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Are digital technologies eroding our democratic institutions?

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The fast pace at which technologies are currently developing is raising many questions about what could be an effective way to regulate their use and development. Public debate on this topic is utterly needed, and the International Forum on Digital and Democracy convened many prominent speakers to discuss the connection between digital technologies and our democratic institutions. To summarise the topics debated during the two-day hybrid event, we prepared two short videos showing the highlights of interviews and contributions that were prepared for the Forum.

Digital transformation is advancing at an ever-increasing pace, encouraging the emergence of the digital media ecosystem as the new arena in which the most important debates about the future of our democratic systems are held and settled. As a consequence, the question of how to regulate these spaces so that they are a fair and balanced area of debate is of key importance for the health of democratic institutions.

Inspired by the ideas of world-renowned economics professor and global leader in sustainable development, Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, and former President of the European Commission, Professor Romano Prodi, the International Forum on Digital and Technology (IFDaD) aims to promote international collaboration between policymakers and academics. Such an important goal is achieved by exchanging information, ideas and good practices that could impact the relationship between technology, democracy and freedom of expression.

This second edition featured interviews with Romano Prodi; Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency; Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO; Vincenzo Aquaro, Chief of Digital Government at the United Nations; and Roberto Viola, Director-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology at the European Commission.

“Technologies must serve the people, and not vice-versa”, explained Ms Věra Jourová, who then added: “No technologies should have the power to rule over the rights of individual people.”

The Forum also featured many contributions prepared by experts and prominent scholars such as Syed Munir Khasru, Chairman of the Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance (IPAG); Guido Scorza, Member of the Italian Privacy Authority; Jeffrey Sachs, Journalist and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University; Mathew Ingram, Chief Digital Writer at Columbia Journalism Review; and Pari Esfandiari, Co-founder and President of the Global TechnoPolitics Forum.

“We have a hacked political system. We have significant majorities for fighting climate change, getting money out of big politics, taxing the rich more, staying out of wars, but that’s not what we do in our politics,” stated Professor Jeffrey Sachs in his intervention.

How can we create a digital ecosystem that works for our values, fostering democracy and supporting civil rights? How can we shape policies to support our democratic processes, promote meaningful interaction and nurture constructive debate? Can civil and human rights be protected by implementing a different design for the current digital ecosystem? Is data transparency a key factor in protecting our democracies? These were only some of the questions addressed during the Forum.

If you are interested in these topics, you can follow our Democracy Area on this website and our Social Media Channels (Twitter and LinkedIn). Stay tuned!