Code Red

By Seeta Peña Gangadharan, 10 May 2002

The first in a discussion series about digital society in the UK, Code Red by Ian Kearns – a senior researcher of the centre-left think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research – upbraids the government for its lack of visionary planning. There has not been ‘sufficient attention given to the character of the internet itself and to the nature of values which are implicitly being embodied in it’, writes Kearns.

Through a clear dissection of the recent regulatory history, Kearns explains how the technology of politics is fast becoming dependent on private corporations. Efforts to make the UK an attractive place to conduct e-commerce and to modernise government have brought big business into the fold, eclipsing efforts to educate, train and connect the neediest citizens and to ensure reliable, efficient electronic delivery of public services.

Warning that the emerging policy framework threatens to undermine the liberal state, social equality and civil liberties, Code Red offers remedial steps, revising current UK e-democracy initiatives to reflect needs of citizens and consumers rather than of government and business. Its most controversial suggestion urges the use of open source code for all e-services. It also calls for a relaxation of use of individual authentication certificates, active support of local development of networks and content, creation of entirely new deliberating bodies to adjudicate e-democracy programmes, and the roll-out of broadband services.

While not as enjoyable to read as predecessors like Lawrence Lessig’s Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Code Red does compellingly describe a gradual transition to an Orwellian future, where technologies of control dominate social structures and political action. Kearns is right to urge for preventative measures now before it is too late.

Seeta Peña Gangadharan <seeta AT> is a freelance writer and activist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She contributes to, Television Race Initiative / Active Voice, The Wire and Art News

Code Red: Progressive Politics in the Digital Age // Ian Kearns // 2002 // 69 pages// ISBN 186030 1886 // £8.95