Following my analysis on the web municipality project, its organizers produced a response in which they insist that their pseudo-mayor has no power over anyone and never will. Although the message is somewhat reassuring, several questions remained regarding their project, especially:
1. Was it just some election parody in a context of entertainment, or was it about actually electing national representatives for internet users ?
For example, when they state in their response: "the idea was to provide internet users in Ivory Coast with the tools to designate a spoke person if the web was to be a real city."
"IF the web was to be a real city." At the beginning it was all like a joke, an "if" condition, a parody. Are we still in the conditional "IF the web was to be ..."? or is he now claiming to be in reality the voice of Web users in CI? of ALL web users in CI?
2. How are we supposed to understand the word 'mayor'? What exactly is a point of having a web mayor? What could he do as a mayor that he could not do when not being a mayor?
3. Whose mayor is he? What "web community" does he represents? Is it only about the Internet users he knows in person ? Or everyone he is connected to online ? Or is it about all the Internet users throughout the whole country (as he claims himself) ? Or strictly those who agree to play the game (as the organizers suggest in their reply) ?
Also, the organizers ask me some questions in their statement. It looks like some parts of my first article have been misunderstood ; the warning was rather about the next steps of their project. As I did mention : "So far, there's no actual power, no budget". I wasn't stating that their pseudo-mayor already had any kind of authority. In fact I affirmed very few things in that article. I was mostly asking questions and raising ambiguities.
Just to make things clear, in what follows, I provide answers to those questions directed to me, then I present a synthesis of the situation based on the organizers reactions to all these amphibologies.
"Why ring the alarm when not one action was taken that could signal a desire to impose our will to internet users in Cote d'Ivoire?"
My article was a warning, a word of caution about the future of a project that seems touchy. My article was just saying "let's be careful about the next steps, which might deviate or not, but anyway let's remain vigilant."
However, it would not be correct to say that nothing has been suggested towards pushing changes to internet users. There have been declarations in the press and online, that could be considered as seriously misleading. I'll just take the example of the pseudo-web-mayor who says on the web and on (inter)national radio/TV stations that he was elected by the majority of Ivorian Internet users. This is a lie I am not going to discuss any further.
But he also goes around saying he is the web mayor of ALL Ivorian internet users. Then only, I have something to say, because as far as I am concerned I don't have any web-mayor and I do not need one. I think it is inappropriate for an independent person to tend to impose himself as our representative, since we, the vast majority of internet users, have nothing to do with that parody.
So I think we should pay attention to this kind of confusion. The message wasn't meant to be mean. Just a warning. Let's be careful about the next moves. That's it.
"Why hasn't any of the organizers been contacted to get their side of the story?...Our intentions are good..."
In order to write that article, I relied:
- Firstly, on public statements by the said mayor and some of his councilors. I didn't think it was necessary to contact other project members, as I was assuming some consistency among the participants.
- Secondly, on the comments from some of my contacts who have been following the events, mostly to get an idea of how things are generally understood. I won't break down the different opinions here, I'll just mention the noticeable ambiguity evidenced by the comments about my article.
Indeed, it is not just about real intentions, the message conveyed is also important.
"Necemon speaks about old ivorian web associations. Must we remind you that these associations resulted from the initiative of one person or network of people and that the community freely embraced?"
No need to recall this because I have never said otherwise. I agree that it's better if each private and free enterprise advertises itself as such, and not as a national institution. What I said about the associations already present was quite specific:
"There are already several organizations and projects in this field such as Akendewa, Amis Du Numerique, etc.. If none of those fit and there's a need to create another structure, it would be nice to clearly define unambiguously its nature and intentions: an NGO, association, union, startup, etc.. "
There is nothing wrong with creating an organization to defend some values but there are proper ways to do it. No other private initiative claims to have a mayor who represents an entire nation. Everyone is free to do whatever they wants, but while also respecting the freedom of others, including the freedom not to have a web-mayor.
"Must we remind you that no one was forced to vote? That a few organizations (including Akendewa) have praised the mayor since his election?"
I don't understand what these two questions have to do with my article.
"We want to add our contribution to the nascent Ivorian web industry."
I realize that the organizers are talented, hard-working entrepreneurs who want to use their skills to solve problems and create value. But their approach to this particular project could be a dangerous game due to its potential to cause confusion and maybe even deviations. They have the right to continue to play - if they want to, but they should clearly define the rules of the game, the limits of the game and the implications of those potentially affected.
In this respect, I therefore asked the organizers about the ambiguities mentioned above. Following our direct interactions on the matter, I note a few important points to remember, that I summarized as follows:
1. This project is not simply a fake election with the intention to entertain. This is also an initiative that aims to address the problems of some social groups just like NGOs do.
2. There is nothing that the pseudo-mayor could do as a mayor that he could not do when not being a mayor. The term 'mayor' was used to merely indicate that he had been elected by a few people in the context of a parody. Outside this context, he has no attributes of a mayor.
3. The pseudo-mayor could only be the spokesperson of those few people who are willing to play this game. It does not represent all Ivorian Internet users.
I rest my case.