I listened to the Soundcloud that Emma (@hubmum) Mulqueeny kindly posted of the DDC conversation and cake meeting she had at her house last week. Lots of interesting things covered as you’d expect. Some of these I may have mentioned before…

There was a lot of discussion about potentially broken aspects of the democratic system in the UK – especially around parties having more influence over MPs that their constituents. This is very interesting stuff but I wonder if it’s within a realistic remit of the DDC? My understanding was that the recommendations should be about using digital to help our representatives and government work better to listen and respond to us. Potentially discussions about how to restructure democracy in the UK are a time consuming sideline.

In addition I strongly disagree with the person on the panel who said the job of an MP is to implement the wishes of their constituents. This is a dangerous step towards Direct Democracy. The job of an MP is to do what they believe is morally correct. If we disagree we get to vote them out later.

It strikes me, yet again, the that DDC still doesn’t have a forum for people to join to discuss topics. There’s now a form-based system for recording your views and you can still send individual or group responses but they’re still considered in isolation.

In conjunction with that I’d still very much like to see the DDC itself working with an open backlog and using something like a wiki to record to the work they’ve done to date – in order to avoid repeated suggestions of things they’ve already done for starters.

Language use is interesting – in GDS parlance the DDC is very much in a Discovery phase. Would it be appropriate for them to use that terminology?

It’s very important that citizens are educated in the difference between what Parliament does, government does and what the civil service does. Many people won’t know that it’s actually the civil service that drafts a great deal of specific policy. The Open Policy team at the Cabinet Office, especially Paul (@_OpenP) Maltby, need to be well integrated with DDC.

A number of mentions were made to the kind of language used by people in politics. The Content team at GDS are specialists in this area with huge amounts of experience of writing in clear English for wide audiences. Consulting them might be a useful thing to do.

I was glad to hear of people bringing up those folks with less good digital skills (including many of our representatives). This is something that is addressed in GDS services by the Assisted Digital and Digital Inclusion teams. The DDC may wish to speak to them about it.

It was good to hear some people say that digital platforms would be the “silver bullet” but even better to hear people disagreeing (especially for the reason above). Another reason is that, at the moment, it’s very hard to devise a system where citizens can be verified to prove that they are who they say they are and that they lived in a specific constituency. Hopefully the Identity Assurance (IDA) platform from GDS will be able to help with this in the future.

The idea of being able to register what things you are interested and then get notifications when government or Parliament is discussing those is a great idea. So good that my team won the National Hack the Government Day with a hack based on that in 2011 ;-). Not that we ever got it fully working…

Finally, there’s so many smart and politically savvy people at GDS it would be wonderful if the DDC could come and do an evidence gathering session here. Alas, we have to be seen to be apolitical so even though this is above party politics I’m pretty sure it would be impossible. Ah well.

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