In the Age of Popular Uprisings, what is the Role of Public Access Computing and Social Media on Development?

ABSTRACT: Civic engagement has long been touted as a key to enabling people to participate in their collective destiny and take control of their collective good. Recent events in Egypt have shown us that the will of the people is powerful, even though people's opinions, preferences, and political affiliations diverge. The role of social media in enabling coalitions to form, congregate in large numbers, and overthrow the governments they oppose appears to have become prominent. It appears that with these uprisings, social media are transforming the ways in which people choose to take control of their collective lives, that of their communities and societies. Social media and public access to the Internet serve as platforms supporting the creation of social coalitions and civic engagement, for better or for worse, bring about new ways people can quest for better livelihoods. The concept of development is emerging with these changes from being primarily supported through institutions to one in which these very institutions are part of the change that could lead to their destruction. For example, the heavy-handed nature of a military government's interventions could cause greater upheaval that in turn limits its legitimacy and remit for action unless they are aligned with the will of their people. While at the same time, government support, community acceptance, and valuable social activity in the relevant social groups are important in the creation of institutions of development supported by information and communication technologies (ICTs) as evidenced in studies reported by Madon, Reinhard, Roode, and Walsham (2009).

Keywords: Human development, Information and Communication Technologies, Healthcare, ICT-enabled service, social capital