After two years of successful editions in Kyiv, the third edition of Personal Democracy Forum Ukraine had place in Kharkiv on October 25-26. The two-day event gathered nearly 50 speakers and workshop leaders, and over 250 participants from all over Ukraine, the CEE region and beyond including: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey.

What happened during PDF Ukraine in 2018?

The invited experts delivered 13 TED-style speeches and 3 lightning talks, and spoke in 2 discussion panels in three thematic streams: Re:Forming the State | Re:Forming the Community | Re:Forming Ourselves (Day 1), while professionals from the region conducted 16 practical workshops (Day 2). The conference was aimed at the intersectoral debate on the state of democracy in Ukraine combining the local perspective with independent views from the international civic tech community. Civic tech activists, journalists working in the digital environment, academics and public officials interested in technologies, as well as socially oriented business representatives analyzed the possibilities of fostering Ukraine’s ongoing democratic transition through the state’s reforms, on the level of the community and in view of personal challenges we are facing as individuals.

Re:Forming the State

The conference was opened by the co-organizers’ representatives: Olga Aivazovska (Civil Network OPORA), Krzysztof Izdebski (ePaństwo Foundation), Olena Ursu (UNDP Ukraine), Agata Rzewuska (OSCE-ODIHR) and Nedim Useinov (TechSoup Europe).

Olga Aivazovska began the first stream Re:Forming the State speaking about the bright and dark side of using technologies in the election system, mentioning that Ukraine is not ready yet for the related challenges, however there is ongoing effort on the side of civic tech community to make these tools work to ensure transparency and openness of the electoral process as such.

Gleb Kanevsky representing StateWatch talked about acute issues of corruption in the army caused by the general denial of the problem in the society and the crossover of many interests, eg. the companies locating huge funds in the army-related environment.

Ksenia Ermoshina from Canadian Citizen Lab drew attention to the problem of information control and digital security in Crimea. She underlined that the Internet is a physical, tangible asset and it can be easily taken over by an enemy making end-users subject to censorship and surveillance.

Iryna Chulivska (Digital Security Lab) wondered whether technologies help protect human rights. She continued the discussion on freedom of speech in the Internet and information security in the context of war emphasizing people’s disappointment with the lack of equality of access to information as originally guaranteed by the idea of the global Web.

The stream was concluded by the discussion panel featuring Marta Hohol (Transparency International), Oleksandr Bugara (Mariupol City Council) and Anastasiia Rozlutska (e-Data), moderated by Inna Borzylo (Centre UA), who shared thoughts on how inter-sectoral collaboration can be supported by IT tools and solutions in the fight for democratic values and against corruption in Ukraine.

Re:Forming the Community

The second stream Re:Forming the Community was launched by the Quinta Group leader, Myroslav Opyr, who elaborated on the role of private business in reforming the country on the example of the Prozorro project the efficiency and sustainability of which resulted from the strong partnership of three parties: civil society, government and private structures.

Anna Iemelianova from Center for Innovations Development presented victories and challenges of e-democracy in Ukraine on the grounds of her experience with the petition system in Ukrainian cities. Anna’s speech was completed by Miguel Arana Catania representing the City of Madrid who showed the advantages of the Consul open source participatory platform which proved to be effective in increasing citizens’ trust towards the municipal authorities.

The next speakers: Artem Komolov (U-LEAD with Europe), Serhiy Ganzha (Podgorodnoe.in.ua) and Vitaliy Kinakh (Lviv Polytechnic) shared the stage to encourage the listeners to support and develop IT solutions to tackle everyday problems in many different fields such as alternative energy sources, inclusive education mechanisms or early health diagnoses tools. They also emphasized the role of individuals and communities in the process of the decentralization reform – called by the media the most successful reform after 2014.

Experienced in reporting from Syria, Rok Brossa (Internationalist Commune of Rojava) expressed his views on the importance of the local media work in the situation of a conflict and the difficulties encountered by journalists: no access to occupied territories, lack of information, scarce connectivity. He underlined the extraordinary role of women not only supporting the society economically and socially in the times of war but also fighting in the front line.

The last speaker in this stream, Iryna Yakovchuk (Urban Curator Agency) spoke about data processing in urbanism on the basis of the Artmobilization project which involved developing the maps of the city of Slovyansk after its liberation from the hands of separatists. Unfortunately, the collected data have never been used by the city council.

The second discussion panel entitled Is Technology Shaping the Next Wave of Journalism? with Suren Deheryan (Ampop), Dominik K. Cagara (OC Media), Nicolai Paholinitchi (NewsMaker), moderated by Taras Danko (Kharkiv Observer) was aimed at drawing the panorama of the regional media including tech-sensitive media outlets vs traditional media. The questions posted were: how is technology used by journalists? Are technologies empowering or ruining the media? Does technology change media audiences? How do technologies help to meet challenges of the contemporary media?

Re:Forming Ourselves

The formula of the stream Re:Forming Ourselves included three lightning talks delivered by: Aferdita Pustina (OSCE Mission in Kosovo) who demonstrated the development of the digital platform for public participation implemented in the city of Pristina highlighting the opportunity it gives the municipality to engage in discussion with the citizens and respond to the actual needs in the process of decision making; Olivia Vereha from Code for Romania who presented Monitarizare Vot, a tool created in response to the “paper technologies” still used in the electoral monitoring process in Romania. The tool is scalable and it is already being implemented in other countries; Andreas Foldström (Beetroot) who introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship using the example of his IT company which contributes to increasing the IT sector opportunities in Ukraine through educational work but also to transforming Ukrainian economy towards digitization.

Further, Karina Semenko (STEM Girls) stressed the fact that according to the recent survey conducted by the STEM coalition, 72% of questioned women face discrimination. The most vivid example is the gender-dependent wages system. The situation improved since 1979, when women in STEM were paid 62 USD with 100 USD of men’s salaries for the same work, but the problem still exists.

An overview of privacy threats and information security tips online has been provided by Michał ‘rysiek’ Woźniak (OCCRP): Avoid Internet Devices. Update your devices. Use Safe Browsers. Use different browsers to work and play. Use Incognito mode. Use secure encryption. Do not use private messages on Facebook and Twitter. Do not use Telegram or Viber. Never reuse passwords.

Olena Kopina (Laboratory of Peaceful Solutions under the Fund for Local Democracy), on the other hand, talked about the ways of using mediation techniques in conflict. She based her speech on the theory that our brain is like a scientist who constantly puts forward predictions about the surrounding reality, immediately setting out tools to solve the observed problems.

The last speaker of the session, Anna Kuliberda, a freelance coach, convinced the audience why it is necessary to first put your own oxygen mask before you try to save someone else. In the activist work, one needs to take account emotions natural to all humans and make sure to restore their own resources needed to implement successful projects.

Personal Democracy Forum – what’s next?

Personal Democracy Forum is an annual international conference launched in 2004 in New York as an event gathering hundreds of civic tech professionals for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities. Regional PDF conferences are held in multiple cities worldwide bringing together local experts to discuss technology’s impact on government, politics, media, and the future of democracy.

ePaństwo Foundation and TransparenCEE Network, in co-operation with the City of Gdańsk and European Solidarity Centre and in partnership with Techsoup Europe is organising the 7th edition of Personal Democracy Forum CEE. #PDFCEE19: In Whom We Trust will take place in Gdańsk, Poland on April 4-5, 2019 and will be followed by the Festival of Civic Tech for Democracy on April 6.

For more information please check the website.