I have been on The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy for more than a year already and it’s been an inspiring, surprising and interesting time. After an engaging discussion about digital democracy on the recent DLTV Show I would like to revisit our final report and a micro-site and share my thoughts with everyone and also our recommendations.
The report – Open Up! – has five key targets plus a number of recommendations which are a route map for the House of Commons to meet these targets:
- By 2020, the House of Commons should ensure that everyone can understand what it does.
- By 2020, Parliament should be fully interactive and digital.
- The 2015 newly elected House of Commons should create immediately a new forum for public participation in the debating function of the House of Commons.
- By 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters.
- By 2016, all published information and broadcast footage produced by Parliament should be freely available online in formats suitable for reuse. Hansard should be available as open data by the end of 2015.
So what’s important to me?
One thing I was keen to do was to make sure that, as a Commissioner, I talked to people who didn’t currently participate in politics. I met lots of people who don’t vote, lots who didn’t know what an MP did, and one person who didn’t know how to vote. I found that by asking people what they wanted from Parliament they then became interested. I’m a massive believer that digital can reach people in new ways – a “fully interactive and digital” Parliament will be on websites and online conversations where people already are. People won’t have to search for the work of Parliament, it will there in their online lives.
There’s going to be a lot of media (I’m guessing) about our recommendation that secure online voting should be an option for voters by 2020. But I hope people see the breadth of the report. If we can make this digital shift then we really will change the culture of Parliament and it will be more inclusive. People want proper dialogue between themselves and the people who are making decisions about the laws and rules that affect their lives.
The Commission is clear that this isn’t just about things that Parliament has to do by themselves. There are lots of things that tech companies, educators and the average person, can do. If we want Parliament to be more two-way there’s work there for people on both sides of that divide.
And, if we make Parliament better because it’s more digital then we need to make sure that this open and accessible democracy is inclusive to everyone even the 10 million people who can’t or don’t use the internet in the UK. We, the Commission, recommend that resources are made available so that local grassroots organisations can help local people to reap the benefits of these new digital channels – either with new skills or as intermediaries.
Digital inclusion is about:
- Digital for people lives (saving money, looking for work, communicating, entertainment, et al)
- Digital for public services
- and now it’s about Digital for democracy.
In my day job I see the positive and transformative impact digital can have on people’s lives. If we can make Parliament digital and interactive it will make a significant, positive, transformative impact on our society and on our democracy. Let’s focus on a parliament fit for the future and stop talking about the past.
Please do read the full report. And then let’s start a dialogue. #digitaldemocracy @digitaldemocracyuk