From voting to law enforcement to social services, digitalization is transforming governance—and these changes are impacting citizens’ ability to hold public officials accountable. Cutting-edge tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) present opportunities to make governance more open, fair, and responsive, for instance, by helping watchdog institutions identify cases of corruption. Yet knowledge and oversight of new technologies themselves—often still in short supply—are critical to ensure that they do not instead chill civic activism, reinforce social inequalities, and help officials deflect responsibility. If steps are not taken to close this gap, digitalization may worsen the crisis of trust in societies already struggling with democratic backsliding.
Featuring insights from Krzysztof Izdebski (Open Spending EU Coalition; Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland), Teona Turashvili (Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information, Georgia), and Haykuhi Harutyunyan (Corruption Prevention Commission of the Republic of Armenia), this collection of essays offers new perspectives on the complex ways in which digitalization is transforming state accountability. Surveying the risks that automation presents for democratic norms, it identifies principles and practices that can help state and civil society actors work together to ensure that the integration of next-generation technologies into government processes works in democracy’s favor. The complete collection is entitled “The Digitalization of Democracy: How Technology is Changing Government Accountability.”
On Wednesday, March 29, the International Forum hosted a virtual event marking the launch of this essay collection, featuring the report authors. Please click here to view the event recording.
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In the first essay, Krzysztof Izdebski explores how digital technologies such as automated decision-making systems are “becoming an integral part of the citizen-government relationship” and what this means for democracy advocates. He surveys the risks to democratic principles that can emerge from the intentional abuse and careless use of digital technologies in the public sector. Finally, he distills recommendations for cross-sectoral collaboration to ensure responsible digitalization.
- “The Digital Battlefield for Democratic Principles” by Krzysztof Izdebski
The second paper, by Teona Turashvili, draws on her organization’s experience researching AI in Georgia’s public sector to highlight obstacles to transparency and accountability on this issue. Turashvili identifies gaps in AI governance that currently make it challenging for civil society organizations and officials to monitor government use of these tools effectively.
- “Assessing the Accountability of AI Systems in Georgia” by Teona Turashvili
In the final essay, Haykuhi Harutyunyan of Armenia’s Corruption Prevention Commission describes the Commission’s work designing an AI-enabled digital tool that will aid in monitoring the asset declarations of public officials. Her contribution highlights the potential benefits of AI for accountable governance and discusses the experience of setting parameters, engaging with partners, and navigating privacy tradeoffs when deploying data-driven tools in the public sector.
- “Leveraging AI to Counter Corruption in Armenia” by Haykuhi Harutyunyan
This collection is the third in the International Forum’s “Making Tech Transparent” series, which focuses on crafting transparent and participatory processes around the use of emerging technologies in politics and governance.
Building on a sequence of cross-sectoral, cross-regional workshops, this series looks at initiatives such as smart cities, biometric surveillance tools, and algorithmic decision-making systems in a global context. Contributors address both the democracy implications of new technologies and vectors for civil society involvement in their design, deployment, and operation.
The first report in the series, The Global Struggle Over AI Surveillance: Emerging Trends and Democratic Responses (June 2022), examines the spread of AI surveillance systems, their impact, and the transnational struggle to erect guardrails that uphold democratic values. The second report, Smart Cities and Democratic Vulnerabilities (December 2022), explores how “smart city” technologies can challenge democratic systems and considers strategies for rapidly digitalizing societies to safeguard key norms.
More on Emerging Technologies from the International Forum:
- Digital Directions, a curated newsletter on the evolving relationships among digital technologies, information integrity, and democracy
- Smart Cities and Democratic Vulnerabilities, a “Making Tech Transparent” series report by Beth Kerley, Roukaya Kasenally, Bárbara Simão, and Blenda Santos
- The Global Struggle Over AI Surveillance: Emerging Trends and Democratic Responses, a “Making Tech Transparent” series report by Steven Feldstein, Eduardo Ferreyra, and Danilo Krivokapić
- Double-Edged Sword: China’s Sharp Power Exploitation of Emerging Technologies, a Sharp Power and Democratic Resilience series report by Samantha Hoffman
- Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Norms: Meeting the Authoritarian Challenge, a Sharp Power and Democratic Resilience series report by Nicholas D. Wright
- Two events on “Digital Repression: Confronting the Evolving Challenge” and “The Rise of Digital Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Power, Politics, and Resistance”
- A Power 3.0 blog post on “Xi’s Pitch to the Global South on Technological Governance” by Kenton Thibaut
- A Power 3.0 blog post on “Bridging the Gap Between The Digital and Human Rights Communities” by Eduardo Ferreyra
- A Power 3.0 blog post on “An Intelligent Human Rights Agenda for Artificial Intelligence” by Eileen Donahoe and Megan MacDuffee Metzger
- A Power 3.0 podcast episode, “Can Democratic Norms Catch Up with AI Surveillance?,” with featured guest Vidushi Marda