A challenge: How blogs can build democracy

A challenge: How blogs can build democracy

: The most important thing blogging companies can do to change the world and build democracy is to translate their tools into (this is my order of preference) Arabic, Chinese, Persian, Russian, other Asian languages, other Eastern European languages — for these are the parts of the world where the people need a voice to be heard.

When I saw Loic Le Meur at ETech, I pushed him on this idea — because his company was already international — and he got excited about it. Now Loic is the agent for SixApart in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (see the post directly below) and so I throw out to challenge to his new partners — since they are making their company international — and to their investor — who understands the power citizens media bring to emerging democracies — and to to other blogging companies.

I will never tire of telling the story of how one man, Hossein Derakhshan, aka Hoder, changed the world with one simple page that told Iranians how to use Blogger and how to post in Persian. Two years after creating those instructions, there are an estimated 100,000 Iranian blogs; the Iranian vice-president blogs; the Iranian president acknowledges them as a force; and Hoder and his cohort Pedram are working on even more amazing things. All this from one Johnny Appleseed of citizens’ media and democracy.

I will also never tire of telling the story of what a 24-year-old dentist in Baghad, Zeyad, and his friends are accomplishing in Iraq. Zeyad reports on an event ignored by major media; it’s picked up in a U.S. magazine read in the White House; and this week a major administration power quotes him and another of the bloggers he recruited. Power to the people.

But imagine what Zeyad and Hoder and their counterparts in China and African nations — and, we can only hope, closed societies like North Korea — could do if the tools of citizens’ media were available in their native languages.

It’s not as if this is without business benefit; I see lots of ads on Persian portals.

But these blogging companies should not have to bear the cost of this development on their own. They should get government grants — how better to help build nations and democracies — and foundation grants. And I’d contribute to a fund drive for this cause, wouldn’t you?

I learned from Zeyad that it doesn’t take much more than one person with something to say to make citizens’ media work in a new land. But we can help and we should.

  • I would suggest adding the Basques to the list of people who would do well to take their cause to the Blogosphere.
    I’ve been blogging once or twice a week about the situation in Spain concerning the Basque people, an ethnically unique people who occupy mountain regions along the Spanish and French borders.
    Spain has been particularly aggressive in depriving Basque candidates places on the ballot, closing Basque newspapers and various other denials of rights.
    The PP party in Spain insisted that a small terrorist group was responsible for the bombing, despite evidence almost from the start that Islamic terrorists groups were responsible.
    There have been murders of Basque citizens following the attacks, killings which received little or no mention in American media.
    The Socialist party is probably not going to treat the Basques any better.
    I’m all for “Blog Iran.”
    I think that “Blog Basque” will work too, because Spain purports to be a democracy and would be more responsive to pressure from the world community, that is assuming the world starts to pay attention.

  • >counterparts in China
    You must have missed this story about China shutting down blogsite providers.

  • onecent

    Jeff, one thing that would help proliferate blogs internationally, thereby enhancing the exchange of democratic ideas, is free and good language translating software. Right now we are restricted to only foreign bloggers that have a high command of English and visa versa.

  • onecent

    You must have missed this story about China shutting down blogsite providers.
    So what’s your point, Robert?

  • Edmonton

    He has none. The point of nihilism is that everything is pointless.

  • >So what’s your point, Robert?
    Can’t you read. My point was that he must have missed that story. It may have escaped your attention, but one of Jeff’s fav topics to blog about is blogs. Now I don’t know if you think so, but I think the story that China is shutting down blogsite providers is big news in regards to that topic.

  • Edmonton

    Why? Do you doubt the Chinese bloggers were in fact Chinese?

  • I did see the stories on the blocking of blog sites in China but did not blog it myself because I was late seeing it and others had blogged it. It’s ever thus. Iran periodically blocks the tools and then backs off because it has to. The more blogging there is, the harder it will be to block.

  • Susan

    Oops, have to be careful now. The anti-american, pro-marxist platform might consider blogs, an American invention, to be a danger to the world because it might promote American hegemony.

  • “Oops, have to be careful now. The anti-american, pro-marxist platform might consider blogs, an American invention, to be a danger to the world because it might promote American hegemony.”
    The more anti-blogging Marxists there are, the sooner they will be consigned rightfully to the trashcan of history.
    I have one hardcore socialist friend who blogs. Does he allow comments? Of course not.

  • Jeff, the point you make about citizens’ media is right on the money, but I have to ask about the value of giving money to blog companies to do something that should be in their own interest anyway. Isn’t that the role of a VC as opposed to an NGO or international development organization, especially because the revenue potential is large?

  • Douglas: A good point. But given the business reality of (1) Internet access and (2) advertising potential plus (3) ease of doing business, the languages and countries I list are not going to be as high on the priority list as, say, Germany, Italy and, for that matter, Sweden. Even though the Arabic-speaking world is, of course, huge, I suspect it’s going to be harder to make a buck there right now than in, say, Europe. And so if we want to see this accellerated — as we should — then it may require help.