As digital technologies become increasingly ubiquitous and important parts of daily life, their downsides have become more apparent. Tech giants, including Google, Amazon, and Facebook, offer digital tools only in exchange for people’s personal data. Digital service providers are becoming overly powerful monopolies. And digital technologies are exerting an unhealthy influence over the media, notes Elisa Lironi, digital democracy manager at the European Citizen Action Service.
But while the EU is absolutely right to be taking steps to limit the power of the tech giants, it is remiss in neglecting the benefits of digital democracy, she writes for the Reshaping European Democracy project, an initiative of Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program and Carnegie Europe.
There are three main ways for the EU to start exploring the potential of digital tools for reshaping European democracy, she adds:
- First, the EU should foster grassroots and national initiatives for digital democracy. It could start by mainstreaming the concept across European civil society.
- Second, the EU should work on developing its own tools for e-participation. The European Citizens’ Initiative and the European Commission’s online consultation processes are a good start, but they are far from allowing citizens to effectively collaborate with EU policymakers.
- Third, EU policymakers need to include tech companies and NGOs in their discussions, and create public policy and public governance mechanisms that channel the power of the technology sector. A closer partnership with the tech giants could unlock vast knowledge and insight into the further potential of these approaches.