Almost 45% of the Georgian population has access to the Internet. In the capital, 60% of the population has access, while the rate in towns is 51%. Villages have much less coverage, with fewer than 20% of people able to access the Internet. More than 50% of Internet users seek information, 40% use social networks, while 26% use Facebook. The main topics of the discussion held at the Heinrich Boell Foundation included the Internet’s political meaning in Georgia, its “political architecture,” bloggers, social networks, and Facebook, which has swallowed other social networks in Georgia.
Discussion on the increased role of social networks as well as the Internet more generally is ongoing in Georgia as well as the rest of the world. What is the role of social media in Georgian party politics? Is there a Georgian political blog environment and if so, what could its influence be the development of political discussions? Do political unions try to actively use the Internet, especially social networks? Do they try to turn bloggers into their supporters and transmitters of their ideals? Korneli Kakachia, Professor at I. Javakhishvili State University (now working on a paper, “The role of social media in party politics”), addressed these topics, along with Giga Paichadze, representative of the Social Media Development Foundation, and David Sichinava, who introduced the results of the annual Caucasian Barometer, in which the Caucasus Research Resources Center surveyed Internet users in Georgia.
As was stated during the discussion, Georgian political parties have not yet fully understood the role of social networks for mobilization of the electorate. However, this depends on many other factors as well, including penetration of the Internet into regions beyond Tbilisi. For political parties, social networks have not yet replaced traditional interactions, and many still prefer to travel to regions and meet people face-to-face. On the other hand, several parties have understood the importance of the Internet and social networks to some extent.
Out of 3,100 bloggers in Georgia, 99% are personal bloggers, or people that write about their personal life or other apolitical topics. There are only a handful of independent political bloggers. Bloggers from Radio Liberty, Tabula and Liberali magazines write about politics, but this group only amounts to 25 people in total.