I have made a number of previous blog posts about the UK Parliament consultation of Digital Democracy. After finding out today about the Open Coalition (Wikimedia UK plus Demos and others) working together on a response I thought it was important for me to try and state, as simply as possible, what I would like to see in terms of near-future implementation of digital democracy in the UK.
- Unlike some people in this community I believe that for the foreseeable future it is vital to keep our system of representational democracy to avoid the Tyranny of the Majority.
- I think it is important for Parliament to create and maintain a list of organisations, people, meetings, interesting media, etc that are related to this topic and have a mechanism of accepting further suggestions. This should be combined with a comms plan to allow citizens to find out what these groups are doing without having to subscribe to them all individually.
- Parliament should provide a common consultation platform allowing the easy sharing of submissions and facilitating discussions around them. This platform should have a full time community manager encouraging and moderating the various discussions.
- I would like to see Parliament provide a platform for citizens to raise and discuss issues of concern. This would be more than just a petition platform – something more like the service offered by 38 Degrees.
- Parliament should seek to further educate the public in the difference between legislation discussed and voted on by MPs and the policy development work initiated by the government of the day and shape by the various civil service departments. This should be done in combination with highlighting the wide variety of excellent work in digital public policy engagement being undertaken by the various departments and further encouraged by the Cabinet Office.
- Political parties should be further encouraged to engage in wide ranging consultation about policy before they are in power as once elected they will not have time to further engage before starting implementation. The proposed policy outcomes of these consultations should including SMART KPIs with appropriate periods of time to review over. These may be longer than the length of one Parliament.
- Parliament should provide a publishing platform, similar to the performance platform on GOV.UK, for the display of engagement statistics for legislation and consultations as well as the data on the KPIs specified in point 5.
- Parliament should provide a platform for individual MPs to interact with their constituents that have specific issues. On one level this provides a method for MPs to track their workflow with their constituents more easier – for example by enabling them to attach emails, documents and communications with departments to each individual case. However, it additionally allows for the examination of metadata about these issues potentially providing early highlighting of common issues across multiple constituencies.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I believe it is vital that Parliament work with its own staff and external volunteers to provide mentoring and support for MPs and Lords in how to take best advantage of digital systems including the ones I have detailed above. It is no longer enough to have a researcher sending tweets and answering their email. It is critical that our representatives start to engage with citizens about the causes of their concerns more frequently and in more depth than they have done up to this point. A good working knowledge of digital systems is the key mechanism for achieving this.