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    Have you ever visited the Prime Ministry web site?

    Güven Sak, PhD17 January 2009 - Okunma Sayısı: 1461

     

    United States of America is getting ready for the Obama era. Inauguration is to be held next week. Bush period of "So many leadership with no followers", as Harvard professor Joseph Nye puts it, is coming to an end. Just a while before, we were saying that "President Obama will be the first president of the Star Trek generation" - in the article talking about "going to places where no one has dared to go before".  Presidency of Obama highlights that some things are not going to be the same for the United States of America. Please, do not show displeasure and say "nothing ever changes there".  You shall give America its due. But, do not worry, today, I do not have any intention to comment on America. I am just seeking to make an extended introduction on the subject of internet and communication. Nomination of Obama for the presidency will most likely be a hot research subject on the role of the internet in American democracy, because, Obama succeeded using the internet as an efficient channel of communication and changed the rules we are familiar with. All right, have you ever wondered how we use internet as an instrument of communication?  Have you ever visited the Turkish Prime Ministry's web site? Today, let us do it together. In fact, it is not a site to visit, but a site to just look at. Let's see why it is a site just to look at.

    What did the presidential elections in the US show to us? We started with a quotation from Joseph Nye, we can continue so as well. While Professor Nye was giving a speech in Athens on June 19, 2008 presidential elections were not over yet. In his speech, Nye presented an interesting comparison related to the presidential nominees. It was along these lines: "This was an election where nominees with extremely limited capacity to raise funds rather than those who can raise the highest amount of funds came into prominence. If the ability to gather financial support was to be important, the nominee of the Democrats would have been Hillary Clinton and the nominee of the Republicans would have been Mitt Romney. Those two were the richest. However, as known, the Democrats decided to nominate Barack Obama, and the Republicans decided to nominate John McCain. Poorest nominees ranked the first.  What is the reason behind this? Barack Obama, via the Internet, successfully raised the funds necessary to carry out such a large-scale campaign by means of small contributions from around 1.5 million individuals."

    The power of Internet had a determinant role in the US presidential elections in 2008. So, what does this mean? It means that, we now have an extremely powerful, extremely direct and even extremely personal channel for communication. Are you aware that we are moving towards an era of direct democracy? It is an era where the individual is getting considerably powerful and is able to make much more information-based choices.  Are you aware that it is such a huge blessing to be able to read the detailed evaluation on any development by someone living miles away from you in just a few seconds? Of course it is prone to be used with bad intentions. And it is obvious that it can lead to security problems. Nonetheless, there is one crystal-clear point: We are living in the era of communication where everyone shall give his message in a better, clearer and purer way. During the process of transition from representative democracy to a more participatory form of democracy, the path leading to direct democracy passes through more direct and personal communication. This is exactly what the Internet provides.

    So, if you as well think in the same way, what do you have to do? You have to examine them and us separately. How well are we doing in the field of direct communication? Did we acknowledge the importance of the idea? Today, let's compare the web sites of the United Kingdom Prime Ministry and the Prime Ministry of the Republic of Turkey.  We observe the following: While the web site of the United Kingdom appears to have been designed for communication; that of the Republic of Turkey appears to have been designed for announcing and ordering. Former provides information exchange between the counterparts while the latter demonstrates a form of junior-senior relationship. I believe that this is because in the UK, there are people that puzzle their brains to acknowledge the purpose of the Internet.  In Turkey, however, the officials must have had a "everyone has it, why don't we have one" type of approach. Let us see.

    Web site of the United Kingdom (www.number10.gov.uk) informs us about the weekly actions of the Prime Minister of England Gordon Brown.  When you take a look, you see that nowadays, the prior issue in his agenda is the global financial crisis. The Prime Minister is participating in meetings on this issue, announcing precautionary measure packages. Just two days ago, a detailed new package including government's credit guarantees for the corporate sector was announced in England. When you take a look, you can clearly understand the meaning of the new regulation. In England, companies recently slowed down their transactions with each other since they do not trust each other. This is resulting in a rapid decrease in the transaction volume in the economy. Therefore, the government is trying to develop methods to ease the liability arising from the previously signed contracts, those of last year. Today, we also encounter the same problem. However, in our country, no one has come up with an equally clear response, yet. Here in our country, people expect that an interest rate cut introduced by the central bank will solve the problems automatically. If this is the only option for solution, we will have to wait for years for the economy to recover. Maybe, this is the very reason behind the communication problems of the web site of the Prime Ministry: probably, there are not any messages to convey here in Turkey.  I mean, the essence of communication is to have a message to convey, isn't it?

    Furthermore, the web site of the UK prime ministry includes an evaluation article by Gordon Brown stating that Israel attack to Gaza has started to move beyond its purpose. The attitude of the prime minister towards the world affairs is openly displayed in the web site. If an English citizen wonders "What is the opinion of our Prime Minister on this issue", he can take a look at the web site and quickly get an idea. In addition, citizens can convey their opinions and questions through the site that the office of prime ministry has launched in youtube and the questions there are answered directly by the prime minister regularly. (http://uk.youtube.com/DowningSt)

    Their web site is designed to ensure communication and convey information. In contrast, ours (www.basbakanlik.gov.tr) has the characteristics of an announcement board. Here, there are no messages to convey, there are just the announcements made, in order. At the top of the list, bank account numbers opened for the "Humanitarian Aid Campaign for Palestine". The announcement made by the Directorate General for Emergency Management only contains account numbers. Then, when you click the title on human rights, you access a page again on the Israel attack to Palestine. Here, the attacks are condemned. After that, an announcement by the Prime Ministry Audit Department takes the lead: You have instant access to the list of the winners in the last recruitment examination. Under that, there appears the announcement by the Directorate General for State Archives: the same subject again; i.e. the results of an entrance examination.  You take a look at here, then take a look at there...  You do not find out which issues our Honorable Prime Minister dealt with this week and what his opinions are on such issues. However, our Prime Minister delivers speeches in public meetings every day. You are not able to check the site and learn which issues he is dealing with. But, you get to know this: While Honorable Prime Minister is dealing with a number of issues, the prime ministry, basically, is carrying out entrance examinations and announcing the results, feeling sorry for what is going on in Palestine, or carrying out donation campaigns. The prime ministry is not dealing with the crisis or the coordination of different policies.

    Is the difference of attitude between the two sites evidence for the difference of understanding about communication between the two countries? We hope not.

    Communication does not mean making announcements. Web sites are not announcement boards.

     

    This commentary was published in Referans daily on 17.01.2009

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