Polisdigitocracy: Digital Technology, Citizen Engagement and Climate Action – A New C40-Arup Report

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An op-ed by Eduardo Paes, C40 Chair and Mayor of Rio de Janeiro

In 2013, widespread protests brought Rio de Janeiro to a halt. People took the streets calling for better health and education, for an end to corruption and for their voices to be heard and to matter. Rather than trying to arrest or quiet the protesters, we decided to learn from them – and even to employ some to help us articulate a new way of engaging with the public. This was the inspiration for what I call Polisdigitocracy, which has become a key pillar of my administration in Rio.

To understand Polisdigitocracy, it is useful to return to the Greek city-states of 2,000 years ago. There the Polis engaged in heated debate over political issues and representative democracy was born. This form of government has remained broadly unchanged since.

But in the last decade, two key factors have dramatically altered our traditional conception of democracy. First, cities – rather than just nation states – are now at the epicenter of the world’s most pressing issues, including health, education, mobility and even climate change. Second, the digital revolution has dramatically transformed the way people connect and communicate on an unprecedented scale. Debates among citizens are now more agile and varied than ever.

In Rio and in many other cities, we have decided to turn the threat of the digital revolution into an opportunity – one that can help us understand the future of representative democracy. Through Polisdigitocracy – the use of open data, social media and digital technology to drive citizen engagement – we must listen, renew legitimacy and turn formal consultation into constant collaboration. Polisdigitocracy has incredible potential to help our cities engage and excite citizens to achieve our common goals.

At C40, our 82 member cities are working together to address —> Read More