Policy Briefs & Reports

Democratizing the Digital Space: Harnessing Technology to Amplify Participation in Governance Processes in the Global South

Rahul Verma
Shantanu Kulshrestha

Centre for Policy Research, Southern Voice, UNDP Oslo Governance Centre

July 4, 2022

The rapid increase of users on social media platforms has shifted political debates and communication channels between citizens and states. While a decade ago governments may have tried to connect to citizens through their own platforms, now, many do so through social media. But what has been created? A deepening or widening of democracy? Or maybe just an illusion of democracy? States have quickly learnt how to monitor, influence and even weaponize digital platforms. As the world fell into an increased digital reliance with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, it became clear that while digitalization can connect people, expand businesses and provide services to those geographically out of reach, it can also polarise communities, spread misinformation and incite violence. The manipulation of digital technologies for various political motivations is continually reinforcing the lesson that innovation in itself has no value; its value comes instead from how people use it.

This report explores how the digital world has impacted the Global South, putting the rights of users and their participation in governance processes at the centre of the conversation. We can’t roll back time or innovation, but we can work towards a world where it works for democracy and human rights, and not against them.

This report was prepared as part of a joint collaboration with Southern Voice and UNDP Oslo Governance Centre.