According to a recent study by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), digital technologies are expected to play an increasingly significant role in European democracy over the next decade. The report, based on interviews with over 50 government and industry representatives, predicts that the online deliberation and participation market in Europe will grow to €300 million over the next five years, while the e-voting market will reach €500 million. The authors of the report believe that digital democracy technology can help engage demographic groups that would otherwise be difficult to reach, such as youth and immigrant communities.
However, there are concerns about how digital democracy could be used for misinformation or toxic online behavior. Additionally, there is a discussion about a possible “digital divide” between those who have access to technology and those who do not. Despite these challenges, many companies focused on civic tech in Europe are already taking advantage of recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to introduce new features or improve existing ones.
One example of this is Citizens.is, a platform founded in Iceland that allows citizens to suggest laws and policies which other users can then vote for or against. Citizens.is has recently started collaborating with OpenAI and has implemented GPT-4 for their AI assistant. Another example is CitizenLab, a Belgian company that works with more than 300 local governments and organizations across 18 countries.
The top product trends identified in the IDEA study include artificial intelligence, voting, management and reporting. However, it is also important to address issues around inclusion, data usage, accountability and transparency, as well as develop security standards for end-to-end verified voting. One proposed solution is the introduction of a Europe-wide quality trustmark for democracy technologies.
Ultimately, building trust with citizens is crucial for the success of digital democracy technology. “If a citizen can trust their banking app to carry out transactions,” said Nicholas Tsounis from online voting platform Electobox. “Our service can also be trusted to make the citizen’s voice heard. We want people to trust this app because we know it’s there to protect the right to speak and vote.”