THE BLOG

Technology And Democracy For The Marginalised

05/09/2016 17:27 | Updated 05 September 2016

There is a "new" Mexico on the rise, one that sees its capital city thriving with new gallery openings, restaurants, and coworking spaces. This has contributed to an increase of international attention, making Mexico City a desirable innovation hub. Furthermore, the country is also seeing a rise in new infrastructure, new factories, and foreign investment, which is resulting in a more stable economy. However, there is a group of people who are still being marginalised and will not be part of the "new" Mexico. They are the indigenous or native people, who for decades have had to endure the consequences of a weak economic system and corrupt government. They have also been historically denied full access to democracy and civil rights, but that is all changing, thanks to digital technologies.

Since 2006 parts of Mexico have endured interminable violence which only seems to escalate; 85,000 people have perished since 2006. It is not an easy or linear problem, it is a complex web that has its origins dating back to the conquest of the Americas. Weaving in other difficult challenges such as corruption and a thriving drug trade one can start to see the complexity Mexico faces.

The most prominent producers of violence are the cartels, who thrive partly due to the support of seemingly corrupt government institutions. The escalation of threat and corruption has reached a point where cartels fund their own political campaigns to obtain protection. This was the case of the former mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, members of a drug trafficking clan that has operated in Guerrero and Morelos for more than a decade. The corruption of this group has gone as far as being blamed for the assassination and disappearance of the students of Ayotzinapa. This case has not yet been resolved, many suspecting the lack of interest from the government is because the majority of the students are indigenous people.

The good new is that we are witnessing new phenomena; marginalised communities are using digital technologies to reinforce democracy, create awareness for a specific social injustice, and drive change. We have seen this through movements like Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter. These communities are able to disseminate information faster, publicly question authority, and create change through drawing international attention. Now it's the turn of the indigenous people of Mexico. The case of the Ayotzinapa students is heart wrenching as it to date there has been no justice as the current government doesn't represent or protect them. However, their parents and community have galvanised a movement to bring justice and answers to the case. They have organised protests, which have moved the wider Mexican population to come out in force both on the streets and in social media. The Twitter hashtag "yamecanse" which means "I've had enough" was tweeted more than 3.8 times. In consequences, this created a global solidarity with protests being organised in Canada, New York, and London. Now, many mainstream news outlets are calling it the start of "Mexico's Spring".

However, what is unique to Mexico is that the use of social media is not only for big movements they are also using it for survival as well. The threat of violence due to the drug war, lack of policing and lack of reliable media reporting has meant that civilians have had to take control of their security and information. Rogue journalists are using social media outlets like twitter, Facebook and blogs to create citizen-led news hubs to share information about crime in specific areas. In this case, it is not about inciting political change it is about getting reliable information to stay safe. A recent study highlighted that blogs like Blog del Narco, who stays anonymous and keeps the information anonymous make Mexican citizens more confident about reporting "events happening in their neighbourhood, creating overlapping interaction and consensus pertinent to the public sphere."

As governments all over the world continue to marginalise certain communities, digital technology will be there to give them a voice and access to change. Becoming aware of injustice is the first step towards democracy and the story for the students in Mexico is not over, it has spawned a documentary by film Director Michelle Coomber, which will be released by the end of the year. We are going to see more and more democratic activation led by technology, leading to less inequality. Join us on the 30th of September for a live discussion on the topic.

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