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Digital democracy hackathon to empower citizens

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Seedstars has opened applications for the Digital Democracy Challenge, a global hackathon that aims to develop innovative solutions that strengthen and enhance digital democracy for citizens living under strict cyber restrictions and control.

Swiss-based investment holding firm Seedstars hosts innovation-led events and competitions in key emerging markets. The organisation seeks to connect stakeholders within these ecosystems, help build innovative companies from scratch with public and private partners, and invest in the top entrepreneurs.

The Digital Democracy Challenge seeks innovative, low-cost and viable digital solutions to uphold a digital civic and democratic public space under challenging and complex conditions.

It is on the lookout for solutions that would allow citizens, activists, civil society actors, dis-enfranchised political actors and other stakeholders to stay in contact with each other and their supporters abroad, keep the democratic space alive, maintain a space for dialogue and ideas, and provide first-hand accounts of government activities.

The hackathon calls for socially-committed citizens across the globe, problem-solvers, creative minds, democracy experts, programmers, graphic and web designers to come together in a 72-hour collaborative digital process. It will take place from 29 September to 1 October.

“The hackathon comes as a response to the growing decline of democracy,” says Seedstars.

“An open civic space allows citizens and civil society organisations to come together, share their interests and concerns, and act individually and collectively to influence and shape democratic societies. However, the level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2021 is down to the levels of around 1990.”

Digital democracy is the use of digital tools to shape a democratic society. It can make disenfranchised voices heard, encourage greater participation, and generate more trust in public institutions and decision-making.

The challenge will finish with a demo day, where the participants will pitch in front of a jury. The top three solutions will be selected and winners will receive prize money of $10 000 for first place, $8 000 for second place and $6 000 for third place.

Teams must have a minimum of three members and an idea or minimum viable product ready for the hackathon.

The solutions need to address the following key challenges:

  • A mix of urban and rural populations who cannot rely on face-to-face or in-person meetings to have their voice heard or civic participation coordinated.
  • Internet connectivity is restricted – from near-total internet shutdowns for a time, or the throttling of internet speed.
  • Key social media platforms might be blocked permanently or suspended.
  • Free, independent media is censored.
  • Frequent online misinformation campaigns run by authorities.
  • Significant digital surveillance laws, which might include penalties on the use of specific internet applications that protect privacy or increased access to private data.
  • Digital footprint of citizens on popular applications and websites are monitored. Censorship, together with much more severe, targeted human rights violations, may occur based on monitored activities.

To become part of the Digital Democracy Challenge, applications must be submitted before 13 September.

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