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It’s not easy or obvious for Tunisia or for any developed or emerging countries to lead and protect its democratic transition processes without an effective mobilization and engagement of all society stakeholders, each in his perspective role against the international socio-political changes that have taken place since the beginning of the internet, new issues and cultural contradictions which are very common today on the international scene due to the impacts of the globalization and the development programs.
The Article 32 of the Tunisian constitution that stipulates "The State guarantees the right to information and the right of access to information. The State is working to ensure the right of access to communication networks.’’ is a big step in our march toward the consolidation of good democratic governance. Consequently the text is a national pride which constitutes a strong pillar for social modernity. This pride must change from a statement to facts on the ground.
In this context ‘Alliance Article 32’ was founded by a group of institutions to guarantee the values of Article 32 and promote the multistakeholderism model, cooperation and coordination in order to protect the values of equality of individuals in their rights of access to the information and communication networks! Yes "communication networks," an intelligent and very smart use of terms that cannot be found in many other constitutions of developed countries! Communication networks means the network of networks which is ultimately the definition of the internet with freedom of expression, human rights and democratic values that enable the Internet to connect and reconcile different civilizations.
Modern Tunisia has managed to achieve the first steps of its democratic transition with a successful political reconciliation but there are still several challenges that can only be overcome with engagement, dialogue, and mutual respects. These challenges need to be carefully implemented with a good social conduct to achieve a successful change.
Governments and policy decision makers can no longer control successfully the social move of their citizen’s orientations due to the uncontrolled rise of new needs and new emergent social values that are considered strange and sometimes conflicting with local cultures. Communication technology and especially the Internet have accelerated the reconciliation of civilizations, the shifting borders and boundaries through the virtual space, the sharing of values and finally a radical change worldwide in the systems of thought and belief! Nowadays, virtual space is threatening the reality of several states and governments.
For Tunisia, the country is challenging a social, economic and political tsunami of changes; unfortunately the change management of theses post revolution challenges has never been carefully studied, planned or even widely recognized from the beginning. Consequently, it is quite difficult today to drive our social values toward a modernized society without an eminent protecting program against many raising potential threats. Solutions depend on the readiness and willingness of the decision-makers, political leaders and civil society activists. Moreover, it is important to note that leading change must take place in a multistakeholder environment where everyone should be mobilized and engaged in the debate towards a prosperous democracy and development.
Tunisia’s post revolution or "The start-up democracy» as it was called by the government of technocrats in Washington is still politically and economically fragile, due to the luck of a vibrant civil society, radical decision to modernize the public policies, and a grassroots movements that should be driven by a community’s politics to tackle the socio-political problems which is affecting the country nationally and internationally. Although, some good initiatives have been already established, it’s still insufficient to face the reality on the ground.
Due to the fact that change starts with individual’s willingness to adopt a new ways of thinking before transforming his idea into action, there must be a link to fill in the gaps of the old culturally-bound mentality by establishing an appropriate cultural thought to promote actions and communication to be able to clearly pinpoint the dimensions of universal guidelines while giving the keys to understanding how to proceed in the local context. A good current example to note here is the reforms of the national education that starts by the primary schools through an effective ICT use in the teaching programs at classroom levels, thus, it necessary grassroots decision to prepare the new generations in tune with universal change!
It was said that disorientation is somehow can be considered a way to true orientation, therefore civil society must be the pioneer to move forward and act proactively to face the disorientation in order to guarantee the success of the true orientation. Unfortunately, in Tunisia, civil society is still weak, especially in the field of ICT governance, with an unacceptable silence, which some describe as satanic with the absence of comments concerning the drafted laws, questions or suggestions regarding the right to access information and freedom of expression. These points represent a dark side in the space of the Tunisian civil society that counts more than16000 NGOs today! This means, among other things, that the status of citizen collective consciousness is not yet enough mature and require urgent capacity building programs to raise awareness and increase competencies on the citizenship rights and democracy.
Article 32 of the Tunisian constitution, clearly protects the access rights to the internet and the reality of social integrity. Alliance Article 32 is a good initiative as an open national platform which is acting via community with several stakholders that are open to debate between (ICT Experts, Journalists, Students and Youth, lawyers and judges, human rights activists, politicians). This initiative is a star in the sky of the Tunisian civil society movement, which will ensure protection of the rights of irreversible technological changes that have narrowed the space and almost removed the distance and time in the exchanging of information and freedom of expression. Last and not least, we hope to see in the closer future other actions in this direction to build a vibrant social environment. Obviously, we all feel it, but sometimes can't find words to describe it. Ethics change with technology!!!
M. Hafedh Yahmadi
International ICT Expert and
Civil society activist