In 594 BC, a man named Solon became ruler of the citystate of Athens. To ease the mounting tensions between upper and lower classes, he forgave those who owed money and freed those who had become enslaved due to their debts. With all Athenians now free under the law, inherited privileges were abolished and political power was divided into four classes based on wealth. Although only the richer two classes could run for office, all four were allowed to elect representatives and vote on legislation in the assembly.
These reforms led to history's first democracy where all free, male landowners could participate in the development of laws through discussion in open forums. With each citizen having an equal vote, topics and legislature were often introduced by the voters themselves.
By using the Internet as a forum for political participation, proponents of cyberdemocracy want to reproduce the framework for the participatory government found in ancient Greece in 594 BC.
Mark Bonchek, the creator of the Political Participation Project, said he believes that a cyberdemocracy would be a lot more efficient than today's government which relies on personal and broadcast media to disseminate information.
"Computer networks allow agents to distribute information to large audiences inexpensively, exchange information with groups independently of time or physical location and locate relevant information quickly and efficiently," Bonchek said.
In the project, which studied the affects of media and computer technology on how virtual communities stay involved with government issues, Bronchek also concluded that the Internet will raise citizens' participation by increasing "their awareness of political events and their knowledge of the political process."
In his article for the Progress and Freedom Foundation, entitled "People and Society in Cyberspace", G.A. Keyworth II said he believes governments should not be afraid of such change, because "enabling the citizens of cyberspace is the only acceptable path to success."
Keyworth sees hackers as pioneers in this "first third-wave society", where class structures become less evident and where governments have to learn to follow their citizens in adapting to changes in society .
"The digital connection that enables cyberspace is ubiquitous and non-hierarchical," Keyworth said. "The result is an abundance of information, readily available, with an economy characterized by its low barriers to new entrants, and diminished economies-of-scale."
As for whether everyone will have access to this new political forum, many believe that, like the telephone before it, the technology will become widespread.
Alvin Toffler, co-author of the book "Creating a New Civilization", said he believes that it's in the corporate world's best interest to make the necessary technology affordable for everyone.
"I think this (technology) is going to become so cheap, and is going to spread so far and fast--the universalization of it is going to get a big push from some of these giant media outfits, most of which are going to lose their shirts, but in the process they're going to sell a lot of computers and a lot of networking and bring more and more people into the system," Toffler said.
Others see cyberdemocracy as a factor that will become necessary in other countries and eventually on a global scale.
The author of the book "Creating Democracy in Time: A Strategy for Human Survival in the 21st Century, Foreman said he believes that society needs to create a global democracy to face "environmental, demographic and political crises which will threaten human survival in the first half of the 21st century."
He adds that "only governments that authentically represent the interests of the whole community can muster sufficient political will and legitimacy to respond."
Finally, Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said in his article, "From Virtuality to Reality", what he believed were the advantages cyberdemocracy would bring to the population.
"We're going to get information out, we're going to have a dialogue among ourselves, we're going to get aggregated information back in, we're going to identify the most interesting and the best ideas, and they're not necessarily going to come from the people that we know personally or that fit in a social or credentialed spectrum."