Digital Democracy: breaking down barriers to public participation

Digital by Default News headed to Westminster on Tuesday 24th February to attend the Digital Leaders annual lecture, ‘Digital Democracy’.

Helen Milner of the Tinder Foundation began by presenting us with some surprising facts: in the UK there are 35 million Facebook users, yet only 29.6 million people voted in the 2010 general election.

The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, which investigated the opportunities digital technology can bring for parliamentary democracy in the UK, opened up channels for discussion and held roundtables with the everyday man and woman, before publishing its findings in a report.

pollingIt was discovered that many people didn’t know how to vote; some didn’t know what a polling station was. Helen said she noticed that the main problem was lack of information and awareness, rather than anger at politicians. People in communities are unaware of what their MPs are doing, so more communication is needed to boost engagement with politics.  Select committees could raise awareness through social media and online advertising, although we must be careful not to “leave behind people who don’t use the internet” but “make politics relevant, local and interactive.”

The Commission aims to makes parliament fully interactive and digital, introduce online voting and open up data. It also intends to introduce a ‘Cyber Chamber,’ an online forum where the public can view debates and discuss topics before the debate actually happens. MPS can contribute or just observe these online discussions, yet it will give people a sense of ownership as many feel excluded from the political process.

These changes to the way the government operates “are not radical but necessary” said Chloe Smith, MP.

John Bercow MP spoke about how the “barriers to getting involved must be addressed.” He suggested that the language in Parliament needs to be more accessible, so that it is readily intelligible to people not in the know.

Watch a short summary video of the general conclusions from the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy’s report published on Monday 26th of January below.



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