Digital Democracy

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refers to the use of digital communication technologies to enhance the democratic process by, among other things, making the process more accessible, increasing and enhancing citizen participation in public policy decision making, and increasing government transparency and accountability. [1]

Project 1


"Digital Democracy’s mission is to empower marginalized communities to use technology to defend their rights. As technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, we believe it can and should be used to bring more voices to the table. Digital Democracy helps our partners achieve transformative change and works toward a world where all people can participate in decisions that govern their lives.

Over the past five years, we’ve seen firsthand that change does not come from technology, but from how people use it. Our local partners represent marginalized communities around the globe, from Haiti to Burma to Peru. Working at the intersection of human rights and technology, Dd pairs local leaders with strategic use of tools to catalyze community-driven solutions.

Our process is both technology and issue agnostic – that is, not bound to one platform or cause. We recognize that our partners’ issues are diverse, but many of the challenges they face are shared. Using a listening-based, human-centered design process, Dd helps to strengthen our partners’ access, communication, resources and reach.

Equipped with the tools they need, our partners are becoming better storytellers, advocates and leaders. Together, Dd and its partners are empowering communities to become their own voice for change." (


"Digital Democracy works in three primary ways:

  • Direct Implementation: We train communities to use basic digital tools, such as cameras, mobile phones, and online maps. Our tiered approach emphasizes digital literacy, digital organizing and digital citizenship.
  • Tool Building: We create tech solutions to empower our partners and help them adapt existing tools to their needs. We also work with digital innovators to develop and implement new open-source tools.
  • Local-to-Global Engagement: We scale our impact beyond our direct partners. Through events, workshops, and tool-kits, we build bridges between our work and the work of advocates and decision-makers around the world."


Project 2

* Report: Digital Democracy: The Tools Transforming Political Engagement. By Julie Simon, Theo Bass, Victoria Boelman et al., Nesta, 2017



Key findings

  • Digital democracy is a broad concept and not easy to define. The paper provides a granular approach to help encompass its various activities and methods (our ‘typology of digital democracy’).
  • Many initiatives exist simply as an app, or web page, driven by what the technology can do, rather than by what the need is.
  • Lessons from global case studies describe how digital tools are being used to engage communities in more meaningful political participation, and how they are improving the quality and legitimacy of decision-making.

Digital democracy is still young. Projects must embed better methods for evaluation of their goals if the field is to grow. Thanks to digital technologies, today we can bank, read the news, study for a degree, and chat with friends across the world - all without leaving the comfort of our homes. But one area that seems to have remained impervious to these benefits is our model of democratic governance, which has remained largely unchanged since it was invented in the 20th century.

New experiments are showing how digital technologies can play a critical role in engaging new groups of people, empowering citizens and forging a new relationship between cities and local residents, and parliamentarians and citizens.

At the parliamentary level, including in Brazil and France, experiments with new tools are enabling citizens to contribute to draft legislation. Political parties such as Podemos in Spain and the Icelandic Pirate Party are using tools such as Loomio, Reddit and Discourse to enable party members and the general public to deliberate and feed into policy proposals. Local governments have set up platforms to enable citizens to submit ideas and information, rank priorities and allocate public resources.

After a detailed exploration of these case studies and the lessons from them, we explore the challenges which digital democracy will need to address in the future. This includes how to develop a more nuanced understanding of what we mean by ‘participation’ and tackling the digital divide.

Lessons from the innovators

  • Develop a clear plan and process: Pioneers in the field engage people meaningfully by giving them a clear stake; they conduct stakeholder analysis; operate with full transparency; and access harder-to-reach groups with offline methods.
  • Get the necessary support in place: The most successful initiatives have clear-backing from lawmakers; they also secure the necessary resources to promote to the process properly (PR and advertising), as well as the internal systems to manage and evaluate large numbers of ideas.
  • Choose the right tools: The right digital tools help to improve the user-experience and understanding of the issue, and can help remove some of the negative impacts of those who might try to damage or ‘game’ the process."