Digital Contradictions in Bangladesh: Encouragement and Deterrence of Citizen Engagement via ICTs

Faheem Hussain, Mashiat Mostafa

Abstract


The research outlined in this article explored the emergence of new-media-driven citizen participation in Bangladesh against a background of contradictory government policy approaches to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The government’s Digital Bangladesh initiative aims to make ICTs core to citizen empowerment and development at the national and local levels. At the same time, the “netizens” of Bangladesh are facing the challenges of a conservative ICT legal framework and aggressive state crackdowns on certain uses of new-media platforms. Using online data-mining applications and visualization software, the research analyzed ways in which Twitter was widely adopted in Bangladesh during the Shahbag political mobilization of 2013. The research also looked at positive and negative uses of new media in recent years and the state’s draconian responses to new-media platforms and their users. The authors found that indiscriminate arrests, site blocks, and newly amended punitive measures have created hindrances to the development of a truly participatory digital space for communication.

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