Democracy and technology
Digital technologies shape all aspects of life, including the activities, functioning and decision-making of public institutions and their relations with citizens and society. Democracy and governance may thus be at stake in a variety of ways and areas. The CDDG works to help Council of Europe member States, at all levels of government, to harness the opportunities offered by digital transformation whilst reducing possible risks.
Digital transformation touches all aspects of life and is accelerating at great speed, fuelled by progress in computing power, connectivity and the increased availability of data and capacities to process it. Digital transformation promises to improve efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and openness of governance, to promote sustainability and to increase accountability and civil participation. At the same time, digital technologies pose risks to democracy and governance, in particular with regards to privacy, data protection and undue surveillance to name just a few areas.
The CDDG provides guidance to member States on the above subject-matters, at all levels of government, with a view to strengthening trust in public institutions.
Currently, the CDDG is working on:
New technologies in the electoral process
The Committee of Ministers Guidelines on the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in electoral processes in Council of Europe member States prepared by the CDDG have been adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 9 February 2022 at the 1424th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies.
The Guidelines aim at ensuring the integrity of the electoral process and therefore enhancing citizens’ trust in democracy. They propose a set of requirements and safeguards to be introduced in the legislation and practices of the Council of Europe member States when using ICT in the different stages of the electoral process. The Guidelines cover the use of ICT solutions by, or on behalf of the relevant electoral authorities, in all the stages of the electoral process, except e-voting and e-counting which are covered by the Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on standards for e-voting.
In 2021, the CDDG held a review meeting on the implementation of Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on standards for e-voting. The CDDG highlighted that Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)5 on e-voting was a useful legal instrument for countries that were considering introducing it and for those which had e-voting already in place. The next review meeting on the implementation of the Recommendation will be held in 2023.
The impact of digital transformation on democracy and governance
The CDDG prepared a Study on the impact of the digital transformation, including artificial intelligence and automated decision-making, on democracy and good governance. With regards to governance in particular, the study explored how the 12 Principles of Good Democratic Governance were impacted by the use of digital technologies, including AI, in the public sector. While doing so, the CDDG also contributed to the activities of the Ad hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI).
In 2022-2023, the CDDG will continue to follow and contribute to the on-going work on AI, especially that of the newly created Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI). In addition, in 2024 the CDDG will work on a Handbook on the use of artificial intelligence systems in the public sector.
The Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on electronic democracy (e-democracy) sets out the key principles of e-democracy. The main objective of e-democracy is to support existing democratic processes. E-democracy opens up additional channels of communication among citizens themselves, between citizens and public authorities, among public authorities themselves and with all other stakeholders. At the same time, traditional channels will continue to be used.
The Recommendation is accompanied by a series of indicative guides: a set of generic tools and policies for an electronic democracy, a roadmap approach to e-democracy, a checklist for the introduction of e-democracy tools, a framework for reporting e-democracy initiatives, a guide to evaluating e-democracy, and a glossary.
To complement this set of standards, the CDDG has developed a Handbook to help all stakeholders in the democratic process to make best use of digital technologies in the interests of democracy and governance.