Democracy and participation, Using ICT (information and communication technologies) for enhancing democratic legitimacy

Digital Identity, Citizenship &Democracy in Europe winner


Who is behind this?

Prof. Dr. Dr. Ingolf Pernice

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG)


Who is joining forces?

Berlin Social Science Center (WZB)


The Humanized Internet (THI)


Düsseldorf Institute for Internet und Democracy (DIID)


Further partners: UCD Centre for Human Rights', (Ireland) || Institut de Recherche Informatique Fondamentale, (France) || procivis (Switzerland)

Idea Sketch | Proposal


Idea pitch

There is an increasing gap between citizens and governing bodies in the EU. EU citizens must have more direct voice in politics. ICT’s offer ways to make the EU a living democracy. We see Random-Sample Voting (RSV) as a cost-effective tool for polling and voting to foster citizens’ participation. Based upon digital identity (DI) registered at EU level, it promises EU citizens easier expression of their will on many specific questions and a closer relationship with their representatives.

Where will your idea take place?

City: for the field test, Essen or Bochum, if possible
Online: potentially applicable at any place

Why does Europe need your idea?

E-voting systems at all levels can tie in with the digital identity of the citizen if connected to the identities registers. Multiple identities of each citizen, including that as an EU citizen, are based for everybody on one digital registration. This allows active e-participation in political decision-making in local, regional, national and European politics. The multilevel approach combined with a tool for facilitated voting, like RSV, and based upon one DI so allows for a new kind of democratic experience from the bottom to the top. People learn that their voice can matter, from the local to the European level; they will be more motivated to use these tools for taking ownership in politics that affect their conditions of life.

What is your impact?

We would wish to have a prototype of a digital voting system, successfully tested at the local level and accepted by the community as a useful and safe tool for citizens’ participation in the digital constellation, and so contribute to the public debate on democracy to be strengthened in times of increasing populism and nationalism, in spite of and against the spread of fake news, hate speech and disinformation campaigns. We would share the technology and our experience with interested institutions and organisations. A great success would be if we could convince national and EU institutions to support us and cooperate in effectively applying our system with a view to enhance citizens’ participation in political processes.

How do you get there?

We had a workshop on May 17, 2018, to discuss the idea and problems to solve. Procivis will provide us with the DI-tech, David Chaum allows us to use the RSV-tech, both for free. Our first step will be to combine the two to set up our system for e-voting, while we clear issues of safety, law and political acceptance (workshop 1): results presented at a press conference and public discussion at HIIG “Digitaler Salon” (Dec. 2018). Step two is to plan & organise the field test (workshop 2): establishing contacts to local communities and media, explaining system, p.r. campaigns (public launch & vote: June 2019). Step 3 is the assessment of the outcomes and presentation at a public event with media and civil society (September 2019). A report on the project will be prepared and published.

What is your story?

All my professional life is dedicated to the European idea. Having given us peace, freedom and prosperity for more than 70 years, this perhaps greatest achievement of modern civilization is under stress today. 10 years of work with the European Commission and 22 years teaching and research on European constitutional law made me understand not only the value of integration but also the need for people taking ownership and more directly participating. After having founded and run the WHI (1998), and co-founded the HIIG (2012), I learned about the opportunities the internet offers for enhancing democracy particularly at the EU level. People and political leaders should be enabled to use IT for closing the still widening gap between EU citizens and institutions. This is what we are striving fo

Who are you doing it for?

In fine, at the centre of our idea are all of us, the citizens of the Union, as well as our representatives in parliaments and governments. And beyond this, the citizens of candidate countries for EU membership, on their way to develop and stabilise their democracies; last, but not least, the idea reaches up to what could be, one day, the global citizens. Our partner organisations have specific competence and experience in either the technology or social and political sciences as needed to implement the idea. We will also cooperate with organizations like Liquid Democracy e.V., and PulseofEurope, with local communities (field test) and with political parties and institutions. The project found some interest when presented to the EP (AFCO) in April 2018, and we will keep the EP updated.

What makes your idea stand apart?

Other initiatives like in Estonia and Barcelona are focussed on national and local matters, ours will be a genuinely European system. It is also different as it will (1) be based upon registered self-sovereign digital identities applicable to multilevel (local, regional, national, European) voting; (2) it allows, thanks to RSV, for facilitated, rapid, safe and cost-effective expression of the will of the citizens, with extremely low risk of manipulation. This would not replace general elections nor real referendums where necessary, but serve as an instrument for more frequent and focussed interplay between leaders and members of, respectively, e.g. their community, political party, civil society organisation etc. It gives people more voice and so stimulates democratic participation.

€ 50000,-

Funding requested from Advocate Europe

€ 82227,-

Total budget

€ 50000,-

Funding granted from Advocate Europe

Major expenses

Procivis (DI) and David Chaum (RSV) have committed themselves to provide us the technology for free. On this basis we will need (see Project Financial Plan) for: Office expenses: 6205,- Travel and accommodation costs : 5.000,- Accommodation and subsistence: 1.200,- Events costs (room rental): 2.000,- Public Relations: 3.600,- Unforseen (5% of other material costs): 1.210,- Personal costs: 62.052,-

What do you need from the Advocate Europe community?

If there are similar ideas or initiatives underway, we would be happy to join efforts. There may be experience with digital identity based upon blockchain or with e-voting systems that helps us making the project a success. Critique, questions and additional ideas are most welcome.

Project Journey

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Why this idea?

Stepping towards a more informed and substantiated democratic discourse, the project prototypes a new e-polling model that gives citizens a digital identity, thinks beyond current election models and boosts participation through random sample voting on EU questions – easily accessible, secure, direct and affordable. Because we need to practise forming opinions and deciding more often than every five years.


Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society _ HIIG




Idea created on Jan. 18, 2018
Last edit on July 4, 2019

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