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How Can We Digitalize Democracy?

We take a look at the ever-changing relationship between technology and society

8Dec

Throughout the current decade we have witnessed a fundamental change in the relationship between technology and society, causing a shift in cultural policy that sees greater focus on bottom-up approaches. However, our political system has remained constant for over 200 years and expects us to be content with simply being passive recipients.

The likes of AirBnbs, Ubers, Kickstarters have emerged recently, disrupting the industries in which they operate. This is representative of an age where businesses are moving towards mass participation and peer coordination, making us desire more participation across more aspects of our lives.

This poses two questions; why has the Internet failed to change politics? And how can democracy adapt to the digital age?

Below we give a few ideas on how to 'Digitalize Democracy':

Crowd-funding to Power Political Campaigns

Traditionally, political campaigns are financed by a candidate’s party and small groups of wealthy donors who have interest in the candidate’s success. Our politicians are therefore obligated to the moneyed interests that helped them get elected, making it a democracy responsive to funders only. Political crowd funding is an innovative way to use technology to marshal the power of the crowd to give democracy the upgrade it seriously needs.

Crowdfunding provides a digital distribution mechanism, a concept popularized during The 2008 Obama Campaign, in which, $118.8 million was raised, 48% of which came from donors who gave $200 or less.

This could potentially empower millions of currently disenfranchised voters to vote, as it would give them a vested interest in defining a solution. It also helps alleviate propaganda and political ideology being bankrolled by big corporations during election time.

Social Media and Collective Platforms

We live in a time where new technology allows us to participate in conversations around the globe. Barriers which once stood between information and us are almost non-existent, allowing us to express our desires and concerns more freely than ever before. Today we can come together and self-organize at a speed and scale unimaginable only a few years ago. How can new political and economic models harness this power?

New online communities such as Avaaz.org and Purpose.com have started global online movements that bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere. In fact, through the Avaaz platform, 1.6 million voices stood up against the rampant corruption in Brazil, demanding to kick out senior politicians disgraced under a cloud of corruption allegations. Through these social platforms, we are now seeing a change in the way organizations attract supporters.

In the last decade, technology has reshaped a number of industries. The lessons are as such; listen to and empower your customers by utilizing technology to simplify things and better serve them. Apple did this with music, Amazon with shopping, Facebook with connecting people and Google with search engines. So why not Politics? The problems are obvious, the timing couldn’t be better and the tools are available so give the people what they want, a solution.

To end on a positive note, it’s refreshing to see that the use of technology is empowering people to make the world a better place. For example, the recent launch of software called DemocracyOS (http://democracyos.org/), an open-source vote and debate tool, designed for parliaments, parties and decision-making institutions shows that systems are being built with a vision towards more open and participatory government. Now, we simply need to collectively design the right framework and continuously get enough momentum behind it to disrupt and innovate around our current democratic system.

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