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NDI Parliamentary Exchange Program: Leadership in the Digital Economy

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 to Friday, February 20, 2015

Among other issues, this exchange program explored ways in which parliamentarians can encourage and utilize the burgeoning use of technology to support economic growth, engage citizens, and conduct parliamentary business in an open and transparent manner. The program also explored the range of new policy issues facing parliamentarians around the world -- from intellectual property issues, to internet freedom and civil liberties issues, to digital security, to civic technology and social entrepreneurship, to differences between men and women in access to and use of social media, to changing citizen expectations of their politicians and political parties in a digital era.

As with other emerging fields of policy expertise, these issues also present opportunities for women and young political leaders, who are seeking to assert leadership on a new set of issues, bringing skills that may not otherwise exist within their party and parliamentary structures. At the same time, the speed and ease with which citizens can interact and articulate concerns has raised expectations for the accessibility and responsiveness of their political leaders. The exchange program sought to explore these dynamics and how technology can be harnessed by elected representatives to deliver for citizens, demonstrate the continued relevance of the legislative institution to a 21st century electorate, and strengthen democracy worldwide.

During the ten days in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco/Silicon Valley, California, participants interacted with policymakers, as well as innovators piloting new tools to connect citizens and their representatives. The delegation was chaired by IRG board members Rep. Nancy Johnson and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who were joined by Rep. Jim Slattery and Rep. Mike Andrews at an opening lunch that set the tone for three interconnected topical themes, which were examined from various angles throughout the week: 1) the ways in which democratic institutions are evolving in a global environment that is increasingly shifting toward digital communication and service delivery; 2) how governments and legislatures can respond to greater citizen demands for availability and immediacy of data of all kinds for citizens; and 3) how technological tools are creating new opportunities for economic development, as well as for empowering women, youth, and marginalized populations.

Photos from this trip are available on our Flickr page.