When: Tuesday, Oct 13, 2020, 3:00PM - 4:30PM

This will be a virtual event, using standard conference software

Democracy and the COVID-19 pandemic: a new role for digital technologies

Highlights of debate and full report can be seen HERE.

Full recording is available at: https://youtu.be/UquEUnpLbh4

Democracy is under constant threat and permanent construction. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is now in the autumn of 2020 dominating how we all live our lives - and how political leaders are making decisions at the local, national and global level. As the pandemic remains a reality, and as upcoming US elections in November challenge the democratic principles, we consider it the right time to analyse the situation and draw lessons.

This tele-debate with high level speakers builds on the Digital Enlightenment Forum (DigEnlight) conference held in Nov 2019 on Democracy and Media.

Please register your participation in the column at the right.

Moderator: Dr Lieve Fransen

Keynote speaker : Martin Wolf (FT): Democracy will fail if we do not think like citizens.


Tom Gerald Daly (DEM-DEC): Democracy and COVID Worldwide: Digital Threats and Solutions
Nuria Oliver (DataPop Alliance): Lessons learned about participation, privacy and contact tracing
Seda F. Gürses (TU Delft): Privacy by design as Infrastructural Power
Wieslaw Bartkowski (SWPS Univ): Towards healthy digital technology

More info on speakers HERE

Situation analysis

Democracy has been under constant threat, also before the COVID-19 pandemic. But the responses to the pandemic have brought additional and new challenges concerning digitalisation and democracy. We see increasing political manipulation and economic and digital inequalities, leading to further polarisation in society. At the same time, we know that trust within communities and towards governments is a prerequisite for effective public policies.

These developments have a clear impact on the political middle ground that thinkers from Aristotle onwards have recognized as essential for democracy. This middle ground needs to be populated by well-informed, open minded and engaged citizens who seek and can discern truth from lies, and so help to protect democracy from falling prey to populism that pulls towards the extremes.

New technologies have come to the fore in certain countries worldwide confronting COVID-19. If democratic institutions play their role of ensuring the right balance between on the one hand, protection of privacy and civil liberties - thus ensuring the common good, on the other, public health and social security, it can result in a significantly more resilient and agile democratic society.

Beginning the conversation

Digital technologies provide ample opportunities for citizens, government, businesses and society in general. How can we rapidly scale up digital facilitation of citizen participation and inclusiveness, while protecting individual rights, public health and trust in institutions. Choices must be made, which can lead to more authoritarianism or more participatory democracy. It could lead to lasting state surveillance or the emergence of innovative ideas to support public health and strengthen democracy.

The issues raised are multiple and wide-ranging, also raising the need for difficult trade-offs. Will this pandemic lead to changes in governance encouraging more invasive forms of governmental control? Or can we better harness the potential benefits of digital technologies to build trust and deepen our democratic values, institutions and processes, while confronting this current and future health security challenges?

Register now