FSI scholars join Kofi Annan Foundation commission on democracy in the digital age

The Kofi Annan Foundation has tapped four Stanford scholars at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) to help advance one of its top priorities: to shed light on the rapidly changing role of technology in elections around the world and to recommend ways of ensuring that digital tools strengthen – not undercut – democracy.

Steve Stedman
Steve Stedman

To that end, the foundation has formed the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age and named STEPHEN STEDMAN, a senior fellow at FSI and deputy director of its Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), to serve as its secretary general. The chair of the commission is the former president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla.

Stedman is joined on the commission by Stanford colleagues ALEX STAMOS, the former chief security officer of Facebook who came to FSI as an adjunct professor earlier this year; TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES, the former president of Estonia who is now an affiliate of FSI’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC); and NATHANIEL PERSILY, an FSI affiliate and Stanford Law School professor.

The late Kofi Annan, the former head of the United Nations and founder of the nonprofit that bears his name, formed the commission earlier this year. In May, Annan visited Stanford to recruit for the commission and discuss his concerns about the growing role of the internet – and social media, specifically – in elections worldwide. He died in August.

The commission’s mandate is to “examine and review the opportunities for electoral integrity created by technological innovations,” according to a foundation statement. Stedman said members will meet periodically before issuing their findings and recommendations before the end of 2019. As secretary general, Stedman will oversee the research and writing of the commission’s final report.

In recent years, a number of high-profile initiatives have been launched in response to technology’s negative impact on the electoral process. The Kofi Annan Foundation’s effort stands out for its range of expertise, said Persily. The 12 members hail from government, business, academia and civil society and have all dealt firsthand with technology’s promise and pitfalls.

Read the full article on the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies website.