openDemocracyUK

Download some Power with Digital Democracy?

Jonathan Elmer
21 March 2010

My name is Jonathan Elmer and a few years ago I formed a social company called Democratise as a vehicle to deliver this project.  The website is complex and has required both time and money to construct, about three years of time and funding provided as an investment from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. During design and construction we saw the Power Inquiry convene and report on the need to forge a new relationship between politicians and the people they represent.  In particular, the Power Inquiry identified the need for innovative technological solutions, and at the time we only had ideas on paper.  Now Digital Democracy is live and soon to start kicking – go to it and have a play on www.digitaldemocracy.org.uk

Digital Democracy will reach the end of it’s first month’s life on 21st March and has already identified a top national proposal which was submitted by a user from the Northwest who proposed:

I am concerned by the lack of power family law courts have at providing fathers with contact with their children if they want to see them. The solution is to make more people aware of how often this happens. Increasing awareness and providing more power to the courts to do something about it.

In response Roberta Blackman Woods MP said:

Firstly I must say how pleased I am to be making this first MPs response on Digital Democracy. It is fantastic to see that the site is now up and running and working well.  I hope to see the number of people engaging with the site increasing week after week.  I am very happy to take this matter up with the Ministry of Justice and have written to Jack Straw to ask for his comments on the matter. I will of course update this response when I receive a reply from him.  Best Wishes, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP

This means that the members of the site – you me or anyone living our country – can make a proposal and see it go to the top at either a local, regional or national level.  Then they get to see an elected representative’s response.  Digital Democracy forces direct accountability from MPs to those they represent.

If this approach is to succeed, then we need lots of people to use the site.  With more members, the priorities identified by the site will be more representative of geographical communities.  So please use the site – and if you enjoy it, then tell your friends.  Oh yes, it’s actually quite good fun.

Appendix – how it works

Digital Democracy is not a forum about democracy it is a democratic forum – and there is a big difference.  Digital Democracy is a virtual parliament where members directly participate in identification, prioritisation and voting on the most popular proposal.  And there’s much more:

  • When you become a member, Digital Democracy uses your postcode to generate a personal profile showing your political constituency and MP;
  • Every member is able to make one proposal every fortnight.  You see this listed against the proposals made by others from your geographical community;
  • Digital Democracy generates a discussion forum specific to your proposal.  It then makes sure that you are able to discuss issues with other members from your geographical community;
  • You get to promote the proposal that you think is most important, and in two weeks Digital Democracy identifies your communities most popular proposal; 
  • At the end of the fortnight, the whole membership votes on the top proposals and this auto-generates a report that goes straight to the appropriate MP who is invited to respond on the site to say what they will do in response – (at the moment we are in our pilot and only have Roberta Blackman Woods MP and Fiona Hall MEP actively participating, however if this new approach works then we will invite all MPs to participate);
  • You can give your vote away to another member, then they get to vote twice whenever they vote and effectively become your representative.  This means you don’t have to be at the system all the time.  However, if you don’t like the way someone is using your vote, you can take it back at any time;
  • Digital Democracy has social networking capabilities that enables members to send messages and make friends;
  • Digital Democracy has a special button for checking how similar your views are with other members by running a correlation of promotional records.  You can use this to get a list of people within a set radius who are similar to you – invaluable if you are new in town.

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