Democratic parties study how to use the Internet more effectively at workshop

October 18, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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Participants sharing a light-hearted moment.Mr Yap Keng Ho and Mr Michael Cheng were recently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to attend a workshop organized by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) entitled Political Parties and the Internet. As the title implied, the workshop focused on the use of the Internet by political parties to reach out more effectively to the people. Participants from Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and South Korea attended the event. Below is a report by Mr Cheng. The Singapore Democrats are a member of CALD (www.cald.org)

The workshop was an eye-opener in several ways. Firstly, it was humbling to learn about the digital divide, not just in the individual countries, but also among the various countries. For instance, the Uri Party from South Korea is reaching out to its supporters via the Internet in ways which are not possible in Singapore, at least not right now.

Their supporters are able to request political updates and news via their mobile devices, and we’re not just talking about text, but also video and audio files. Their website provides not just political content, but also acts as a channel for entertainment. It was incredible to see their website provide chat rooms for people who are interested in computer games such as Warcraft! To me, there are few higher compliments than comparing it to the Yahoo! website.

I guess the other extreme is to take the example of Sri Lanka. Their Internet penetration rate is only 1.4%. However, with the help of CALD, the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka have taken on the difficult task of coming up with a website. It puts me to shame at times to see how eager they are to learn more about how to use the Internet to garner more support.

Discussions during a break-up session. Michael Cheng is in black jacket and Yap Keng Ho is in foreground with back to camera.One thing I have to say is that it was very encouraging to see that everyone was really open and willing to both share and learn. It really bodes well for the future of our cooperation. The participants of the workshop also came up with a blog (caldbloggers.blogspot.com), which gave some short insights into what we did at the workshop. It is really gratifying to see that we’re all still adding to the blog, even after some time has passed since the workshop. Let’s hope we can carry on until the next workshop!

Away from the workshops, we had no lack of relaxation. One of the highlights of our stay in Kuala Lumpur was visiting the headquarters of the Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (PGRM). After a warm welcome and some introductory remarks, the participants were invited to a sumptuous dinner at a restaurant in the same building.

It was an incredible night. The food was fantastic. We sampled dish after dish of superb fare. Parti Gerakan representatives were really doing their best as hosts and I can tell you, they really succeeded. Mr Chia Kwang Chye, MP, Deputy Minister for Internal Security of Malaysia, and Acting Secretary General of PGRM, gave an insightful and entertaining speech, which nicely rounded out the evening.

To go more into what happened in those 5 days would take up too much space. Suffice it to say that it was an enriching experience. Of course, one of the most important thing is that we walked away from the workshop, with a great many friends, and a better understanding of how to use the Internet to advance democracy more effectively.