Wired: Kids sit on the steps of the Brooklyn library trying to get Wi-Fi. Why can’t we solve the problem that roughly half the people in this city don’t have broadband?
Bloomberg: We will. That’s what capitalism is all about. As there’s demand, the private sector will come and fill it in. I don’t believe that government is good at picking technology, particularly technology that is changing. By the time you get it done and go through democracy, it’s so outdated.
I know he doesn’t really mean “democracy” as a regime, but rather process. It still got me pondering “Is democracy just the right mechanism for
with the creation of innovation, but not a hindering for the diffusion of innovation?”
Well by doing some research, at least Milner, a professor at Princeton, proves that statement is wrong. In her article published in Comparative Political Studies (Vol. 39 No. 2) last year, she uses the adoption of Internet as a case, pointing out that democratic governments support the adoption of the Internet relative to autocratic ones. Here are some quotes that support her findings why democracies are more likely to adopt the Internet.
Political and economic groups that lose from the spread of the Internet may also try to retard its diffusion through such political means (e.g., Acemoglu & Robinson, 2000). They will use the country’s political institutions to enact policies that do this. Some institutions may be more susceptible to such purposes than others. (p. 182)
Political actors need to possess both the desire and the capacity to block technological change. Autocratic governments, I claim, are more likely to possess both than are democratic ones. (p. 183, para. 1)
On average, autocratic governments should be more likely to prefer and better able to retard the spread of the Internet than democratic ones. The Internet threatens autocrats because it promotes uncensored access to information, the wide sharing of that information, and the capacity to overcome collective goods problems, thus enhancing the public’s ability to organize against a regime. (p.184)
Well as a Thai citizen, that sounds very familiar to what have been going on, doesn’t it?
Note: If you want more reading, Weare has an interesting article proposing and discussing the framework of the multiple causal relationship between technology change, in particular the Internet, and politics.
Weare’s Typology of Casual Mechanisms (p. 680)
Weare, C. (2002). The Internet and democracy: The causal links between technology and politics. International Journal of Public Administration, 25(5), 659-691.
Milner, H. V. (2006). The digital divide: The role of political institutions in technology diffusion. Comparative Political Studies, 39(2), 176-199.