New Model of Democracy
Needed for a Free Tibet
1. Tibetan Democracy and the Internet
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has neither jurisdiction nor economic authority on Tibetans in Tibet and Tibetans scattered around the world, but its major influence depends on identification. The Dalai Lama is the center of this identification. However, the dependence and obedience of Tibetans towards the Dalai Lama means there is only the formality of democracy in exile.
Tibetans need to prepare well in order give up this dependence on the Dalai Lama, there is a real risk of falling into carelessness and internal dispute after the Dalai Lama is gone. For that reason, preparations should begin as early as possible.
The key to preparation is finding a democratic approach that attracts the widespread participation of Tibetans. Otherwise, how is the CTA going to exercise their leadership? How will it gain the recognition of Tibetans? Is there somebody who could represent Tibet and also be acknowledged by the Chinese government and International communities? With no solution for these questions it will be hard to escape from decline without the Dalai Lama.
Tibetans can only achieve cohesion and continue Tibetan affairs after the Dalai Lama through participation in a democratic process. The current recognition of the Dalai Lama must transfer to a recognition of democratic mechanisms and democratic results.
The geographic barriers of Tibetans scattered around the world, the separation of Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet itself, and the multiple languages in use by different communities results in severe difficulties in communication amongst Tibetans. There is also the high cost of participation in any joint democratic process. Any new mode of democracy should overcome all these obstacles.
The internet breaks the limitations of time and space and provides a possible solution for a new model of democracy. ‘Sowiki’ (self-organized wiki) provides a participatory system based on the unique features of Internet.
2. The Sowiki (Self-Organizing Wiki) System
Internet is currently more a construction site where bricks and tiles are piled up but no building can actually be built. It is massy and falls short of efficiency. To overcome the problem, a three-dimensional internet structure is yet to be better organized. As the way they are now, online communities, forums, and mail groups are all two dimensional, belonging to the primitive state of internet organization. In contrast, Sowiki is a three dimensional structure multilayered with gradual modifications, elections, and wiki-boards. Its primary features can be explained as that follows:
1) Sowiki can be an exclusive system – only allowing Tibetans with confirmed IDs to enter. In other words, only the internal members can observe the procedure through which the system operates and produces results. Or, somehow similar to Wikipedia, Sowiki can also be an open system — by allowing participants on the most basic level to either create new subjects for discussion or revise the existing ones. (The subjects can be based upon specific information, reports, agendas, articles, and/or terminology.)
2) What make Sowiki different from Wikipedia are the subject-based participation groups. Each of such group is constitutive of its founder and participants. In cases of raising new agendas for discussion or revising the existing ones, votes from members of a given group are required.
3) For a participant who is new to a specific sub-group, as soon as his or her idea on adding or revising a given subject is voted in a favor by the existing members of the subgroup, he or she will automatically become its full member.
4) Sowiki is featured with its self-organization function. It can begin with a small group. When members of the group reach a pre-set upper limit, a new group will automatically split from it. From the other way around, when numbers of the mall groups reach a pre-set limit, they can be consolidated into a larger group; enough larger groups will then move up to form an even larger group. Sowiki as a system is thus automatically enlarged and organized.
5) The Sowiki system can also be constructed in accordance with the existing sociopolitical organizations (among Tibetans residing in different geographic locations). By having their places in Sowiki, these organizations follow the system’s procedure and participate in its operation.
6) Each sub-group within Sowiki will have a group leader elected by its members. Re-election can take place anytime. Once elected, the leader of a subgroup automatically becomes the member of the upper group to which the subgroup belongs
7) Only the subgroup leaders will participate in discussions of subjects raised in the upper group. To recruit them into an upper group requires votes from its existing members.
8) Members of the upper-group members need to keep their discussion and voting on others’ participation transparent to members of all of the subgroups. In other words, activities of the upper group are always subject to the supervision of members of the subgroups.
9) Although members of the subgroups in the Sowiki system are not authorized to take part in upper-group discussions, they will be able to observe (and to have access to archive of) the procedure through which members of the upper group participate, discuss, and vote…
Sowiki is a “self-organizing” system; there is no need for “Center Issued” model (Web1.0) that requires external monitor to provide resources and drive. Meanwhile, it avoids “plane participation” (Web2.0) which is weak in supervision and management. The self-organized model (Web3.0) is unprecedented in increasing coordination among internet groups.
3. Possible Democratic Function of Sowiki
Democratic Autonomy and Participation
1. Different groups may be organized by geographic location. Also, small-groups composing a large group formula of Sowiki can mimic a geographic structure (small-topics comprise a big topic).
2. Tibetans in different places could get involved by starting from the basic level of geographic framework – for example, your hometown or current place of residence. Once the topic you have created or modified has been approved, you will automatically become a member and gain rights and obligations.
3. Each group is an autonomous unit. The group make cooperative decisions on group affairs and votes for the group leader.
