What is digital democracy?


Recently, Jamie Susskind wrote a book titled “Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech.” Susskind argues that the future of politics lies in regulating its relationship with technology. The term digital democracy means the practice of democracy through digital tools and technologies with the aim of widening and intensifying democratic participation. There are two main models of digital democracy: direct and participatory.


Pure direct democracy requires citizens to participate in the legislative process instead of elected representatives. The whole population gathered in assembly would cause absolute chaos but with the technology available today, there is no need to physically meet. It is not difficult to imagine a daily phone notification that outlines the issues on which we must vote. For the practice of e-voting to be extended to political practice, greater user confidence is needed, especially from a security standpoint. However, the real issue is whether direct democracy is a desirable practice. The most famous argument against pure direct democracy asks this question: Isn’t it risky that each of us is asked to decide on public policies on which we do not have the appropriate skills?


There are models of partial direct democracy in which citizens can vote on issues they care about based on geography, experience, and interest. Additionally, there could be systems that allow voters to delegate their votes to people they trust who are particularly invested in a certain issue.


Participatory democracy, or wikidemocracy, on the other hand, focuses on the contribution of the population in developing public policy. The invention of the wiki software has allowed people far away from each other to work. Models of wikidemocracy can require citizens to contribute to bills, decide the agenda’s priorities and develop policy proposals. There are already wikidemocracy platforms in Brazil, France, Estonia, Finland, UK, in Madrid, Turin and Paris. Wikidemocracy presents many difficulties since it requires participants to devote a lot of time to work on the platform and not all citizens feel comfortable editing a bill. Additionally, for citizens who do not agree with the principle of a policy proposal, it is unclear how he can contribute.


Given the crisis that the democratic system is undergoing in terms of trust in institutions and participation in democratic life, as well as the prospect of a future with increasingly high technological intensity, we must write new rules capable of regulating digital democracy and more generally, the relationship between politics and technology.