The Digital Europe 2030 project is entering its third round. Under the title "Democracy by Design", the project looks at the development of digital technologies: How and at what points must digital companies take democratic values into account in their business activities so that digital technologies do not stand in the way of a strong democracy and ultimately also make a positive contribution to society? On 18 April, the interdisciplinary expert group met for the first time for a virtual workshop on this topic.
WHERE "DEMOCRACY BY DESIGN" COMES IN
The exchange at the workshop emphasized that the topic of corporate responsibility for democracy is already on the agenda of many large tech companies. Google, Apple, Mozilla and SAP, for example, are already addressing the issue of ethics and responsibility. In addition, best practices such as those of Salesforce, which has established its own team for ethical technology assessment and a value-based guideline for the use of its own software by customers, can serve as an example.
However, there is still a great need for action in order to fully utilise the entrepreneurial potential in the sense of our democracy. The numerous fields of action include, for example, product design, internal and external participation and co-determination, but the design of KPIs and auditing mechanisms can also be addressed.
A TOOLKIT FOR DIGITAL COMPANIES
In order to promote and make even better use of this potential, we have convened an interdisciplinary expert group with experts from the digital industry, the civic and GovTech scene and academia. For example, the AI expert Julia Reinhardt, who as a Senior Fellow of the Mercator Foundation at the AI Campus Berlin deals with the regulation of artificial intelligence at the EU level and its implementation by companies, but also the Chief Digital Officer of the Federal Government, Frederik Blachetta, belong to the expert group.
The goal is to develop an online toolkit in the third project phase, "Democracy by Design", which is aimed at the employees of digital companies. With the help of the toolkit, firstly, the awareness of companies to see themselves as democratic actors should be raised. Secondly, companies should be encouraged to consider the potentials and risks of their own business models for our democracy. And thirdly, concrete fields of action for business models that promote democracy are to be shown through best-practice examples.
LINKING TECHNOLOGY AND BUSINESS WITH DEMOCRACY
So what does such a toolkit need to do? In the seed workshop, the experts defined two main requirements:
On the one hand, the toolkit should be connectable to the corporate world and is particularly successful if one manages to start new processes in companies that go beyond self-reflection and lead to concrete changes. For example, setting up a committee to reflect on the impact of product or service design on society.
Secondly, the toolkit should raise awarness by employees of in digital companies that they play an important role in our democracy and that they must act responsibly to protect our democracy. The background discussions with our experts in March and April revealed that despite the regulations at EU level and the associated debates, companies are not yet fully aware of the effect the digital economy has on society. Thus, the toolkit provides a transfer, as it links technical and economic approaches to solutions with social norms and democratic values, such as fairness, traceability and self-determined control. In the following months, the pre-final toolkit will be tested by users and discussed with international experts from society, business and science, among others at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on 15 an 16 May in Copenhagen.
More information on the project can be found on our website.