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Very few areas have remained unchanged by the digital revolution. Politics is no exception. In recent years, various initiatives have emerged to harness the possibilities offered by digital technology in order to improve or renew democracy. Amidst the crisis of our Western democracies, undermined by a growing gap between citizens and their representatives, by abstention and by the rise of extremism, civic technology revives the democratic process by improving information, enabling greater citizen participation and empowerment, ultimately improving government transparency.

Is democracy just another market? Can we build a sustainable economic model with the help of digital tools whose purpose is to put citizens at the center of the democratic game? If yes, how? Must these structures be associative by nature or can they embrace a commercial scale while remaining true to their goals? Should they opt for an open source or proprietary logic? This expanding ecosystem raises a number of questions about their financing and business model.

While civic technology undeniably offers promising solutions to the democratic crisis, it also suffers from serious limitations. Even if it reaches millions of people, its primary objective, achieving greater involvement of citizens in democratic life, is far from being reached. Based on an idealized vision of citizenship, civic technology is still struggling to expand beyond its natural public. Lastly, it defends goals of openness, transparency and collaboration that face a fragmentation of information, on social networks and the Internet, dangerous both for our societies and democracies.

The public sector has long operated in isolation, developing methods and solutions of its own. In recent decades, however, interactions with the private sector have increased, whether through the growing role of consulting firms or in the form of public-private partnerships. Today, this collaboration is taking on a whole new dimension by integrating other stakeholders, including the users of public services. The emergence of open innovation models is redefining the methods and spirit of public action. Government is reinventing itself as an innovation platform.

Advance amid choices: technological development, business innovation, laws and regulations

Society June 17th, 2016, Jia Kai / PhD Graduate at School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University, Fullbright Scholar, Visiting Scholar at the University of California at Davis

Rapid technological upgrades and commercial innovation, coupled with a slow legislative and regulatory process, have given rise to successive social issues and disputes: Should platforms like Uber be legalized or not? Should Apple’s encryption technology be restricted? Should search results be affected by keyword bidding? Such issues not only pose great challenges to state governance, but also arouse intense social debates and controversies.

The recent Directive on the protection of trade secrets sparked widespread criticism. Much has been said on this text, accused of having been written under the influence of multinational companies and of allowing prosecutions against journalists and whistleblowers. A careful reading of the text, however, can dispel most of the expressed concerns. The purpose of the Directive is not to organize the disguise of wrongdoing or unethical behavior. It is, however, aimed at protecting any information that would constitute a competitive advantage, without inducing intellectual property rights.

Democracy 2.1: when maths reinvent politics

Society September 29th, 2015, Karel Janeček / Mathematician, entrepreneur, and anti-corruption campaigner

Mathematics and technology are increasingly used in decision-making. The current trend is even to replace human decisions by machine decisions. But in some experiences, technological innovation helps to reinvigorate the most human of all decision process: democracy. This is the purpose of the Democracy 2.1 experiment, launched by the Czech mathematician Karel Janeček: a radical innovation of the voting system, based on mathematical intuitions derived from game theory.

Net neutrality: network as a necessity

Society March 25th, 2015, WEI Wuhui / Lecturer, School of Media and Design, Shanghai Jiaotong University

The Net neutrality has nothing to do with universal values. Its aim is to balance interests between Internet service providers and Internet content providers. This was the biggest stake in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission decision, in February. What did it say exactly? Can such a decision really provide the ICPs and public with a free and equal Internet accessibility without any costs?

The fight for digital sovereignty: industrial factors

Society June 30th, 2014, Nicolas Colin & Henri Verdier / Co-founder, TheFamily & Director, Etalab

The question addresses Europe, as well as emerging countries: how can we ever hope to have an influence on Internet governance if there is no strong, industrial power operating in the digital field?

The precautionary principle is frequently cited in major international statements. However, implementing it still stirs up a lot of debate: is it feasible, is it advisable? Today with hindsight, controversy and experience have enabled us to better frame a somewhat abstract idea that is still seeking its path forward. Two countries only, France and Ecuador have appended the principle to their respective Constitutions and in the former we see some emblematic examples of difficulties to be overcome in enforcing the Principle.

Tackling corruption in public sector: an Indian initiative

Society October 10th, 2013, Needamangalam Gopalaswami / Former Chief Election Commissioner of India

Institutions, and not only technology, are a driver for change. In India, a recent experience shows promising and somehow unexpected outcomes. The goal? Ensuring greater transparency and competition in the award of government contracts. The result? Greater transparency, indeed; but also a new, efficient tool for conflict resolution.

Mistakes politicians make

Society January 25th, 2012, David E. Lewis / William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University

There are systematic reasons why elected officials make certain kinds of mistakes over and over. One thing political scientists have discovered by examining the political species is that it shares common characteristics picked up by adapting to its natural environment. One of the strongest motivating forces in this environment is the pressure for reelection. It is precisely this drive for reelection that introduces predictable biases into political decision-making and helps explain governments' paralysis in the face of some very serious problems.

Common security, uncommon challenges: resiliency in an era of the unthinkable

Science and Technology November 29th, 2010, Carol Dumaine / Former Deputy Director for the Energy and Environmental Security at the US Department of Energy

The combined challenges of energy and environmental security pose important national security questions and risks that, with few exceptions, remain poorly formulated and understood today. This article, adapted from a keynote address given by Carol Dumaine at the 8th International Security Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, shines light on these issues and calls for a common security framework to strengthen our ability to cope with global change.

Risks and crises in Terra Incognita

Science and Technology October 11th, 2010, Patrick Lagadec / Senior Research Scientist at Ecole Polytechnique

The last few decades have witnessed an extraordinary development in the sciences and techniques of risk control and crisis management. However, there is a gnawing doubt: what if our points of reference, our capabilities, are no longer good enough?

The more time goes by, the more staggering population statistics become: in 2050, people over the age of 65 will represent a quarter of the population in the most developed countries, against 16% today. The rise to power of the older generation disrupts companies, institutions, and policies. After publishing an interview of Francis Mer, former Minister of Economy and Finance of France, ParisTech Review continues its analysis of the upheavals caused by an aging population.

In all developed countries, the increase in life expectancy -almost three months a year at the current rate- coupled with the fall in the fertility rates has resulted in an inevitable demographic ageing. By the year 2050, a quarter of the French population, for example, will be over 65 years compared to 16 per cent today. The decline in the proportion of active population to inactive is a major economic challenge. Francis Mer, Minister for Economics and Finances of France from 2002 to 2004, analyses the consequences of an ageing population.

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