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The Future of Democracy at SXSW

While in Austin for SXSW, I gave a keynote about the future of tech and elections. I spoke a little about the history of how tech has impacted democracy and what we can learn from that for the next twenty. A huge thank you to everyone that came. For those that couldn’t I wanted to share an excerpt of my presentation as written below. 

This year we’ll have elections in the United States, Brazil, Philippines and Kenya among many others. In 2024, the future of the Internet is on the line as the world will see for the first time ever not only a U.S. presidential election, but elections in India, Indonesia, Ukraine, Taiwan, Mexico, potentially the UK and the European Parliament — all around the same time. It’s a huge geopolitical moment for the world where the governments of all those major countries could all change in a very short period of time. Companies, researchers, regulators, the media, the international community and civil society all need to start working together now to start building, learning and iterating on the tools we’ll need to keep those elections free and fair. If we fail, it could set us back decades.  

 

Technology has brought so many good things to our lives. These past two years so many of us would have been a lot more lonely, depressed and bored if we didn’t have technology to keep us connected to friends and family, allow us to keep doing our jobs, watch way too much Netflix and order groceries and many other supplies without ever leaving our homes.  

 

I think technology still has the possibility to bring positive change and engagement to our civic lives. Do we have more work to do on mitigating the harms? Absolutely. But we can also do more to help connect people to their local governments, to restore trust in institutions and bring transparency to the process. We can use the internet and power of friends and influencers to get more people to not only register to vote but actually go and vote in more elections than just for President. Speaking of voting we can find ways to safely expand options for people to vote while protecting against fraud. We’re seeing more young people, people of color, women and many others wanting to run for office. We’re seeing people use the web to shine a light on problems we as a society have ignored for way too long and to organize to demand change. We need to help figure out the future of journalism — especially local journalism — to adapt to the way people consume news now. We need to start teaching kids in elementary school how to not only be productive members of their communities but how to be good digital citizens. We need to do this not only in the U.S. but around the world. 

You can read the full remarks and see the slides I made here. 

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