The Digital Democracy Challenge is a global hackathon led by Seedstars that aims to develop innovative solutions that strengthen and enhance digital democracy for citizens living under strict cyber restrictions and control. Interested applicants can sign up here before 13th September 2021.
The Digital Democracy Challenge seeks innovative, low-cost, and viable digital solutions to uphold a digital civic and democratic public space under challenging and complex conditions. The program is on the lookout for solutions that would allow citizens, activists, civil society actors, disenfranchised political actors and other stakeholders to stay in contact with each other and their supporters abroad, keep the democratic space alive, maintain a space for dialogue and ideas, and provide first-hand accounts of government activities.
The hackathon calls for socially committed citizens worldwide, problem solvers, creative minds, democracy experts, programmers, graphic and web designers to come together in a 72-hour collaborative digital process. It will finish on a Demo Day where the participants will pitch in front of a jury. The top three solutions will be selected and the winners will receive prize money of $10K USD for first place, $8K USD for second place, and $6K USD for third.
Teams qualified must have a minimum of three members and must have an idea or minimum viable product ready for the hackathon. The solutions need to address the following key challenges:
- A mix of urban and rural populations cannot rely on face-to-face or in-person meetings to have their voice heard or civic participation coordinated.
- Internet connectivity is restricted – from near-total internet shutdowns for a time or the ‘throttling’ of internet speed.
- Key social media platforms might be blocked permanently or suspended.
- Free, independent media is censored.
- Frequent online misinformation campaigns run by authorities in place
- Significant digital surveillance laws are in place, which might include penalties on the use of specific internet applications that protect privacy or increased access to private data;
- Digital footprint of citizens on popular applications and websites are monitored. Censorship, together with much more severe, targeted human rights violations, may occur based on monitored activities.
The hackathon comes as a response to the growing decline of democracy. An open civic space allows citizens and civil society organizations to come together, share their interests and concerns and act individually and collectively to influence and shape democratic societies. However, the level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2020 is down to the levels around 1990.
New information and communication tools have transformed every other sphere of life, including playing a role in promoting democracy. We note examples of innovative use of technology to drive pro-democracy movements in many places worldwide over the last few years. A prominent example is Hong Kong, where activists have leveraged their digital tools to protest authoritarianism.
Digital democracy is the use of digital tools to shape a democratic society. It can make disenfranchised voices heard, encourage greater participation, and generate more trust in public institutions and decision making. However, in many countries autocratization is on the rise.
Technology has facilitated inclusive participation far beyond any other means of communication. It has also served to promote democracy and expand citizen participation while also reaching people who have been left out of democratic processes. Hence, it is vitally important that we come together to develop innovative solutions and contribute to furthering Goal 16 of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This will help people keep the principles and practice of democratic and civic participation alive at the community and civil society levels, especially in places that have recently fallen or have been under restrictive regimes. So please join us in promoting and upholding democracy where most needed.