially since it can now begin to counter mainstream media (MSM), and even get out ahead to scoop stories and shape the public agenda - you go! Iraq the Model. As Dave Sifry said earlier this year on his blog Sifry's Alerts:
We are currently seeing about 30,000 - 40,000 new weblogs being created each day, depending on the day. Compared to the past, this is well over double the rate of change in October, when there were about 15,000 new weblogs created each day. The remarkable growth over the past 3 months can be attributed to the increase in new, mainstream services such as MSN Spaces, and in increases of use of services like Blogger, AOL Journals, and LiveJournal. In addition, services outside the United States have been taking off, including a number of media sites promoting blogging, such as Le Monde in France.My interest is in seeing this growth translated into the developing world, where inarguably it is needed the most. Particularly in Africa, where the sheer number of autocratic regimes and proto-democracies hold sway over the kind of politics we take for granted in Europe, northeastern Asia (Japan, Taiwan and South Korea) and the United States. There are a growing number of blogs about Africa, as this listing at Blog Africa illustrates. But unfortunately most of those blogs are neither written by Africans or originate from Africa.
We need to help remind the good folks at Blogger (the host of my blog) and others that they are minding the printing presses of democracy as surely as Benjamin Franklin did in the eighteenth century. And that Franklin's aspirations for democracy are riding on their efforts. And what this means is designing as effectively for narrow bandwidth, and providing a minimal graphics version of their blogging products - better yet, a way to switch back and forth between the versions based on user preference and local internet conditions in the developing world.
Listening to Bruce Chapman speak, and having read George Gilder for many years, leads me to ponder how it has been the example they are giving that has led me to act on behalf of folks I have never met, living in places I have never been.
Much innovation from technology in the era of the personal computer has been derived from open architecture - Discovery Institute is playing a role as well in the 'open architecture' of ideas - encouraging many voices not heard in the mainstream establishment on a whole range of concepts and topics. I like that. I like that a lot.