"Everything we know about our society, about the world in which we live, we know from mass media." When sociologist Niklas Luhman tried to describe the knowledge society at the end of the 90s, concepts like "Web 2.0" and "community radio" did not exist, let alone "social media", and the commercial use of the internet was still in its infancy.
Today this assessment is more accurate than ever and, based on political developments in Arabic countries in recent months, we can even take it one step further: Everything we know, we know from the web and social media. The revolution in Egypt began when Egyptian blogger Khaled Said was beaten so badly by civil police on the street in summer 2010 that he died as a result. A protest group founded on Facebook called "We are all Khaled Said" gained half a million members in no time at all. The group called for the "Day of Rage" in Said's honour and for mass protests. The rest is history.
Bloggers are the first to practice political protest -- whether in Egypt, Tunisia, Ivory Coast or Algeria. It is no coincidence that the Deutsche Welle gave its blog award this year to one of the key figures of the Jasmine Revolution: Lina Ben Mhenni published her texts in her blog (atunisiangirl.blogspot.com) in English, French and Arabic and showed photos and videos of the dead and severely injured. Her reports spread like wildfire through the net via Facebook and twitter.
New political structures are now beginning to crystallise in Tunisia and, quite logically, the channels primarily being used by those parties involved in the foundation process are social media sites. The new parties pass information on to the people of Tunisia via Facebook. I am personally particularly pleased that a Vote-O-Matic is being developed in Tunisia according to the model of the Federal Centre for Political Education from my time there. To anyone interested in developments in Tunisia, I highly recommend the interview with Oualid Hamdi in this issue.
Media are not just key factors for democratic structures. Promoting education in the development policy area is hardly conceivable without media. Education is a decisive factor for prosperity and the employment rate in a given country and remains one of the greatest challenges facing the international development policy community. Education and media are both catalysts for further development policy goals such as good governance, protecting the climate, the use of renewable energy, health and food security.
To realise these goals, we have to include new media developments in our strategies for fighting educational poverty -- whether in the form of the Web 2.0, mobile learning, communicating socially relevant issues though television series, community radios, movies to promote human rights and other similar approaches: We have to make the best use possible of the whole range available to us! This issue of Digital Development Debates presents many of these new possibilities and opportunities. I hope you enjoy your journey thorough the beautiful new media world -- prepare to be inspired!