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Abstract -- Democracy and Network Interconnectivity Policy Track
P2: Democracy

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Democracy and Network Interconnectivity

Kedzie, Christopher R. ( kedzie@rand.org)


Network interconnectivity may provide new policy options for global democratization. Coincident revolutions in the 1980's - breakouts of democracy around the world and breakthroughs in the communication and information technologies - have inspired the notion that democratic freedom and electronic network interconnectivity might be positively correlated. Analysts and politicians have postulated a causal relationship of new information and communication technologies on democratization, but to date all evidence has been anecdotal. Most common in the lore are stories of fax messages rallying pro-democracy demonstrators outside the Chinese "Forbidden City" and the email messages emanating from the besieged Russian "White House" to defy the attempted Soviet coup in 1991.

This study begins the analytic task to explore the empirical relationship between democratization and network interconnectivity. Statistical techniques including multiple linear regressions have been performed on a combined qualitative measurement of political rights and civil liberties against traditional foreign policy variables such as economic development in terms of purchasing power parity, education level in terms of years of schooling and literacy, health status in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality, and several other variables, plus electronic interconnectivity measured by the prevalence of computer communication networks.

Despite the inherent limitations of statistical analyses, every different analytic perspective of this study coherently and repeatedly emphasized two important observations. First, interconnectivity consistently emerged as a powerful predictor of democracy. In univariate analysis, the correlation coefficient for interconnectivity on democracy was larger than that of any other variable. As a variable in an ordinary least squares multiple linear regression, interconnectivity was the dominant predictor in all models. As an interaction term in conjunction with regional categorical variables, the correlation of interconnectivity with democracy was everywhere positive, and had both the largest substantive value and greatest statistical significance in regions characterized by dynamic political transformations. As an endogenous variable in systems of simultaneous equations, interconnectivity always proved to be a significant predictor of democracy and economic development, but never was the reverse true. These analytic results overlay a background of mounting anecdotal evidence that new information and communication technologies are facilitating democratic change worldwide. Second, none of the traditional variables which measure and guide foreign assistance policies with respect to promoting democracy and peace seem to produce the desired effect. The only statistically significant policy variable that appeared in any of the models was economic development and its regression coefficient on democracy in those models was negative.

Considered together, these conclusions have important policy implications. At a minimum, the effects of revolutionary information and communication technologies on the objectives of foreign aid and national security must be better understood. The search for appropriate policy instruments is a critical aspect of further study. At a maximum, the priority for policies regarding international communication should be at least as high as the priority for foreign economic development and perhaps as high as that of some national security programs.