4. As a group leader one automatically become the member of upper level group. For instance, the township group leader is a member of the upper level county group; or the leader for a French group becomes a member of the Western Europe level. The group leader has to share group information, suggestions and plans to upper level group members, and take part of process especially voting for the person who in charge of the group. The elected members then goes to their upper level, (eg, municipal or regional level) so to establish a systemic structure created from bottom to top, progressing by autonomous layers to an integrated structure.
5. Due to the low cost of Internet access people could get involve anytime and that mobilizes the general population as well as allowing constant participation and initiative.
6. The fundamental foundation for this structure is grass-roots. Not only can each member of grass-root group express their opinion, but through integrated progression of layers the individual request can manifest to a group demand. Thus, this becomes an information network holding public opinion and also providing the legitimacy of public-opinion polls.
7. By using the Sowiki System Tibetans can gain participation into a democratic system. Also, the structures and public opinions generated from the Sowiki System could contribute to real democratic life and to organize and provide guidance to the political structure.
Information Collection and Processing
1. The above geographic structure all arises from real grass-roots participation. Moreover, with dynamic updates and sufficient dimensions in terms of randomness and coverage of information, there is a certain statistical accuracy to the information.
2. The Sowiki System can process, extract and integrate this information anytime by establishing macro administration systems. These administrative systems can processes an ocean of information at no extra cost and without overwhelming the system.
3. By using Sowiki System scattered Tibetans can have effective communication and better understand each other. Also, the CTA could able to obtain accurate feedback from their people. In addition, this system could be used to under take public-opinion polls and surveys.
Explore the Future Road of Tibet
1. The Sowiki System is able to collect and integrate the opinion of scattered Tibetans. By using this system, scholars in different fields could also utilise this integrated system in an economic and easy way.
2. The Sowiki System is able to create different topics according to various fields and based on the bottom-up system. The Sowiki is able to establish subject structures – for instance, under “Middle Way” there may be Politic, Economics, Culture and Diplomatics etc; and then, under each subject there could be a sub-subject title again.
3. Participants can begin from any one of these subjects to contribute the overall development.
4. In the process of integration and selection in each subject group, participants can not only improve their research skills but also push an excellent researcher on the top of their group.
5. Ultimately, each subject group leader will get together to form a high-end team to have intensive discussion on overall integration, and produce a comprehensive research findings as a result.
Education and Selecting Talented Leaders
1. The Sowiki System is able to feed talented leaders into the real sociality and community organizations. It is much easier to identify individual with great leadership under Sowiki’s communication, participation and interaction systems.
2. Based on the above geographic and filed structures, it is possible to establish and run a “Shadow Government” – to imitate the departments of government under a topic group; to imitate how the government manages affairs and provide feedback; and to evaluate the government decision and present substitute recommendations.
3. On one hand, Shadow Government’s bottom-up approach could accumulate public opinion, supervise the government and initiate impeachment when necessary. But, on other hand, as a think tank of the government the shadow group can not only conduct political research and scenario studies, but also train people in the whole process.
4. The members of Shadow Government are elected through the Sowiki system with strong public support. Therefore, if those people run elections in real society they would stand out from crowd; at the same time, Shadow Government could provide valuable information for the CTA on particular government officials.
4. Other Functions of Sowiki System
The Sowiki system has best combined the general population and elites. Thus, it has the foundation of public opinion, and support from intellectuals and leaders. Such a system not only to provides Tibetan with new models of democracy but also plays an important role on the transition of Chinese society to democratic society (in reference to resolving the Tibet problem), or even provide a platform for a third party in a two-party system of democracy society to develop agency and improve the existing democratic system.
The Sowiki system is able to form multiple functions, from Magazine editing co-authoring publications, the collection of information, collaborative research projects, and community group or consumer cooperation. Therefore, it has a high potential to achieve self- sustainstainability.
5. Plans and Feasibility
1. Project Approval: set up a core team, discuss the plans, and apply for grants.
2. Sowiki System Development: assuming a larger number of users, data transfer; and regular upgrade. The work should set up a high technical standard and a professional development from the very beginning. This could be entrusted with a big IT company (Not a Chinese company)
3. Commercial development of a system will be prohibitively expensive; so it’s better to find sponsorship by software companies, or stock cooperative systems, or just find interested collaboration.
4. Upload Sowiki website
5. Use Media, lectures and public talks to publicize the Sowiki system. Try to get some well-known people involvemed to kick- off and attract active participation. Use Sowiki internal incentive system (layers election, shadow government and so on) to attract more elites.
6. At the moment, the Sowiki System can only be run outside of Tibet, otherwise it will be blocked by the Chinese government. However, a variety of software on network access has been popular among Chinese internet users and the block would be ineffective once the site is know; gradually this would allow more Tibetans inside China to take part.
7. Date: a year from the proposal to upload the system