A new digital political arena has emerged, where technologies can help us finding new solutions, improving public services and increasing the participation of citizens in new ways to improve local democracy. We talk to Rait Pihelgas (EE/Reform Party) whose report “Strengthening local governance and representative democracy via new digital technology instruments” will be approved by the European Committee of the Regions.
“Representative democracy is not about voting after a certain period but about continuous interaction between the citizens and local representatives. My report therefore addresses the importance of engagement and participatory practices” Pihelgas says by way of introduction to the topic.
COVID-19 obviously had a big impact on his report. “It presented us with the biggest challenges of recent times, and we ought to use this opportunity to learn. The recommendations in the report have not been influenced directly by the current pandemic but their intention is hopefully more significant now”.
How does he think that COVID-19 will change local democracy?
“It is what we take from the pandemic. We were forced to abandon many ways in our daily routine, the question is whether some of them are worth bringing back after we “resume to normal”. We should not waste this crisis but make improvements. How do we decide at the local level, do we need to gather physically, or can the modern ICT be of use? How do we take care of the most vulnerable? How can we keep our education system open and what are the tools to be used for it? Where do we lack knowledge, where do we lack equipment? These are all questions we need to ask and address and this will all impact decision making at the local level and ultimately democracy”
Democracy and the Rule of Law in Europe are important debates right now in Europe. Pihelgas believes technology can be a part of the solution: