What happens when the town hall goes digital?
Local governments have gone online with alacrity. What have their consitutents gained—or lost—as a result?
The following essay is based on the laudatio given by Jacques Rupnik in October 2009 on the occasion of the awarding to Václav Havel of an honorary doctorate from Sciences Po. The text, which originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Commentaire, was translated from the French by Catherine Temerson. It is a great honor and deeply gratifying to be speaking here in praise of President Václav Havel. It is a privilege that is not without hidden difficulties, however.
PRAGUE The enormous mass movement that has essentially overthrown Czechoslovak communism rose up with amazing speed. By the last week in November millions of people had participated in demonstrations across the country. Yet as recently as October 28--Czechoslovakia’s independence day--dissidents could bring only 10,000 people into the streets. These brave souls had scarcely unfurled their pro-democracy banners before truncheon-wielding police were chasing them through Prague's winding Gothic lanes. Three weeks later throngs of hundreds of thousands of people were routine in Wenceslas Square.