We recently sat down with Adam Froman, the Centre for e-Democracy’s Founder & Chair, to ask him about his passion for e-Democracy, the need for more knowledge in this area what he’s hoping to achieve with the Centre in the long run.
Why e-Democracy? You’re an entrepreneur and the CEO of a successful digital strategy and innovation firm. What led to your desire to launch this Centre?
As a pioneer in the digital industry in Canada, much of my work has been focused on how digital technologies have given choice and control to consumers, which has fundamentally changed the way organizations interact with their customers?and the way governments and citizens interact with one another.
My company, Delvinia, has had first-hand experience working with governments tackling this challenge. In 2003, we helped the City of Markham launch Internet voting and since then we have worked with them on a number of digital initiatives to engage their citizens to participate more actively with their municipal government.
This year, Delvinia also worked with the City of Guelph to develop an Open Government Action Plan that was approved by council in September.
Over the years, my work has included numerous initiatives designed to transform the democratic process, especially the ways that citizens and government interact.
Why do you feel it’s important to study e-Democracy?
I don’t believe there is enough knowledge about this area. Given the growth in the use of digital technologies and the effect on democracy, there is a significant need to provide a balanced and scholarly perspective on the impact of technology on the relationship between government and citizens and the consequences for democratic health.
With the growth of digital technologies in every aspect of our lives, we are already seeing how digital technologies like social media, mobile apps and Internet voting are disrupting traditional democracy in both good ways and bad.
In order for our politicians to make the right decisions about how to implement digital technologies without getting run over in the process, we need to provide them with access to knowledge that is both studied in a scientific manner and provides insights by those whose only vested interest is the pursuit of knowledge.
The Centre is going to be setting up a series of programs designed to engage researchers and provide opportunities for them in this field. Why is that important to you?
Canada is home to some of world’s leading academic research institutions with very talented and experienced academic researchers who have the skills to scientifically study topics and create knowledge and a balanced perspective on a particular area of study. These researchers have access to millions of dollars of government funding to conduct research in areas that won’t necessarily impact society today, but will impact society in years to come.
It’s often difficult today for young researchers to establish themselves with positions within academic institutions. I believe in supporting next generation researchers and my company is keen to help spur on innovation. As an industry leader, I wanted to help move this research ahead.
Why is the Centre’s work relevant to the average Canadian?
Particularly in Canada, where we have an extremely digitally-engaged population, combined with the an increased lack of trust in our politicians and political system, we need to address democracy from a citizen-centric perspective, which means building an understanding about how digital technologies should be used to create a more engaged citizen and to increase trust in our democratic process.
I recognize there are a lot of risks and challenges associated with digital technologies and democracy that need to be overcome in to maintain a secure and credible environment, and these risks and challenges need to be studied as well in order for industry and government to develop solutions to overcome them.
What are you hoping the Centre will achieve?
My goal is to make the Centre a hub for e-Democracy research. As the Centre grows it will house a comprehensive repository of freely available academic reports on a range of topics like Internet voting, open government and intelligent communities; all written in plain, clear language that is easy to understand.
By initiating, translating and disseminating research and knowledge on the impact of digital technologies on politics and democracy, we’re looking to inform citizens and governments and make a real impact on Canadians’ knowledge and understanding of the use of technology in society and politics.