DemTech Wrapped 2023

By Moira Whelan | December 29, 2023

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In a very "2023" move, I asked an AI chatbot to summarize the year in technology and democracy. Here's what it said:

"2023 became a crossroads for democracy and technology. Initiatives at the Summit for Democracy and elsewhere aimed to harness technology for good, promoting internet freedom, countering authoritarian misuse, and shaping emerging tech with human rights in mind. However, the battle remains ongoing, as democracies grapple with balancing innovation with fundamental democratic values in the digital age. The success of this balancing act will shape the future of democracy in the years to come."

I suppose "there are opportunities, but challenges too…" about sums it up, but no chatbot will capture the exciting and exhausting year we've had. Exhausting for obvious reasons. Our work is never done, and in much of the world it is harder. Exciting because meeting and working with the individuals who persevere, just to make their voices heard, remind us why we do this work. Here's a bit of our 2023: 

Building on years of work in more than 50 countries, NDI hosted the first ever Global Info/tegrity Network,  welcoming 15 partners to DC representing Afghanistan, Belarus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan, Kosovo, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Ukraine. In our Forum on Democracy and the Information Space, they shared their work and collaborated on cross-regional research projects to develop initiatives that strengthen the information space globally. In addition, NDI's work on creating a more democratic information space expanded in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Sahel where networks of civil society groups increased their capacity to identify and counter online harms. NDI now has Info/tegrity network groups in regions around the world that will continue in 2024 and beyond.

Holding Big Tech accountable, we used our collective knowledge and energy to talk about the impact of shifts in Big Tech on democracy actors. We talked to Cloudflare, Google, Meta, Microsoft, and X about what they are doing to help democracy in advance of the Summit for Democracy, developed guidance on data access for closing spaces online and off and an action plan for tech companies and civil society collaboration in crisis, and made the business case for ending online violence against women in politics. We also joined with the Design 4 Democracy Coalition, the Global Network Initiative and the Global Coalition for Tech Justice to engage with companies and advocate for their support of human rights and democracy everywhere.

We continued to connect citizens to tried and true tools helping them to reshape their communities. CiviCRM was used by a political party to conduct their primary election. Fix My Street launched in Casablanca, Morocco. The refreshed Political Process Monitoring guide was launched in English, French and Spanish, allowing people to hold their elected officials accountable. Additionally, we published 18 blog posts in 2023 and added or updated 28 tools and guides on the Dem.Tools library to help partners evaluate tools and use technology effectively in their work.

We empowered new voices to preserve an Open Internet. We supported one group of Open Internet Leaders to develop recommendations for the UN's Global Digital Compact, and in September, we welcomed a new cohort of Open Internet Leaders, bringing them to Kyoto, Japan to explore the role of parliaments in preserving digital rights at the annual Internet Governance Forum. 

DemTech continued to support the digital security needs of a diverse range of NDI program partners, including LGBTQI+ rights groups in Africa, youth activists in the diaspora in Central America, and political parties across a range of closing societies. As part of this support, DemTech facilitated its CyberSim experiential learning exercise with great success with civic partners in Malaysia and Serbia, and released two new learning products: Digital Organizing SOS - which highlights digital security best practices for those organizing online, and Alissa for Olania - an interactive campaigns and digital security adventure game.

Using our voice to empower those of others continues to be a top priority. Our advocacy to end online violence against women continues. We joined coalitions focused on securing the 2024 elections. 

On a practical note, we reduced our number of COVID outbreaks, had more time together in the office and at conferences, and in our most important achievement, members of the DemTech team welcomed a total of four new babies into their families! 

According to the AI chatbots, 2024 does look promising:
"The collective efforts of individuals, governments, and organizations could contribute to a more robust and adaptive democratic landscape in 2024."

We couldn't agree more, and can't wait to see you in 2024! Our warmest regards for a happy new year.