Public transparency

These days, Americans go online more and more. It is an excellent tool to communicate with friends, stay current with world events and shop for books and watch movies. People can even use it as a forum to spread their ideas and opinions. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the internet.

Some countries like China regulate or even outright ban the use of the internet inside their borders. Sites like YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, and others are blocked. The average kid in China cannot read an online article about Tibet independence, because China oppresses the country. It is difficult for me to imagine that there are people in governments sitting in a room, restricting the people’s access to such an amazing tool.  In 2012 Reporters Without Borders released a list of “enemies of the internet”, revealing which countries are against free speech and which are not. The ultra conservative countries of the world like Cuba, Iran, Burma and Saudi Arabia were among a few listed. However, as much as the latest NSA and Edward Snowden scandal would have us believe, the USA is nowhere near this list.

While the internet we know and love today is free, there are some drawbacks. The internet can harbor criminals, and the governments are in the right chasing them. The pornographers, the drug dealers and the child predators should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, wherever they are on the internet. But the average, modern man or woman should not be treated and watched like a criminal.

If the  American government decides to cut off the internet, the people will strike back. The Arab Spring showed that social media and the internet can be instrumental in overthrowing a government, so the people can use it to fix a government.  In every nation, if the people’s voice could be easily heard by the government, there would be less unrest. In a perfect society we, the citizens of the country, would be able to voice our concerns with our government on all levels.

The internet is our best tool for representation and national unity. Sparsely populated countries like Iceland, Mongolia and Nambia could become more united. From the Agricultural Revolution to the Industrial Revolution human contact between place to place was cumbersome.  But now, with internet connections people on opposite ends of a country can share ideas, and this can strengthen the bonds of a country.

Communication between citizens is not all that will be transformed, but communication between a representative and their people can be more accessible.

While people are able to contact their representatives, less and less people are. To boost public participation in the government, the government should make it easier to access participation. Some websites are allowing discussion on politics, like comments on news articles and reddit. This is not enough.  Over the summer, I sent a letter to our representative in the House, Sam Johnson. I asked his stance on big issues at the time. He responded, but the political response didn’t directly answer my questions. But he is a busy man. In the past, people would send in letters that would only be seen by the sender and recipient. If citizens’ issues with any forms of government can all be shown in one place, people can feel they aren’t the only ones with certain concerns. Having an internet town hall with all levels of government is great, and having more of them will allow more people to get direct answers. Instead of being limited by distance, the whole country can interact efficiently.

Governments have much to gain with a less regulated internet. While some might cringe at the Julian Assanges or Edward Snowdens, they shouldn’t be afraid. Like the muckrakers of the early 1900s, sometimes the truth can hurt, but it can make a country stronger.

Having access to the internet is not a basic human right, but the more freedom people have to communicate with one another over a global net, the more people ­­­­will have a voice in how their government is run. Even people my age can be more involved and informed about their governments. This act will strengthen us as the land of the free and home of the brave.