The role of new media in fostering social change

The flowers decorating the front entrances of homes in Europe, the coffee sipped daily by millions, H&M’s cotton clothes all come from Ethiopia which is a thoroughly agrarian society. While “sustainable development” may be more of a slogan in other parts of the world, the phrase can inspire a real sense of hope or great disappointment.

Dev vs Freedom

Ethiopia is one such part of the world where there is ongoing disappointment, and hope is shattered. For the last 25 years, Ethiopian people have obeyed the government even though it was taking people’s land without public engagement.

For the government, building mega sugar and dam projects bring development but success is a mirage.

People are not satisfied with matters of economics or day-to-day governance. Such grievances are shared by broader segments of Ethiopian society, including from communities that have been forcibly evicted from their land in the name of development, journalists and civil society activists.

People want to break the chain of obedience and overhaul the broken development model. In Ethiopia political freedom and respect for human rights are pushed aside by donors in favor of economic development.


The government accuses journalists and the new media of trying to incite violence in the country. It thinks that social media activists scare away foreign investors and tourists with their claims. Peaceful protests have been taunted as being directed by foreign elements.


As Shirky (2010) stated, the new media can play a supporting role in social change by strengthening the public sphere.  I agree with Shirky that little political change happens without the dissemination and adoption of ideas and opinions in the public sphere. In countries where the government has full control of mainstream media, the new media can play an important role in disseminating opinions and issues to the public.

Dev vs Participation







Shirky, C. 2010: The political power of social media technology, the public sphere, and political changeForeign Affairs 90: 28-I.


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