Local Democracy in the Digital Age: towards unexploited opportunities and future challenges

May 20, 2024

Digital & innovation

On May 14, 2024, as part of the General Assembly and Festival of ALDA, the Digitalisation and Innovation Hub hosted the “Local democracy in the digital age: towards unexploited opportunities and future challenges” event at the El Born Sala Castellví, in Barcelona (Spain).

This event brought together key stakeholders from international, European, and local spheres to discuss good practices in utilising digital tools to foster civic participation. The session highlighted the roles of artificial intelligence (AI), immersive technologies and digital platforms in enhancing online civic engagement and community development. 

The session began with welcoming remarks from Ms. Dafne Sgarra, Hub Coordinator and Project Manager at ALDA. Later on, Mr. Ned Howey, Vice President of ACTE and founder of Tectonica, highlighted in the keynote speech concerns about public disengagement from democracy, and argued that: 

“New technologies, if used correctly, could reinvigorate democratic engagement.”

The event continued with a panel discussion focusing on digital innovation at the local and regional level. The first speaker, Mr. Arnau Monterde Mateo – responsible for and co-founder of Decidim.orgintroduced Decidim, an open-source digital platform designed to facilitate participatory strategic planning, collaboration, and idea collection, that exemplifies how digital participation can complement and expand traditional forms of civic engagement. 

Continuing the panel discussion, Ms. Elisenda Alamany, Vice President of International Relations and Digitalisation at the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) discussed the Smart AMB app, which addresses various competencies of the metropolitan area, including mobility and sustainability. 

Mr. Oleksandr Bilenkyi, Head of the Poltava Regional Council in Ukraine, finalised the panel, emphasising the role of digital tools in promoting civic engagement and supporting local governance. The SMART region platform allows for interaction and cooperation between local self-government bodies and communities, providing direct access to services and opportunities.

The last contribution to the session was the speech of Mr. Olivier Schulbaum, Strategic Director of Platoniq, who spoke on the vital role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the digital transition. Schulbaum emphasised that democracy requires more than just digital tools and it needs easier access for everyone, transparency, and community oversight. 

The event concluded with a Q&A session, where participants discussed the regulation of civic technologies, tools available to tackle disinformation, and strategies to keep people invested in participatory processes.