Type of experiment online democracy platform
City Buenos Aires
Name of experiment DemocracyOS

What is democracy for the internet era?

Developed by Net Democracy, a nonprofit in Buenos Aires in 2012, DemocracyOS is an open-source software platform that engages citizens in the implementation of what DemocracyOS calls a delegative democracy – “a balance between representative democracy and direct democracy.”1

As founder Pia Mancini says, “democracy was built on 15th century tools.”2 Political systems have lagged behind technology. Uses of technology to enhance democracy have remained fragmented and are yet to realize their potential. Democracies around the world are weak. In what Mancini calls a “crisis of representation,” representatives have strayed too far from the desires of their electorates.3
DemocracyOS is a platform that allows governments to facilitate political engagement at three levels: data-collection, debate, and voting.3 Designed to lower the barrier to entry for political engagement, it combines free, open-source software  with simplified language to explain bills and initiatives. DemocracyOS grants access to learn about and debate each new bill presented in Congress.4 Governments put proposals to vote. Citizens either vote directly or delegate their votes to experts when decisions require specialized knowledge.3 The platform requires registration to be supported by verifiable identifications like government-issued IDs.4 Critiques of the software point to this as a privacy and anonymity issue, but it was very much by design.3 Net Democracy prioritized reliability, accountability, and transparency by making citizens publicly responsible for their choices and opinions.4

Initially, Net Democracy offered DemocracyOS to existing political parties but lack of interest led Net Democracy to found the Net Party in 2012 and run candidates for Congress who would have voted based on the platform’s poles.3 The party won 22,000 votes during the election–not enough to win a seat but enough to garner attention and support for their proposal.3 The software has now been translated into 15 languages and is in use by governments and private sector entities from Mexico to Spain to Tunisia to Kenya.1

Digital platforms have the potential to democratize democracy and create transparency, dialogue, and collaboration.
  1. DemocracyOS Site: http://democracyos.org/
  2. Mancini, Pia. “How to Upgrade Democracy for the Internet Era.” Ted Global. October, 2014: <https://www.ted.com/talks/pia_mancini_how_to_upgrade_democracy_for_the_internet_era>
  3. Finley, Klint. “Out in the Open: An Open Source Website That Gives Voters a Platform to Influence Politicians.” WIRED. May 5, 2014: <https://www.wired.com/2014/05/democracy-os/>
  4. Scaturro, Michael. “Designing an Operating System for Democracy.” The Atlantic. July 19, 2014: <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/07/designing-an-operating-system-for-democracy/374526/>