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New Initiative Launches To Decentralize The Internet, Empower People

Above: 15M Citizens Movement in Spain.

A new European-wide project launches which will build decentralized and privacy-aware tools for democratic participation to empower European citizens.

D-CENT is a Europe-wide project creating privacy-aware tools and applications for direct democracy and economic empowerment. Together with the citizens and developers, we are creating a decentralised social networking platform for large-scale collaboration and decision-making.

The initiative, D-CENT (Decentralised Citizens ENgagement Technologies), backed by the European Commission, will see the development of new open source, decentralized and privacy-aware digital tools and applications for direct democratic and economic empowerment. Together with citizens, social movements, and developers, D-CENT is creating a distributed social networking platform for large-scale collaboration to solve social problems and allow full citizen participation in the democratic process. The project will study possible implementations of liquid democracy: collective deliberation, decision-making, and the pros and cons of proxy voting.

The project will also explore how to link democratic decision-making to economic empowerment, experimenting how communities might manage common goods and facilitate online exchanges with Bitcoin-style crypto currencies for the common good.

Through engagement with well-established citizen movements, such as M15 in Spain, Open Ministry in Finland and Citizen Foundation in Iceland, the tools will be tested in large-scale pilots in Finland, Iceland and Spain later this year.

Francesca Bria, coordinator of D-CENT at Nesta, said: “D-CENT will valorize the collective knowledge of citizens, allowing them to re-imagine and re-design new democratic institutions. After Snowden’s revelations, digital rights are perceived as key issue that D-CENT is going to address, ensuring that people are in full control of their data, maintaining privacy and trust in technology they use. With D-CENT we want to support new citizen movements and build technologies designed for the common good.”

D-CENT will use free, open source software and open data, and the code will be released under an open source license. This allows reusability across Europe, and software developers to use the code and write API-based applications on top of it.

D-CENT will work with existing open knowledge initiatives that have similar aims to redecentralised digital infrastructures for citizens empowerment. The project is a part of a larger set of so-called CAPS initiatives (CAPS = Collective Awareness Platforms for Social innovation) in which collective online platforms are being developed. These initiatives aim to help people to improve their lives and collectively achieve better well-being, exploiting the power of the Internet.

Building on existing experiments

The D-CENT platform is built together with citizens. Pilots running in Finland, Iceland and Spain gather use cases and knowledge from people who have already used online tools for direct democracy on an ad hoc basis. Direct Democracy/Political Empowerment – enabling more direct engagement in democratic decision making. D-CENT builds on Europe’s largest experiments in direct democracy, showing how millions of citizens can become engaged in deliberation, and decision-making:

  • Spain: 15M citizen movement, one of Europe’s most dynamic social movements
  • Iceland: Citizen Foundation, Better Reykjavik, and Better Iceland Participation democracy websites
  • Finland: Open ministry Crowdsourced lawmaking site linked to Parliament

The second cluster of pilots will connect these new approaches to empowerment to economic platforms, to extend, scale and link up community digital social currencies, and creating the building blocks for an economy that links exchange to trust, deliberation and collective awareness.

Open, scalable, modular technology

D-CENT will be an open, modular and decentralized platform to build privacy-aware applications. The code-base will be described by open specifications and released under an open source license. Developers will be able to easily write API-based apps plus add new modules. The modular platform enables to share in real-time open data, democratic decision making tools, and digital social currency for the social good. The D-CENT platforms will go beyond data aggregation to enable deliberation and collective judgment, informed by feedback.

D-CENT principles

  • community ownership of social data
  • security and privacy by design
  • open standards
  • access to knowledge and open source
  • mass scalability

D-CENT Democracy reboot: Re-imagining democracy and currency in Europe – Panel 2 from D-CENT on Vimeo.

The D-CENT’s launch event “Democracy reboot: Re-imagining democracy and currency in Europe” discussed direct democracy and digital currencies. The event, organized at the 14th of March 2014 in London, launched the project to a wider audience.

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