The e-learning platform MinorMatters will be conducting an e-course on “Digital Democracy” from 3 February onwards. The course will spend time looking at foundational principles of democracy taking into consideration the increasingly digitised world, especially post-pandemic. Thereafter, it will delve into how these translate into unique opportunities and challenges to democracy in the digital world.
Brunch spoke to MinorMatters Legal and Advocacy Co-ordinator Shalomi Daniel to learn more about this course and all it has to offer.
Daniel told us that the course is designed taking into consideration the increasingly digitised world, and will cover foundational principles of democracy, how these translate into a digitised world, unique opportunities and challenges to democracy in the digital world, and digital tools that can be used to enhance democracy.
We asked her what inspired this course to be put up on the platform. She explained that they have observed that there is increased engagement and interaction online compared to a few years back, specifically on social issues. “With various tools being offered online, people are more involved in social issues as information is now being conveyed and exchanged at a faster rate – news reporting is now instantaneous,” she observed, adding that with the onset of the pandemic, work and education has moved online.
Upon realising this, they thought it would be interesting to observe how not only shopping, entertainment, and education have moved online, but they wanted to see if governance and democracy has also moved to the online world.
The course contents
When speaking about the content of the course, she informed us that it will include; introduction to digital democracy, the progressive aspect of digital democracy, and threats to democracy through digitisation. She also told us that they have already concluded a similar course – conducted in English – sometime last year. “We will be conducting the next in Sinhala and Tamil in the coming weeks.”
She explained that they hope to look at the fundamentals of democracy and focus specifically on the situation with the pandemic that led to technological advances, that now means we are working and living online. “We will look at how this impacts democracy both positively and negatively – what does it mean to be citizens, what does democracy mean in an increasingly online world, and explore the negative aspects of the digital aspect of democracy,” she said.
She also added that the course will explore how digital tools can be used to enhance rights and freedoms integral for a thriving democracy such as freedom of expression and right to information, and how digital spaces can be used to hold public figures and institutions accountable.
Further, she stated: “The course will specifically explore digital spaces as it relates to access to and exchange of political information between political actors and citizens and how digital spaces/tools connect/support public debate and impact citizen participation in decision making processes.”
They also hope to address the challenges to democracy, such as disinformation campaigns, the digital divide, and how lack of access and affordability may impact democratic participation in the digital world. Daniel added that in short, the digital democracy course exists to explore if digital tools at the end of the day help or harm democracy.
At the conclusion of the course, Daniel told us that all the participants would be able to analyse the basic principles of democracy, evaluate how digital democracy contributes to protecting the fundamental principles of democracy, and they will also have the ability to assess the progressive aspects of digital democracy and its threats; and consider how digitisation can be used to promote democracy.
Daniel told us that the course is offered free-of-charge as an opportunity to encourage more people to learn and also provide a platform for citizens to discuss and debunk certain myths and misconceptions surrounding certain democratic issues. “They can also learn to look at certain challenges to democracy that we haven’t thought of before and offer them the ability to think more in-depth, learn and engage with other members of society,” she explained.
The Digital Democracy course – conducted by Prof. Kaushalya Ariyaratne – will be conducted in Sinhala, every week for five weeks. The course will be available every Thursday from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. Those who are interested in learning something new, and those who have the ability/interest to participate in weekly online discussions and complete assignments can participate in the course. Special attention will be given to applicants below 35 years of age.
Register at: https://forms.gle/445ui8UBBNrp8mjq8