Talking Tech and Democracy and Governance at RightsCon

  • Steve DiPangrazio

The mission at IRI is simple, we advance democracy and further political rights around the world. The digital age has added a new element to our day-to-day that is both exciting and scary, and this is why it is so important for us to be at RightsCon.

The paradoxical reality is that digital technology is both not at all what IRI does, yet everything that we do.

It is very common to hear people say that technology is not a cure-all. It can’t just be thrown at a problem and become a solution. That is true. However, not including technology as a consideration in project design can miss potential impact and lead to harmful side-effects. 5 billion people have at-home internet access today. In the last ten years, the percentage of the population with internet access has more than doubled.

Secure access to the internet and online arenas for dialogue and information access can patch constraints on democratic activists in closing spaces, social media can provide a platform for citizens to make their voices heard, and open-data portals can make gigantic strides for government transparency.

At the same time, though, the assumption of digital access can also unintentionally eliminate the traditional mechanisms that many vulnerable groups still rely on. This very assumption of the digital space’s ability to be utilized for just about anything means that, for many, the systems they have centralized online for receiving information, communicating with others, and conducting work can be turned off with one metaphorical flip of a switch.

This week, at RightsCon, we’ll be having conversations about the process of harnessing the power of technology, responsibly and effectively, for the promotion of political rights. If you are coming to RightsCon we would love for you to join us. If not, follow our conversations through @IRIglobal and @stevedipan and we’ll see you there next year!

Digital Participation, Digital Responsiveness: Connecting Citizens with Decision-Makers
Time: 10:30-11:45am on Friday, March 31st
Room: Evasion (1st Floor)

IRI will be joined by the ePaństwo Foundation and K-Monitor to talk through the needs and challenges around promoting citizen participation in decision-making processes.

The Online Space: A New Ecosystem for Democratic Participation
Time: 12:00-1:15pm on Friday, March 31st
Room: Stoclet (Ground Floor)

IRI will be hosting the eGovernance Academy, Benetech, and local activists for a conversation about how an open, free and secure internet can aid the promotion of those same characteristics in closed and closing societies.


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