Democratization of Information – A catalytic factor towards human kind civilization or retrogression?

by Dayang Saliah Noorshamsiah

Thanks to the emergence of the internet coupled with the ICT advancement that has accelerating the pace of democratization of information and knowledge across the globe. Unlike decades ago, where information and knowledge are the privilege to certain class of people, today, it has become a necessity to all level of people regardless of their social background nor status. 

Derived from the word ‘democratize’, according to the Merriam Webster, generally is referred as ‘making something available to everybody or to make it possible for everyone to understand’. Hence, in this context, the democratization of knowledge/information is where information and knowledge are available to everyone, ideas, opinions and knowledge are flowing freely. Allowing public to participate in open debate or discussion in a public domain.

The concept of knowledge itself as it is known, holds its own significance and centrality across human cultures and history of civilizations. In fact, history has proven that people in the ancient societies such as the Greek, Rome, India and Egypt built their great culture on the basis of knowledge that they had gathered about the world.

The concept of knowledge holds significance and centrality across human cultures and civilizations. The annals of history demonstrate that people in the ancient societies of Greek, Rome, China, India, Egypt, Babylon, South America and Africa, built great cultures on the basis of the knowledge they had gathered about the world.

Hence, this phenomena of democratization of knowledge/information has certainly contributed to the development of the human kind. Again, added with the emergence of the Internet and its counterpart has indeed accelerated the widespread of this phenomenon throughout the world. There is no denying of its profound impact to human modernization and civilization. Through all the various knowledge and information available to access and obtain, giving people at large, greater opportunity to have an equal chance to success. Provenly, the social democratization of knowledge can lead to the establishment of viable global civil society helping millions of people particularly in underdeveloped nations to contribute and to share the fruits of knowledge explosion in a just, equitable and honorable manner.

However, on the other side of the coin, a question arose. How far does this phenomenon of freedom to information and knowledge access are facilitating the human kind towards modernization and civilization? Apparently, the freedom to information and knowledge also comes with consequences especially with the availability of the current technology which has facilitating the global spread of knowledge, allowing instantaneous interaction and communication across spatial dimension.

Today, there are no limit to information and knowledge. Depending on what kind of information you are looking for, you may just find it with the help of today’s technology. As simple as that. Today, even a bomb can be made from home just by using a basic household items and a tutorial from YouTube, but the consequences caused could kill thousands to million of people.

And while knowledge is significant to the social, economic and politic development, wrong information and knowledge may at the same time disrupt the existing cultures and harmonies. Propaganda for instance, the oldest persuasive communication approach that has been used widely not only in politics but also among the advertising companies, media, religious organizations and even the extremists. This approach might look harmless and a common method to further one’s agenda but with the wrong objective can be dangerous especially when it involves a bigger issue such as religious extremists or religious sensitivity. Information and messages are spread by presenting selective facts aimed to encourage particular perception among public to produce an emotional rather than rational response towards the information. Altering public mind and perception to support their cause. What make it dangerous is that it can even stimulate the people to go to any extent for the sake of their cause. That is the only example out of a hundred or perhaps thousands of consequences of democratization of information towards the society.

Such democratization of information for better and for worse indeed brought significance impact to the life of human kind. But it is all depends on us how we want make use of the emergence of this phenomenon for the greatest good of all. Whether we want to use it to ensure the well-being and progress of human civilization or to be the cause of human retrogression? The choice is in our hands.

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