The ITHACA initiative is dedicated to enhancing the positive influence of artificial intelligence (AI) on democratic institutions and processes. To achieve this goal, an online discussion platform, incorporating human and social perspectives, will be created and piloted in two EU countries – Romania and Slovakia. How will we design it? In cooperation with representatives of vulnerable groups.

Recent activities of the ITHACA project

In early July 2023, the ITHACA consortium organized an online discussion with representatives of vulnerable social groups. Given their expertise and daily interactions with citizens, the representatives possess valuable insights into the digital tools, inclusion, and civic participation needs of these groups. Their contributions will be integral in shaping a more inclusive platform.

Subsequently, in September 2023, two introductory workshops were held in the project’s pilot cities, Martin (Slovakia) and Brasov (Romania). During the workshops, we engaged into discussions and co-creation activities with the citizens forming the citizens’ jury. The objective was to identify their needs, preferences, abilities, and available technologies, while understanding their motivations and the potential facilitators, as well as barriers to online civic participation. Additionally, the aim is to ensure that AI tools integrated in the ITHACA platform are equitable and do not produce harmful outcomes.

The insights gathered from these interactions will play a vital role in shaping a more inclusive platform.

The role of the citizens’ jury

  • To ensure that the pilot platform aligns with real and critical aspects crucial for most citizens.
  • To identify the needs, preferences, abilities, and available technologies to guide the implementation process.
  • To guarantee that integrated AI tools are fair and non-harmful.

Modern civil society actively engages citizens in decision-making processes. An iterative approach based on discussion, reflection, and collaboration is fostered. It involves five stages: public issue identification, discussion initiation, clarification, potential options identification, and decision-making to address the issue.

The main discussion points with citizens:

  1. Civic participation in modern society: Exploring the concept of civic participation in today’s society.
  2. The More, the Better: – how to engage citizens: Strategies for involving a larger number of citizens in civic activities.
  3. Leveraging technology: Discussing how technology can facilitate and enhance civic participation.
  4. AI in civic participation: Examining the role of AI in the context of civic engagement.
  5. Identifying risks and challenges: Analyzing potential problems and risks associated with AI in civic participation.

Throughout the workshops, selected online platform examples were demonstrated to illustrate how AI can function and support participatory decision-making in such platforms. Participants collaborated in working groups to delve into motivations, potential opportunities, and barriers to increase civic engagement. Within the groups, they provided suggestions about the platform’s content, priority topics, and design.

The valuable insights gathered during the discussions will significantly influence the design and development of our online discussion platform.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Europe Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.