Blogpost Writer: Laura Sabrina Al Bast
Have you noticed how social media explodes with hashtags uniting people together in times of crisis? #YesAllWomen and #BlackLivesMatter are one example. Unity and solidarity on a digital platform has become a new norm for seeking justice.
In George Friedman’s book on geopolitics, The next 100 years, he mentions how the past, civilisations were oblivious to each other, it was almost impossible for people from across the globe to connect. It wasn’t until the 15th century onward with Europe becoming the centre of the world building colonies, spreading imperialism and inducing trade that humanity stopped living a self-enclosed life.
India, having been a British colony itself, suffered terrible famine in both 1770 and 1873. Yet reporting on famine was forbidden at the time as any information on food supply could have been of aid to the enemy at the time. It wasn’t until an English journalist, Ian Stephens, reported on the famine through English newspapers as opposed to the restrictions he and his colleagues found in local Indian newspapers that the world had become aware of the famine and in turn sent aid, though extremely late. Following that example as many, scholars came to various conclusions about the media:
- The media has a role in preventing disasters such as famine
- The media serves as an early warning system
- The media, as a watchdog, can pressure governments to act
And so based on the Famine of Bengal in 1943, two economists discovered that governmental action was faster and stronger in areas where there were more newspapers in comparison to areas with fewer newspapers.
17 years into the 21st century, we have a different kind of media; digital. Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of think-tank ‘New America’ says that the essential fault line of the digital age is between open and closed. In elaboration, it’s the idea of openness that includes transparency of information, access to information, and constant connection. In particular, it is received through networks of social media; Facebook, instagram, youtube or twitter. Because of that, news today travels in a blink of an eye in comparison to decades ago when news often never left the country in which they occurred.
Last week, Famine was declared in South Sudan. The story was picked up by various news agencies across the world with the World Food Program and UNICEF almost instantly planning ahead to provide food, nutrition and treat children with severe malnutrition. And though there might be a long way ahead for the problem to be resolved, yet the digital media did its deed.
In AIESEC, we aim to develop world citizens of the young leaders in our network; interested in world issues and seeking to always be informed. In an era where we are criticised for spending so much time using technology and sharing stories on social media, maybe we should consider the benefit of the ongoing digital storm; Access, transparency, and connection.