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.