An EU funded project to develop open source and decentralized tools to promote democracy and citizen participation

Within the European D-CENT project the partners piloted several open-source digital infrastructures aimed at facilitating various aspects of the democratic process like encouraging debate, enabling citizens to stay informed about governmental decisions, and rewarding social engagement toward democratic ideas. The three-year project was built on the experience and user base of existing digital democracy tools used mainly in Finland, Iceland, and Spain. The project was led by the UK-based innovation agency NESTA and was a collaboration between many partners within the EU, including several grassroots political activist communities. It was funded by the EU with a total budget of 2.5 million dollars.

One of the eight tools presented was an app called "Decisions". Inspired by the open API of the Helsinki City Council that provides access to all municipal decisions, users could search for their topics of interest and use the app to subscribe to the notifications, keeping them informed about their development. Another tool was "Your Priorities", an app that allowed citizens to propose, discuss and prioritize ideas, using a point system.

Unfortunately in efforts of digitizing democracy, the focus too often lies on recreating existing structures digitally, rather than harnessing the power of decentralized and accessible tools that digital technology can offer to improve them. Especially when the Covid pandemic hit in 2020, many European governments desperately tried to find digital solutions, but the results of D-CENT seem to have been largely irrelevant. Many of the platforms and implementations developed between 2013-16 are still live and the applications are accessible for download, however, most are not being actively maintained.

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