The future (should be) now. Redesigning Parliament theme post: Technology

Technological Changes

Sometimes it seems easier to sing a duet with astronauts than to find out how your MP voted on a Bill. We're only just starting to understand the contribution that technology can make to our democracy. Here are ideas from leading thinkers who are using technology to create a more transparent, participatory politics.

Blog Posts on Technological Change

The future (should be) now. Redesigning Parliament theme post: Technology

by User Not Found | Feb 25, 2013

Over the last month we've been posting an idea-a-day on Redesigning Parliament. Academics, activists, citizens and politicians have written on these five themes: Improving MP job descriptions, reforming Parliamentary procedures, enhancing citizens' voices in government, limiting the power of political parties and changing parliament's physical layout. Today, Samara's Jennifer Phillips introduces the last theme we'll explore: harnessing the infinite potential of technology to increase political participation.

Six years ago, when Facebook was beginning its world-domination and we’d never heard the term “twitterverse,” Bill Gates said, “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” Now, the internet and technology are critical communication tools that will only become more central to our lives and interactions.

Unfortunately, Canada’s parliament is struggling to keep up or catch up to the potential of the technology available. Only one sitting Member of Parliament has a personal app available to his constituents, many MP Twitter accounts are inactive or just plain uninteresting, and despite a recent overhaul, the Parliament of Canada’s website's navigability pales in comparison to those of our nearest neighbours. 

The (Virtual) Reality

       

When one arrives at a website that isn't easy to navigate, the instinct is to leave it.  The very best websites are meant to be clear so that exploration is possible. Unfortunately our government website is not terribly user-friendly and that plays a big role in how accessible, and understandable our government is perceived. 

Just a quick glance at our closest neighbours’ websites -- US and UK (see above) -- illuminates the painful fact that we can do better. A lot better. Watch for Amanda Clarke's post later in the week for more.

Is
there an App for that?

Whether you’re browsing through your Google Play store or iPhone App store, it quickly becomes apparent that there is an app for everything. So why not your Member of Parliament? Currently, there are two politicians – that we know of so far – who have an app for themselves, Conservative MP for Barrie, Ontario Patrick Brown, and BC Conservative candidate, Tom Birch (see Mr. Birch's post later in the week). Through the simple scan of a QR code or click of a link, residents of Barrie, ON or Shuswap, BC can download these free apps and keep tabs on their MP or potential MLA. 



There’s more Tech-support than you know

If MPs and Parliament feel overwhelmed with the task of setting up an App or improving the website, they really shouldn’t. There is a lot of help out there. Patrick Brown and Tom Birch used the same business to create their apps, and there is no shortage of resources online that can be used to navigate the online world. 

Later this week we'll hear from the creators of Open North who are building amazing tools - like their platform for creating crowd-sourced budgets - to help connect all levels of government with the people they represent.

Responses from Samarans


Thoughts on Redesigning Parliament. By Karen Moores, Samara volunteer

"Allow e-petitions and promise substantive debate on those e-petitions that reach a certain threshold (the UK has a 50,000 signature threshold that gives a petition 1 hour of debate)." - Ian Froude

 "I want to see technology as the way out of this mess. I want to see the internet giving unprecedented access to our representatives and vice versa. I want to see an app that shows where the politician stands, how they vote, what they've introduced and work on, where their interests lie, and maybe
most of all, the ability for people to better interact with their system." - Mark McInnes

Other Themes