Londoners woke up to one of the disturbing scenes of total lawlessness and violence experienced in decades. “Senior officers say the violence and looting on Monday night was the worst in living memory; eclipsing the 1980s inner city riots in Toxteth, Brixton and Tottenham at the height of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership” (The Guardian). A lot have been written on what went on and perhaps what is still going on so no need over elaborating here.
These events in the past few days raise few challenging questions, perhaps actions which must be set in motion ASAP. Firstly, this is an indication that our traditional communities largely constitute of the youth are gradually migrating into virtual communities. In fact, I predict that by 2020, there will be more virtual communities in the world than real ones with the advent of web 2.0 (social media such as facebook, twitter, etc).
Also, as observed in many years, Britain’s societies (particularly the youth) are rated as highly observant and intelligent in the world. There were several instances where crime arrests where facilitated by young people being able to tell the colour and even facial features of suspected criminals just by a minute walk pass by him or her. Unfortunately, the reverse is gradually the case; young people lately particularly in Britain can hardly remember anything about the next person seated by them on the train or bus for hours. Why? He or she is busy “tweeting”, “facebooking”, instant messaging or “iPoding”.
Parents in the past, largely have a fair idea of their wards’ friends and the kind of social groups their children belong to. What do we see today; youth in particular join all sorts of groups and have thousands of friends all in the virtual world.
With these in mind, we will be wrong to jump to the conclusion that, the social media in itself is bad or responsible for such lawless events or negative behaviours. Rather, it is time for a paradigm shift. Governments can no longer be “traditional” in governance. They need to fully recognise the growing virtual communities and their immense influence.
Rather than expect new technologies such as social media to adapt to the “traditional” order, Governments around the world must adapt governance to these new and emerging technologies to avoid risking the virtual world being totally “ungoverned”. There is no perfect time for governments to seriously implement E-Government, not just at the front end but total E-Government!
Law enforcement agencies must as a matter of urgency, embrace web 2.0 not just to prevent and trace criminals but also as a way of understanding the virtual world and strengthening their relationship with the virtual communities.
Just as in the past, parents must assume their parental responsibilities and be parents not just in the real world but also in the virtual world. Simply having your child as a friend (some social medium as such facebook, allows family ties to be indicated) on his favourite social network may give you a fair idea of messages or posts or even groups he or she tends to indulge in. Community leaders and local authorities may as well join some of these popular social media to engage with their communities and build stronger relationships especially with the youth.
Developers of social media perhaps need to start considering ways to enhance security through improve authentication measures. For example, I know certain social websites that sends out unique codes to new users and require the user to hold the code in their first profile photograph before their registration process is completed. Many of such can be considered to avoid the disturbing conduct on most social media today, of course, without infringing on people’s privacy.