Picture source: https://youthvipi.com/

Youth engagement through digital democracy

Introduction

In today’s world, there are many technological solutions for various purposes in society. These can for example be for a specific purpose where an innovative idea can make a huge difference. Digital solutions can help improve or supplement the democratic processes in what is known as “digital democracy”. (Chandler, D., & Munday, R. 2021)

What is digital democracy?

Digital democracy which can also be called e-democracy can mean several things and there is no strict definition. Most people associate digital democracy with online participation, which can make it easier for public engagement in a society.(ibid.)

Picture source: Six pioneers in digital democracy, 2021

WeSolve collaboration with Youth Vipi

Still confused about what exactly is digital democracy? Or do you want to learn more? Then a perfect case study can give you insight into the thought process behind digital democracy. In the fall of 2021, WeSolve collaborated with a Kenyan company called Youth Vipi.

VRYouth Vipi was launched in order to increase public participation in Kenya for young people and to educate them on taking political action. Together with WeSolve, they applied for the Civil Society fund by coming up with proposals for workshops and events for young people.

Youth engagement

Including the youth in political action can be a difficult task. According to Youth Vipi, only 49% of the youth had voted in the last Kenyan elections. That is why they specifically chose to target young people, as they make up a large part of the population. Young citizens feel less concerned about politics and can even feel their vote makes little difference. They may also feel they don’t know enough to choose who to vote for. The other issue is that young people are the future, and they will be the ones to feel the political changes in a country for years to come. Strategies must therefore take into account how they can make the issues more relevant to them, and convincing enough for them to create engagement at the legal voting age of 18. Information must be broken down, and simplified enough for any audience to follow.

So how exactly can a company increase the voter turnout of young people in a developing country such as Kenya? Well there are several ways of how.

Firstly: Develop a strategy to make a “boring” topic for youth such as democratic voting as something “cool” or “interesting”.

Youth Vipi specifically chose VR technology as the way to communicate their message because it is something that will resonate with people. With the addition of the WeSolve app, the features provide enough tools to come with easy and interactive ways to educate and facilitate the workshops.

Secondly: Provide a long term strategy that is reflected on the local surroundings.

Youth Vipi aims to spread their vision to the rest of Africa, where the low voter turnout of young people is a real issue. They have a specific target being the young people, and they also involve social media as a main driver due to Kenya having a very active social media usage compared to other African countries. (youthvipi.com)

Finally: Don’t just facilitate, educate as well.

When designing a workshop to create interest, it’s important that it also informs the participants of simple things that may not have crossed their minds. From practicalities of how, when and where to vote, as well as what it actually means to think politically. An important essence of democracy is agreeing with others, and compromising on issues to reach a common goal.
There you go, some simple steps for inspiration of creating your own digital democracy idea!

But let’s talk more about the concept itself, and focus on the types of digital democracy values that may be created in the future.

  • Liberal
    Solutions that protect the individual rights of citizens and give them more opportunity to communicate their opinion. The liberal value is for the rights and freedom of the individual citizen. (Dahlbjerg 2011)
  • Deliberate
    Citizens being more involved in the decision making of communities and allowing them to take collective action. Participation between members is important to reach a common consensus. (Dahlbjerg 2011)
  • Counter-public
    The focus of creating spaces for specific people that are otherwise excluded in society. These online spaces can counter the public or general narrative and have an opportunity to be included. (Dahlbjerg 2011)

All three purposes are important and can all together create a positive impact in society. WeSolve has the potential in all three digital democracy types to provide inclusiveness, individual freedoms and deliberation. The app allows for individuals to voice their opinion freely with the issue reporting function. This can help members raise issues to municipalities and organizations in a transparent and easy manner.

Furthermore, the inclusiveness of auto translation and the anonymous feature allows for all types of citizens to feel secure and comfortable with communicating with each other. Collective action can be reached through the discussion that this app can create, as well as surveys being used to make collective decision making possible.

In this way, WeSolve is a perfect example of a digital tool that combines all three of the digital democracy types to be used in organizations and society.

Hopefully this article can inspire you to come up with the next innovative digital democracy solution!

Bibliography
– Chandler, D., & Munday, R. (2021) digital democracy. In A Dictionary of Social Media. : Oxford University Press. from https://www-oxfordreference-com.ep.fjernadgang.kb.dk/view/10.1093/acref/9780191803093.001.0001/acref-9780191803093-e-367.
– Dahlberg L. 2011 Re-constructing digital democracy: An outline of four ‘positions.’ New Media & Society.;13(6):855-872. doi:10.1177/1461444810389569
– Nesta. 2021. Six pioneers in digital democracy. [online] Available at: https://www.nesta.org.uk/feature/six-pioneers-digital-democracy/, youthvipi.com 2021

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About The Author

Christoffer Kanstrup

Master in Global studies at Roskilde University, focusing on international politics, sustainable development and democracy.