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Which lifestyle habit will you be willing to give up for a year, instead of the Internet?

This question was asked by the Boston Consulting Group in a survey they conducted in 13 countries.

The results may not be so surprising: 80% of the respondents answered fast food, 75% said alcohol and 27% of the respondents stated they are willing to give up sex in order to maintain their Internet access.

These results certainly illustrate the integral part the Internet has come to play in our daily life. 

Other than affecting the way we communicate, consume and leisure, the Internet has also affected the way we are involved in public life. It’s a sad truth that most citizens find government and politics rather boring and grey; thus they would prefer spending their times on things they find more interesting.

However this tendency seems to be changing.

With over 2.4 billion Internet users, rare are those who do not have an email, Facebook or Twitter account, and who had never visited other social media sites such as YouTube, Linked-In or Picasa.

The Arab spring, the Wall Street protest and anti ACTA/SOPA campaigns further highlight the ability of Internet users to making a political change and influencing polices.

I can personally testify from my own experience that for months my office received numerous and daily emails from users all over the world urging me and colleagues to reject ACTA in the plenary vote which was held on 4 July 2012.  As we all know, the campaign yielded positive results as the treaty was rejected by a large majority of 478 votes. Only 39 MEPs voted in favour of ACTA.

Opinions on possible developments of Internet activism certainly vary. The British weekly, The Economist, has published in its first edition for 2013 an article that compares between the evolution of the environmentalism movements in the 1960s and the possible evolution of digital activism. Its final conclusion was that Internet activism will not see the same trend as environmentalism and become a real political power.

Few days ago the French TV channel, France 2, broadcasted a debate which addressed the role of Internet activism in the last presidential election campaign. One aspect of the debate touched upon the issue of electorate trust; apparently French voters were feeling more persuaded by political activities which involved direct contact with them (such as speaking face to face with activists) rather than virtual activism.

On the other hand Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008 relied heavily on social media channels to engage voters, recruit campaign volunteers and raise campaign funds. Another example to the growing use of the Internet in politics can be drawn from the tools of e-diplomacy and e-services that governments, leaders and politicians are frequently using to communicate and inform their citizens.

In my view technology can certainly increase and encourage the number of politically engaged citizens, especially the young generations who may view politics as alien. Such development is highly welcomed particularly ahead of the next 2014 European elections which turnout rates are rather low.

I also think that Internet activism has yet to reach its full potential. Achieving that will require governments to extend the accessibility and availability of Internet to users and ensure that principles of net neutrality are respected.

Happy New Year and greetings from the European Parliament,

Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg

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See The Economist article on the The New Politics of the Internet in the following link:

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21569041-can-internet-activism-turn-real-political-movement-everything-connected

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