Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada in 150 Years: People Power Will Shake Up Society

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada in 150 Years: People Power Will Shake Up Society

Article excerpt

Canada in 150 years: People power will shake up society

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Editor's note: 2017 marked the sesquicentennial of Confederation. While the anniversary is a chance to reflect on the past, The Conversation Canada asked some of our academic authors to look down the road a further 150 years -- or "Canada +150". Curtis McCord, who researches information systems, predicts technology will further expand our ability to understand politics and engage in political action.

Author: Curtis McCord, Doctoral Student in Information Systems, Values in Design, University of Toronto

Nothing is certain in the next 150 years -- not even the future of our democracy. Coming to grips with the tragedies of a colonial past and uncertainties of our present is a challenge for many of us.

Rather than wondering what will be, we should wonder what could be: Our political horizons will be set by hard work and co-operation, not a track guaranteed by any technology or imagined destiny.

Nonetheless, cultural change sparked by social movements and aided by technology can empower citizens. They can shape their country's destiny as part of daily life, rather than at a voting booth once every few years.

Much of our knowledge, practices and trades are changing with technology and we must also adapt. This applies in our personal, professional and public lives as we express our citizenship. I have dedicated the last three years to researching how technology shapes our citizenship.

I believe we ought to strive for a country in which citizens are empowered and autonomous, and where our government is more democratic and responsive to our needs. Advances in artificial intelligence, ubiquitous computing and data-gathering will accompany these developments, but effective democracy requires deeper cultural change.

Most people engage in citizenship through acts such as voting, obtaining and using passports, and interacting with government services. This transactional approach puts citizenship in the background of our social and work lives.

The most tangible advances in Canadian democracy will not come from applying new technologies to existing models. They will come by re-evaluating how we use technology to relate to the shared project of governance. This means understanding that the ways in which technology mediates our citizenship often sets the limits of what kinds of citizenship we have.

Digitization of services -- sometimes called eGovernment or digital government -- follows the same kinds of trends as corporate information systems. They make our relationship with our government one of client and service-provider. The result is a trade-off: eGovernment attempts to do justice to the financial responsibilities of the state, but does not foster a sense of shared ownership included in a deeper understanding of democratic citizenship.

Reinventing citizenship

Expressions of citizenship go beyond delegating responsibility to politicians. Canadians take causes into their own hands, ranging from the redressing of systemic injustices, advocating for urban cyclists to building community internet infrastructure for under-served communities. We are living through a shift towards increasingly networked and citizen-led expressions of participation.

We must redesign state institutions to accommodate these efforts and make the relationship between citizens and governments more nuanced, immediate, and fair. The seeds of change exist already. They are demonstrated in the growth of policy and practice to allow greater citizen participation and scrutiny -- open government.

The goals of open government are often realized through online public consultations. …

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