The House of Lords Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies has released its report: Digital Technology and the Resurrection of Trust

mySociety submitted written evidence last year, and our Head of Research, Dr Rebecca Rumbul, gave evidence in February 2020.

The recommendations can be seen online, but we were pleased to see a point taken up from our friends at Democracy Club, that there should be more open data about elections, candidates and polling stations so focus can be on providing that information to citizens rather than sourcing it. 

This recommendation in particular reflects mySociety thinking:

Technology can play an important role in engaging people with democratic processes. Parliament and government, at all levels, should not seek to use technology simply to reduce costs, and must ensure that appropriate technology is used to enhance and enrich democratic engagement.

Through our research and practical work in the last few years, we have been concerned with finding the appropriate place for technology in addressing problems. 

Digital solutions have enormous potential to scale cheaply (and have powerful uses in democratic transparency), but also have uneven engagement and require different skill sets to manage. Where digital tools allow more efficiency, this should enable resources to be redirected towards improving the overall quality of the exercise. 

As we argued last year when we were looking at digital tools and democratic participation:

Where using a tool can bring down other costs, those funds can be redeployed towards outreach and other real world activities to broaden participation. The use of digital tools must be understood as part of the whole system, which involves gauging not just what the tool does, but the effort and time it can free up to address other priorities.

The problem of citizens and communities being excluded from the political process will rarely be fixed by a digital tool alone, but when correctly aligned with democratic efforts to involve people in decision making,  they can be a powerful part of the solution. 

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Photo credit: Photo by Ciel Cheng on Unsplash

Original source – mySociety

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