ICT4 Elderly/Active citizenship

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Following this lesson learners will:

  • Recognise the difference between being a citizen and a netizen
  • Identify practices to become a more engaged netizen
  • Recognise behaviours netizens have at local, national and global scale
  • Recognise the opportunities online services and platforms bring to personal expression at a political level (e.g. propose new services, suggest changes, expression of opinions, etc)
  • Recognise the importance of voting online and knows how to vote online
  • Understands the opportunities and communicating with institutions for online participation (strengthening citizenship online)

Introduction[edit]

The notion of citizenship now seems well established, everyone is a citizen of a geographically delimited state. The citizen has rights and duties. The word "citizen" has  seen a clear increase in popularity recently, to the point of transforming itself now in multiple expressions and social movements (citizen actions, citizen behaviors, etc ..) It also comes more and more often in political speeches, as  governments call citizens to action and engagement in social causes.

Active citizens do different things to improve the lives of others. They contribute to social justice in their community by taking action on issues or contributing somehow in order to make a difference. They question the way things are done and the system behind it. Being a citizen in the internet is not much different, people just use digital tools to either solve problems or use/choose tools and their behaviours in a conscious and social way. Active online citizenship (netizenship) can be demonstrated at many levels, like globally, nationally and locally. Good practices, habits and collaborative skills form this netizenship culture.

Global examples of active citizen groups working together online include international organisations such as: Wikipedia, Creative Commons, GreenPeace, International Amnesty, The Red Cross, etc.

National groups working for the common good and using the internet as a tool to create events (like National Clean Up Day, “plant a tree” day), or to engage people in political manifestations (Fridays for the future), or to promote a social movement in a specific country (like Framasoft.org).  

Local active netizens may work within a school committee, church group, community organisation or with the local council to make change in the immediate community. Their actions can range from organising and disseminating activities with locals, to raise awareness for a cause, or even participate in the discussions and planning at a political level. An example of local political citizenship would be identifying and advocating to the local council to provide additional facilities or finance specific projects for the community (a good example is the local participatory budgeting calls some cities run with great success).

In the same way citizens who are not engaged or motivated don’t contribute to the community and some times are the cause of some issues, netizens demonstrating digital incivility are not aware of the deterioration they are imposing on the public information space. A netizen who is not engaged, consciously or not, participates in behaviours like: to share spam, to share fake news, to contribute to the cacophony of  misinformation on the internet, to share hate and intolerance speech, does not collaborate with others, among many other examples.

On the other hand, bringing the citizenship to the digital domain opens doors to new opportunities and solutions. In modern democracies, almost everyone has the right to vote. It is an acquired fact. Butthis doesn’t mean that everybody votes, in fact voter turnout rates continue to weaken from one election to the next. We can not deny the crisis of confidence that globally reaches modern democracies, this crisis of confidence also contributes to the apparent lack of interest and engagement in citizenship. Many countries are looking for solutions for this global problem, and countries who have taken the pole to the digital platforms have had good success rates. E-voting brings new possibilities to the people. Now people can vote even if they are abroad, or have difficulties  in accessing to pole sites. Also, it the internet and digital devices make it easier for people to react out for information. It is easier for people to know what each candidate or side defends in their campaigns, which makes people more engaged and more likely to vote.

Some Examples[edit]

Many countries, like French-speaking Switzerland for instance, took the voting online a step further and turned the voting system into a collaborative and participative approach, they share the open source code for the voting platform with anyone who wants to contribute to it. This helps citizens to engage and to trust the system better as it is more transparent to them.

Many times, being an active citizen just means to establish  good communication channels with the local and regional agents and stakeholders. More and more governments and other political institutions create spaces to promote direct communication with the people.We believe that digital tools can have a big impact to promote citizenship as through the internet and digital tools, people have access to more information and a space to express their opinions and be heard.

This is exactly why we should raise awareness to the field of digital to promote citizenship even when online. Now, more than ever, we should invest in the promotion of netizen behaviour and practices to avoid the alienation of citizenship in the digital world.

Education is key to foster democratic and civic participation at local, national, European and even at a global level. Learning how to become an active citizen in the internet is about knowledge and intentional attitudes, which requires the use of methodologies and digital tools that involve learners actively participating in their own learning process. Civic and social participation are fundamental to European values and democracy in general.

A netizen participates actively in the information society, helps other users in forums. comments and enriches the debates, feeds his/her ePortfolio, bringing together all contributions from personal and professional life. A netizen surfs without advertising and in social networks co-animated by enthusiasts with the same interests as him. Consults his peers rather than experts, diversifies his social and professional activities. It is permanently self-reinforcing, challenging itself and opening up to new horizons. All of this is possible thanks to the very properties of digital world.

Netizenship is often the result of awareness and development of critical thinking about digital media. It allows us to take responsibility because we can see the traces of each of our contribution, which reinforces the motivation to act for the common good, in a virtuous circle.

Curriculums teaching active citizenship online should be competence-based, aiming to equip learners with democratic attitudes and social, civic and intercultural competences, as well as key competences for everyday life. They represent an essential toolbox that every citizen should have in today’s complex and fast-changing global world. We also need to build learners’ capacity to think critically and creatively, to explore new ways of acting locally and globally to make informed and adequate decisions.

Keywords[edit]

  • Citizenship
  • Netizenship
  • Netizen
  • Citizen of the web
  • Political and social engagement
  • E-voting
  • Communication with local authorities
  • Democracy and participation