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Public Support for Technological Progress Offers an Opportunity to Strengthen Democracy

Earlier this year, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the French think tank La Fondation pour l'innovation politique (Fondapol) partnered to conduct a global survey of 36,395 citizens in 42 democracies in Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. 

Although the survey found strong support for democracy as the best possible form of government, some 49 percent of respondents worldwide thought that democracy was working poorly in their own countries. Moreover, about a third of all respondents questioned the utility of voting. The survey also revealed public optimism about technological progress and trusting of big tech companies like Amazon, Twitter and Google. Sixty-three percent of respondents worldwide considered technological and scientific discoveries as positive, and 67 percent of respondents expressed trust in the big tech companies.

The digital world offers both challenges and opportunities for IRI and its mission of advancing democracy. At its best, the digital world can link more people to their governments, help politicians be responsive to citizens and make it easier for people to engage in the political process. Whether it is introducing open data solutions and crowdsourcing to create sustainable community networks to address public safety in El Salvador or launching an SMS platform connecting elected officials and citizens in Kenya, IRI is always looking for innovative ways to advance democracy using technology.

However, technology also offers new opportunities for malign actors — from authoritarian regimes to terrorist organizations — to undermine democracy. That’s why IRI’s efforts to help train and equip citizens and democratic institutions with the tools to defend against digital threats, misinformation, and digitally enabled authoritarianism are more important than ever.  IRI’s Beacon Project, which equips our European partners with the latest media monitoring tools to fight misinformation, is just one of the ways IRI is harnessing the power of technology to safeguard democracy. All of these digital democracy efforts are crucial in helping renew public trust in democracy and democratic institutions worldwide.