Envisioning Tech-empowered Democratic Futures: A Quote Sheet

By Madeleine Nicoloff | December 20, 2021

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Democratic Futures
Democratic Futures. Photo by Yolanda Suen on Unsplash.

In the wake of the Summit for Democracy 2021, a fundamental part of the conversation to revitalize the democracy agenda involved recognizing the critical challenge that the global spread of a digital authoritarian model of governance is posing to democracy around the world. The first step in addressing this challenge is to build and invest in an equally innovative and compelling long-term vision of technology-empowered democratic governance, centered around the collective values and perspectives of people around the world.

To inspire the follow-through and strategic approach towards commitments made at the Summit for Democracy 2021, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and the Center for International Private Enterprise have put together the Democracy 2030 Program Quote Sheet highlighting the voices and insights gathered over the course of the project to date. These quotes represent the vision of democracy that has been expressed by people around the world. They paint a picture of the ambition we can shoot for, and the frameworks we need to embrace to get there.

Digital authoritarians have built and exported a seductive vision of technology-empowered governance where a vibrant digital economy promises riches– under the omnipresent eye of a powerful surveillance state, with formidable controls on online expression and democratic political activity. On the other hand, democracies are still relying on traditional democratic sales pitches that are tired in the face of today’s digital realities. To successfully compete as a form of governance in the 21st century digital society, democracies need a bold new vision of democratic governance systems that incorporate the power and potential of digital technologies for inclusive participation and mitigate the dangers.

The potential is huge– new forms of communication, citizen input, transparency and accountability can lead to a renaissance in what democracy means, how it functions, and who is included. Policymakers and citizens around the globe need thoughtful, creative, and practical analysis and recommendations to aid in proactively mitigating the negatives and taking advantage of the positive opportunities these disruptive new technologies provide. Fostering a global digital ecosystem in which democratic values are protected, promoted, and can thrive; governments are more transparent and inclusive; and all citizens are empowered to hold their government accountable requires a vibrant and ambitious long-term vision for a renewed version of “techno-democracies” that is more compelling– and effective– than the dark authoritarian alternative.

This quote sheet offers a sneak preview of what’s to come from the Democracy 2030 joint NDI, IRI, and CIPE project in the year ahead. With the support of the National Endowment for Democracy, our organizations are collaborating to map global, inclusive, citizen-centric visions for a high-tech democracy by 2030 that can out-inspire and out-govern digital authoritarianism. Over the course of 2021 and 2022, each organization is engaging with their long-time partners in the Global South, artists, and intellectual leaders to build a vision for a positive future for democracy.

Stay tuned for more global visions of reimagined tech futures coming in 2022!

Motivated with visions of what a tech-empowered democracy could look like? We'd love to hear your ideas at @NDItech or nditech.org!