About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Democratic institutions today look much as they have done for decades, if not centuries.

The Houses of Parliament, the US Congress, and some of the West’s oldest parliaments are largely untouched by successive waves of new technology.

At the same time, almost every other sphere of life - finance, tourism, shopping, work and our social relationships - has been dramatically transformed by the rise of new information and communication tools.

Many argue that this gap between the way in which citizens go about their daily lives and the way in which politics and democracy are carried out, is one of the factors that has contributed to the declining trust and confidence in democratic institutions.

Could digital technologies be the answer? The advocates certainly claim that digital democracy can achieve broader and deeper participation and that it can contribute to a richer public sphere for argument and debate.

Over the last two decades, there have been thousands of experiments, but so far, the reality has not lived up to the early hopes and expectations.

In our report ‘Digital Democracy: The Tools Transforming Political Engagement’, we share the lessons from our research into some of the pioneering innovations in digital democracy, addressing two key questions; how and to what extent are digital tools being used by parliaments, municipal governments and political parties, and what can we learn from recent initiatives, in order to help future groups make the most of the tools available.

Here, we give six examples of countries and cities leading the way in innovation in digital democracy, detailing what we can learn from their experiences.