D62804B8d01 - e-Working Papers 2007/01 Democracy and...

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e-Working Papers 2007/01 Democracy and Digital Divide in Latin America By Yanina Welp A Spanish version of this paper can be found at http://www.dd-la.ch/ E-Democracy Centre Université de Genève Faculté de Droit 40, bd du Pont-D'Arve CH-1211 Genève 4 Switzerland http://edc.unige.ch/
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1 Democracy and Digital Divide in Latin America* Yanina Welp Center on Direct Democracy (C2D) e-Democracy Center (eDC) Switzerland Abstract While in Europe people were beginning to comment on a crisis of democracy which would become evident in the decrease of participation in elections, and in the distrust and lack of interest of citizens in politics, in most countries of Latin America the transition from dictatorship regimes to democratic regimes was beginning. However, although this political system has consolidated itself, it coexists with a growing citizen dissatisfaction which, more than once, has led to the fall of constitutional governments. In this context, the renewal of the traditional mechanisms of direct democracy (MDDs) and the recourse to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) come out as tools capable of increasing transparency in the public sector, improving communication between citizens and government, and opening new channels and spaces of participation. Yet, while the MDDs have had a broad and controversial spreading during the last decades, the uses of ICTs have been barely explored. The present paper is aimed at identifying the main initiatives developed by the national/federal governments of Latin America and at examining to what extent new technologies, and particularly the Internet, would contribute to the improvement of the quality of democracy, assessing its scope, potential and restrictions. * A first version of this article was presented at the Internacional Conference on Direct Democracy in Latin America, Buenos Aires, March 15-16 of 2007.
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2 1. Introduction A range of indicators show a decline in the capacity of the democratic political systems to uphold among citizens the certainty that the existing political institutions deserve acceptance and support (Lipset 1992). The basic elements of this crisis would be citizens& distrust in politics, which would become evident in the decrease of participation in elections, in the distrust in institutions and representatives, and in the fall of affiliations to political parties and labor unions (Putnam 2003, Huse 2003, Clift 2003, Carnoy 2000, Hague and Loader 1999). However, it should be highlighted that this scenario, reflecting European and American trends, cannot be transferred to the Latin American context, which presents other characteristics. In most Latin American countries, participation in elections has not changed significantly (it should be noted that in some countries voting is compulsory). In any case, participation varies among the different territories: for period 1976-2006, Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala showed an average participation of less than 60%, while Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay surpassed 80%. The region&s average for that period was 70.18%. The
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This note was uploaded on 04/05/2010 for the course POL 3232 taught by Professor What during the Spring '10 term at Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

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D62804B8d01 - e-Working Papers 2007/01 Democracy and...

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