Aligning the development, use, and governance of technology with democratic values and respect for human rights
About the Advancing Digital Democracy (ADD) initiative
Digital technologies have fostered tremendous economic growth and increased commerce; accelerated the development of new industries; lent agency and voice to activists and underserved communities; and led to advances in healthcare and climate science. But while technology has produced profound benefits, the rapid pace of technological innovation has often outpaced our ability to assess and constrain potential harms. Authoritarians have weaponized technology and data, and digital platforms, models, and systems have become an important battleground on which the struggle for democracy is playing out. An authoritarian vision of technology's global governance is also shaping decisions in multilateral fora, and gaining traction with everyday citizens. In the absence of globally agreed upon 'rules of the road' rooted in universal human rights, states struggle to balance human rights protections with national security considerations. In the absence of economic incentives for technology companies to reform their revenue models, technologists struggle to embed democratic values and respect for human rights in the development and design of algorithms, machine learning models, and software systems.
USAID has developed a comprehensive, whole-of-society approach to tackle these challenges head on: the Advancing Digital Democracy (ADD) initiative. This is a key USAID contribution to the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, which Administrator Power announced at the December 2021 Summit for Democracy.
Activities under ADD will foster open, secure, and inclusive digital ecosystems that advance, rather than undermine, democratic values and respect for human rights, and will take place under three complementary pillars:
- Help governments fulfill their international human rights commitments and advance democratic values through legal and regulatory frameworks that constrain the use of technology for repression and foster the development and use of rights-respecting technology and data.
- Increase investments in and demand for rights-respecting tech innovation by supporting software engineers, tech companies, and researchers to embed respect for human rights and democratic values into tech development, design, and deployment.
- Support civil society, technologists, independent oversight bodies, and the general public to hold governments and companies accountable for protecting and respecting human rights and fostering democratic values across the digital ecosystem.
USAID also intends to partner with local governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector to support multi stakeholder working groups in the countries where USAID works. These working groups will build and strengthen links between key stakeholders across the digital ecosystem, create a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue, and help stakeholders engage on difficult issues before they escalate (e.g. the misuse of technology for arbitrary or unlawful surveillance; internet shutdowns).
Call For Engagement
USAID invites government partners, the donor community, the private sector, civil society advocates, non-governmental organizations, digital rights activists, academics, students, philanthropies, and foundations to partner with us on ADD.
See USAID Administrator Power announce a call for engagement on ADD at RightsCon 2022
There are many ways to partner, including:
- contributing funds or in-kind services to programming;
- committing to coordinate and align efforts with USAID to achieve shared goals;
- developing your own locally driven, maximally effective programming that helps to align tech governance frameworks with human rights commitments and fosters rights-respecting approaches to innovation;
- providing feedback, making suggestions, and sharing relevant information.
Please contact DigitalDemocracy@usaid.gov to share ideas on how you can partner with USAID on ADD.
USAID seeks to gather information through this Advancing Digital Democracy Request for Information to inform a programmatic approach and potential award(s). Information gleaned through this RFI will support USAID's Center for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG), in collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders, to help actualize a global digital future in which digital technology and data advance, rather than undermine, democratic values and human rights. Stakeholders critical to this effort include government counterparts, technologists, civil society, media, industry, investors, academia, think tanks, and regional and multilateral organizations. Interested parties are invited to provide comments/responses in Microsoft Word compatible format no later than 02/27/2023 via email to email@example.com with subject line “Request for Information.