We need you: how can technology reestablish trust in the political system?

Join us in Copenhagen next month to collaboratively map out what future-proof government technology looks like and how it should work, and to discuss why ensuring people are at the centre of this design is essential for better governance.

We have all read the statistics. Democracy is dead. Or, at least, it is on its way to being so. People simply don’t believe that their voices are important, that their representatives listen to them, or that decisions are taken on their behalf.

The Democracy Perception Index 2018 found that 54% of citizens living in democracies think their voices “rarely” or “never” matter in politics.

And that’s simply not acceptable. Democracies are meant to represent the people living in them, and, to function, they therefore require an interwoven mix of transparency and trust.

On the other side of the equation, those within government organisations are working tirelessly to improve the public sector, and deliver policy and projects that make a real impact on their communities.

But new innovations are often developed with the private sector in mind, and translating these into the governmental context frequently causes chaos. And the Leader’s Report by The Government and Public Sector Practise, rather alarmingly, found that half of the respondents felt as if they didn’t have the right tools and resources to do their job.

Citizens feel disengaged and frustrated. Governments feel left behind and frustrated. This is fundamentally not ok. Society should be inclusive, a place of security and belonging.

One of the biggest shifts in recent years, which has increased these feelings and has enhanced the divide between citizens and government, is technology.

Social media platforms have acted as a springboard for those with extreme views to come to popularity. Electronically-stored data has been hacked and used to manipulate elections. We’re told AI will replace us in the workplace and we’ll be left without employment. And blockchain is meant to create new societies and currencies, so where will we all belong?

To the average Joe, this is worrying. The future is imaginable, we can’t foresee our place in the world, and we feel adrift.

Politicians, those we voted for to protect us, have done little. We needed them to take control, hold private companies accountable, and ensure policies are kept up-to-date and relevant. But they haven’t, and this is what has caused the disintegration of our political institutions at an alarming rate.

However, while technology has amplified this problem, we can make it the solution. We need to take back control, and remember why we developed it in the first place: to improve human existence.

AI can free us from mindless administrative tasks, instead allowing us to develop more thoughtful, creative policies. Blockchain can increase security and ensure corrupt politicians are held to account. Data can show us what projects have been successful, and which can be optimised to ensure society is developed effectively. And platforms can connect people across the globe instantly so we can together collaborate on projects and learn from each other’s errors.

Good technology should fit seamlessly into our lives and make it better. So what are we waiting for? It’s time to build human-centred technology.

Join us at Techfestival on the 7 September in Copenhagen as we discuss these topics. We want to hear from you about what you want your government technology to do, how you want it to look, and how you think new technologies can reestablish trust in the political system.

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be joined by Héloïse Le Masne, Astrid Haug, Wladimir Nikoluk and Mikkel Flyverbom. The session will involve micro workshops as well as a panel discussion, and we can’t wait to hear your ideas and develop solutions together.

L-R: Emily, Wladimir, Astrid, Mikkel, Héloïse

Following the meetup, your thoughts and contributions will be written up into a series of recommendations for government and private companies around how to build human-centred technology that has a positive impact on society.

A word from the experts

“Not so many years ago a lot of us believed that tech would be a renaissance to democracy, and bring politicians and people closer together for better decision making and increased trust. Maybe we forgot that anti-democrats have access to the exact same tools as democrats, and that big tech had a commercial goal, not a political or societal one. The same tools that were used for #metoo and during the Arabic Spring have been used to manipulate elections and undermine democracy. At the same time, trust in politicians and media is declining. So we need to find a way to reshape democracy, engage the next generations and find a way for tech and politics to work better together.” Astrid is an expert and author on the subjects of social media, politics and digital transformation.

Mikkel, Professor of Communication and Digital Transformation at Copenhagen Business School noted that “data analytics and automated forms of pattern recognition are presented as the new frontier of prediction and forecasting. So therefore data enthusiasts and big-tech companies are busy rolling out data-driven approaches to security and police work, human resource management and other forms of governance. But attempts to make social problems visible, understandable and governable through data and algorithmic sorting involve complex forms of labor and socio-material entanglements. These deserve more attention if we want to articulate how digital transformations shape contemporary attempts to frame and govern societal challenges and opportunities.”

Wladimir, the CEO of ImmerLearn and an expert on data-science for impact accounting, is keen to discuss how innovations in data science and technology can help us better understand the needs of citizens. “Governments spend billions to protect their citizens from societal challenges such as poverty, climate change and slowing productivity growth. Yet, there is little consensus on how the impact of those investments should be measured. It’s key we build frameworks to ensure the effectiveness of technologies.”

Héloïse, responsible for government-citizen engagement at Civocracy and is an expert on change-management behaviour, says: “Government and innovation are too often taken as contradictory concepts. Bureaucracy, lack of flexibility, century old structures, and lack of training for civil servants are just some of the reasons regularly suggested to prove our governments are not ready for the technological shift. But we are now at an exciting, revolutionary moment: we all can — and should — take responsibility for re-shaping government by updating structures that are obsolete, optimising processes, and re-adapting private-sector innovation for the public sector. However, time is limited, and in order to bring about effective, lasting change, and to ensure democracy doesn’t become outdated, we need members of our government and civil service to come together with their citizens to question, challenge and innovate new solutions for better governance.”

Like Héloïse, I work at Civocracy, but have a background in community building and technological innovation. I believe that people are the most important elements for creating better societies, and empowering individuals to share their ideas can be transformational. We need to make technology that serves us, and not the other way around.

We all hope to see you in Denmark next month! Sign up to join us here.