With the dawn of the internet age in the late 1990’s, it became cliché to suggest that the internet would ‘Change Everything’. Today, over 25 years down the line, the World Wide Web has rapidly become a central part of the daily lives of people across the globe. It has largely grown into a hub where people communicate, maintain social relationship, conduct business, acquire knowledge through online education and even get entertainment. Moreover the empowerment provided to individuals, through the Internet, has compelled organizations and individuals to rethink, revamp, and revise the strategic and tactical approaches they undertake in conducting almost all their daily life activities. Thus the Internet revolution has changed how groups, and the individuals who comprise them, interact both internally and externally (Wilhelm, 72). The emergence of internet has unsurprisingly exhibited numerous impacts on all dimensions in the political formation. Actually, it is arguable that the internet has largely transformed the political arena than every other technological development within the history of politics.
Apparently, the use of evolution of internet has exhibited numerous developments in the Society including changes in the political arena. Access to the vast information available on the World Wide Web together with the speed at which this information is passed makes the internet such an important political tool. On the other hand, the internet is also marred with numerous challenges alongside other shortcomings (Lupia, 1128).
Naturally, in all democracies, political parties are formed with the aim of contesting and theoretically win the elections. Electoral and governing models, anecdotal context, norms and structures of various parties in different countries differ but the processes of combining interests to form members and or supporters of political parties is universal (Wilhelm, 72). To effectively combine these interests into political parties, parties avail adequate information concerning their manifestos to the prospective members and supporters, they involve persuasive approaches to implore these individuals on the benefits of working with the party then combining these individuals into a single banner to take part within the political system. This process was originally solely conducted through the print media, Radio and Television or literal word of mouth campaigns around the nation which was utterly cumbersome and very expensive.
However, with the emergence of the internet, combined with other low cost information technology such as cameras on smart phones, it has to an extremely large degree turned the process all round. Today this entire process is conducted with ease and information reaches a much wider population than it traditionally would (Bimber, 398).
In the positive view, capabilities of the internet increasing efficacy, information and participation in politics are quite evident. It has the potential of stabilizing interactions among groups and enhances accountability in the public sphere. According to Cornfield (2003) the internet is a model that would help reduce individual embarrassment over their political performance and create much more confidence. He states that “The obscurity within the internet operations may alleviate the fear of public mortification” (106). The Internet also provides novel and cost effective methods of participation in the political arena such as soliciting through emailing, websites, and blogs among other creative applications. (Cornfield, 26).
On the other hand, the Internet also has potential to decrease political publicity and or performance of individual candidates as well as participation by the prospective supporters. Lack of immediate or no responses at all from the party representatives may cause discouragement of the supporter from continuing in taking part in the political party affairs. Further, it is also quite complicated locating the accurate information regarding political parties online (Stromer, 111). The sheer volume of political information online (e.g., try typing “presidential candidates” into a Google search) may be overwhelming and thus lead to lower levels of personal confidence in one’s ability to understand the political world. For individuals with less adequate knowledge of the internet, this could prove to be much more cumbersome and further discourage them from continuing with the search (Norris, 13).
The internet has brought total strangers into a family of equal ideas enabling sharing of information, responding to concerns and building stronger political relationships. Nonetheless, despite this fast and the reliable access to information, there could be chances of information loss, or misleading information generated from hacking. To some extent, these information could be biased and result into making of wrong choices considering the appealing nature of the internet (Pinkleton, 39).
Also, during political campaigns, the campaign strategists typically take into deep consideration resource factors of time, money, people and talent. For successful campaigns and implementation of the laid down strategies, political parties must outsource and acquire these resources adequately (Bimber, 393). Internet usage has impacted on the acquisition process for these resources. Preceding the materialization of the internet, most financial contributions to the parties was through fundraising events or through return of checks by mail to the party which in essence spent a significant portion of the party’s time. In the present situation, fundraising activities are organized through pulling strings of email addresses with a donation link and requesting individuals for donations. This is an almost instantaneous process in most cases yielding immediate responses, thus the internet allows political parties to acquire and commit resources more quickly (Bimber, 393).
In the resource mobilization strategies, the internet has made it possible for the political parties to use various strategic tactics to capture a wider scope of their targeted goals. These online tactics include; Search advertising that targets individuals who demonstrate an interest in a given topic while conducting searches on the web, Banner advertising on websites that would be typically viewed by those who might support a given political party, Contextual advertising that monitors the websites a user has visited and targets advertising based on these patterns, Social-Network based fund-raising that asks individuals who already support a political party or campaign to directly encourage their friends to donate to the cause, Email based fund raising that prospects for donations through the purchase of lists of individuals who have demonstrated potential as donors; encouraging activists and donors to appeal directly to their address books for donations; and direct solicitation from the party or campaign to past donors (Scheufele, 64). However, with the current rise in technological crime and malpractices, there are rising incidences of individuals canvassing in the name of Political party to source illegal favors and financial gains from unsuspecting party officials. In essence also, there is limited accountability within these procedures as not all members of the party would confirm the exact donations thus possibilities of misappropriation (Bimber, 393).
Most political parties have developed systems through which they can monitor activities within the parties’ secretariats as well as from other external events. These systems are effective in monitoring events such as electoral results among other vital data. They are helpful in keeping the data safe for referencing in cases of electoral disputes. In regard, most political parties are satisfied with the conducts in the electoral system due to their incorporation in the monitoring systems.
The effects of the internet on the man as a political creature are apparent and cannot be dismissed quite easily. Where politics is involved, the World Wide Web is no longer a strange communication tool. Gradually more, politicians and their advisers have grown to realize the actual potential of incorporating the internet as a model for their political campaigns. They have largely began to appreciate the Web and, somewhat, exploit it as a fundraising, coordinating, society building, marketing and campaigning strategy. It has made life and political undertakings less costly and quite effective. The notable shortcomings of the internet may be quite devastating; however, various systems have been developed and are still ongoing development to curb these rising trends of online malpractices. The Internet has generally encompassed the entire universe into one digital village.
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