It is about time we re-imagine what defines citizenship across board in a 21st Century. Some philosophers have had the consideration for citizenship in logical terms: thus an end to privilege, freedom for all, and the establishment of governing structures that will encourage and facilitate everyone’s involvement in their chosen communities. The reorganization of things regarding life within the era of the Internet kind of changes citizenship from civic duties to individual rights and privileges but as citizens of this community you do not only have the entitlements to enjoy, you also have a number of obligations to fulfil in order to be considered a good citizen. And for some of us that should be your business online. So to have that done in an organized manner, it important we teach what behaviours and codes of conduct befitting citizens who occupy this new community being referred to as the new-media.
A community which cannot be legislated but expected to be effective but have some level of “well-behaved” citizen who are contributing to the good of that community. So the work of the National Commission on Civic Education-NCCE should not be limited to just the offline world but must be brought to bear on the citizenship online.
It is also important that as good digital citizens, we are able to connect with our chosen communities to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult for us as citizens to keep the balance and follow the tenets of a good digital citizen and be fulfilling obligations towards the communities we belong.
This kind of citizenship also requires some kind of “virtuous behaviour’ which should not be taken for granted but must be taught. From the beginning of virtual realities until now, if we have not seen anything at all, the disturbing images of children being considered to be doing one thing or another tells you and I that it is important to get some kind of character education going for our citizens who are actually living in this space from the richest to the poorest. This is one of the reasons behind our call for the review of the ICT curriculum for schools in Ghana. The truth is if it is not started early and targeted at the classrooms, it is will difficult to consider that after a lot of water has passed under the bridge.
The kind of citizenship under discussion requires participation from the citizens. This is the party-cipation which costs close to nothing to get it underway. But quite apart from that this kind of participation has several options for the participants. What most of us forget to realize is this; it is not everyone who is what they claim they are in the community. Since participation is open to all and available to anyone to join couple with the lack of the “virtuous behaviour” it is making the participation to be marred by all sort of bad habits which could have been checked before people were introduced to the space. The digital world is above all participatory, it is up to the society to help citizens use their tools for participation effectively and wisely.
There is the talk about Internet Governance Forum (IGF), I don’t know how many of us have heard of it or participate.Internet Governance forums seek to bring stakeholders together to meet and share experience on what they have been doing and collaborate where the need arises to develop the Internet.This forum came about because the digital citizenship is a humongous membership affair and it is important there is an attempt everybody’s voice to be heard and not only and not only that: the ethics of engagement in this space is constantly changing so much so that any attempt to ignore the growing trend can result in being ineffective in the space. This is not to say that citizenship is about “doing the right thing” rather it’s about occasionally re-examining the culture and the communities and making sure its standards are in-line with the growing trend and our own standards as citizens.
For Digital Citizenship to be effective, it must be INCLUSIVE. In order for Digital citizenship to thrive, it is important it is looked at with the lenses of equity least we promote instability and revolution in the space. Under no circumstance should there be any form of disparity between the rich and the poor. It is important there is fairness in the policies there may be to promote equal participation by ALL.I am also in love with the fact that there is this initiative by ITU called the Child Online Protection (COP) Initiative which is to guarantee some kind of freedom for children and young people to learn and explore so that while they are at it, their safety can be ensured by the systems to be put in place to prevent some adults from taking advantage of them online. Our organization provides tools for effective digital citizenship but very few people actually take advantage of it.
Digital citizenship is also about media rating or assessment. The digital citizenship has a lot to do with media development and the forms the development takes. Therefore digital citizenship can be said to be dependent more on how the effective the media is in spreading new and useful ideas to promote development. News used to be read from the traditional source previously but now news is and can be all over the place, ranging from the busting of 140 words to the streaming of live videos. But how well those videos or ideas spread depends on the affordability, the reach or coverage of the platform and the relevance of the information to what the society needs. But the question for any digital citizen however should be: how best ensure a “virtuous behaviour” while having a form of effective participation with our community culture in mind?
Having said the above, citizenship goes with a community membership. Community is said to be formed when a group of people gather with common goals. If that is the case then citizenship is tied to a group and any member of the group must be seen to belong, therefore it is important I exhibit some level of citizenship based on the culture of the community. But the bigger question is how well can a group define itself with regards to the digital space in relation to its belief, customs and practices as well as which behaviours to reinforce or discourage? There is a lot of tribalism and hate speech going on within our various communities online in Ghana, how can stand up to say let’s correct these wrongs without churning out more of the negatives? The way to go is to respond to the call for Digital Citizenship where we have our curriculum revolutionized with digital literacy and fluency skills rather than what it looks like today.