KT4D: Fostering democracy through knowledge technologies

Published 21 November 2023

To address the social costs of AI systems fully, we need more than just technological fixes.


Artificial intelligence (AI) systems can undermine democracy via the cultural disruptions they create, the power dynamics they shift, their tendency toward opacity, and the speed at which they change. But what if they were utilised to enhance democracy instead?


The Knowledge Technologies for Democracy (KT4D) is a project led by Trinity College Dublin with 12 partners, including Demos Helsinki, investigating how democracy and civic participation can be facilitated in an era of rapidly changing knowledge technologies — such as AI and big data. It seeks to mitigate the risks of such technologies and identify how they can be leveraged to reinforce democratic governance and trust in public institutions.

The project’s objectives

To address the social costs of AI systems fully, we need more than just technological fixes. Rather, we ought to address the cultural influences and barriers underpinning sociotechnical dynamics. As such, KT4D seeks to:


– Develop tools and guidelines for using knowledge technologies in democratic processes and make technology more transparent and accountable.
– Establish a Digital Democracy Lab platform to facilitate democratic engagement and citizen participation.
– Foster more holistic regulatory processes by establishing a governance framework for democratic AI governance to respond to the evolving digital landscape.
– Promote ethically informed software and AI development practices, ensuring that technological advances align with democratic values.
– Redefine digital citizenship by delivering a platform for education and empowerment of digitally engaged citizens.


KT4D anticipates several outcomes, including:

– Increased civic participation and engagement in democracy through AI.
– Mitigation of potential ethical, legal, and cultural risks associated with knowledge technologies.
– Strengthened trust in both public institutions and technology.
– Enhanced community empowerment and preservation of individual agency in the digital age.


How can and should European policymakers regulate the disruptive nature of AI democratically?

To answer this, Demos Helsinki will craft a governance framework and recommendations for democratic AI governance in cooperation with policymakers, experts and CSOs working on AI policy. We will thus be in charge of a work package focusing on trustworthy regulation of knowledge technologies. We are particularly interested in the risks that the current centralisation of power, opacity, and rapid AI advances generate to democracy.

For over fifteen years, we have worked on the intersection of technological developments and democracy with a critical lens to unchallenged techno-optimism. This is why we try to build realistic paths to a future where technology serves society through equitable design, development and deployment.


Some of our recent relevant work:

– You can read our 2023 white paper on digital transformation here.
– We have designed an assessment framework for non-discriminatory AI for governments.
– Here is how we are finding creative ways to research and promote sustainable algorithmic futures.


KT4D will conclude in January 2026. It has received funding from the EU’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 101094302.


For more information about KT4D and a list of our esteemed partners, please visit the project’s website.


If you want to know more, you can contact our relevant experts:

Atte Ojanen
Research Manager

Anna Björk
Leading Researcher

Johannes Anttila
Senior Policy Expert

Feature Image: iStock/Юлия Корнева.