Smart Cities and Democratic Vulnerabilities: Digital Risks Amid Global Backsliding

February 07, 2023
12:00 pm - 01:30 pm

This event will be held virtually. RSVP below to receive livestream information.




About the Event

Please join the International Forum for Democratic Studies for a public virtual event examining smart cities in the context of democratic backsliding. Bárbara Simão and Roukaya Kasenally, contributors to our recent report Smart Cities and Democratic Vulnerabilities, will share their findings on smart city governance in Brazil and Mauritius, with comments from Larry Diamond on the wider implications for struggling democracies. NED President Damon Wilson will provide opening remarks and Program Officer Beth Kerley will moderate the discussion. 

Against the backdrop of a global democratic recession, officials on nearly every continent are integrating advanced digital tools into municipal governance through “smart city” projects. These projects, which are popular in autocracies and democracies alike, leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to collect and analyze unprecedented amounts of data about urban life. Will smart cities spread authoritarian influence and speed the erosion of democratic norms, or can societies find ways to harness digitalization for democracy?



Roukaya Kasenally, University of Mauritius

Bárbara Simão, InternetLab


with comments by

Larry Diamond, Stanford University


moderated by

Beth Kerley, International Forum


about the participants

Roukaya Kasenally is a democracy scholar and associate professor at the University of Mauritius. She is associated with several institutions, as the Chair of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), a member of the International Advisory Board of the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), and Series Editor of “Small State Studies” (Routledge).

Bárbara Simão is the head of research for privacy and surveillance at InternetLab. She previously worked as a digital rights researcher at the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) between 2017 and 2020. She was also a project advisor on “Data Protection in Digital Health Services” at Fiocruz.

Larry Diamond is the William L. Clayton Senior Fellow at Stanford University, where he is also Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He is also a founding coeditor of the Journal of Democracy, and he served at its helm (with Marc F. Plattner) for over thirty years.  

Beth Kerley is a program officer at the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, where she manages the Forum’s emerging technologies portfolio. She was previously associate editor at the Journal of Democracy. 

Damon Wilson is the president and chief executive officer of the National Endowment for Democracy. Prior to joining NED, Mr. Wilson was the executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, worked at the National Security Council (NSC) as the director for Central, Eastern, and Northern European Affairs from 2004 to 2006, special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs at the NSC from 2007 to 2009, and as the executive secretary and chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.




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