REPORT FROM WESTMINSTER: Digital Democracy Commission Launch – MORE TO FOLLOW

Che and Adrian were invited to the launch of the ‘Open Up!’ report of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy – Here are the key events from this morning’s briefing:

By Adrian Burbie & Ché Applewhaite 
The 5 key targets (with their corresponding recommendations summarised) of the committee aim:
  • By 2020, the House of Commons should ensure that everyone can understand what it does.
    • Through greater public awareness and participation in Parliament, in easier search functions and real-time online updates as well as ways people communicate online.
    • Through making Parliamentary communications easier to understand in terms of language and increased aids for the disabled
  • By 2020, Parliament should be fully interactive and digital.
    • Online methods of putting questions to MPs and active response.
    • Give support to services to ensure digitally and socially excluded are able to engage with an online Parliament.
    • There was direct information given to increasing young people’s role in politics – we will give an extensive summary and report on this later in the week.
  • The 2015 newly elected House of Commons should create immediately a new forum for public participation in the debating function of the House of Commons.
    • This was (with 5) the most immediate target that was given at the launch, as there were specific routes stated in which this could happen, where an experimental stage to be trialled on ‘the use of regular digital public discussion forums to inform debates held in Westminster Hall.  Emma Mulqueeny, Commissioner and CEO of  the largest UK coders network, said that today such forums for discussion may involve the use of Facebook and Twitter but in the future a proprietary system would need to be built, by whom, the public, private or quasi-private sector, is still unclear. 
  • By 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters.
    • This received some contention, with an MP stating this target could not work as it would be rife to voter fraud and vote buying. Bercow and Paul Kane, the Internet Expert on the panel, responded well saying that the target is a push for development of online voting, so different ways can be evaluated and decided on, best for the voting system, before the next General Election. 
    • A key point in the summary was that this was to be exercised in tandem with a recommendation for a ‘fresh, bold look at the national curriculum’ in regard to voter education. 
  • By 2016, all published information and broadcast footage produced by Parliament should be freely available online in formats suitable for re-use. Hansard (the record of all speech within the House of Commons and House of Lords) should be available as open data by the end of 2015.
    • This was (with 3) the most immediate target that was given at the launch, mainly because as Bercow included in his speech, it only requires ‘administrative action’ by Parliament for it to happen. Other avenues of open data were discussed such as summaries of debates and live-distillation of debates; the main focus of targets like these as said by Commissioner Femi Oyeniran, ‘to encourage participation in Government at the early stages… the real opportunity is making Parliamentary information freely available to people,’ to with as they wish. It was suggested that apps and social media pages would benefit greatly from this target – which Whippersnapper agrees with.

Join us later for more coverage of the Launch:

A Lord’s (Lord Kirkwood of the Lib Dems) view on how these recommendations may actually be implemented and how receptive MPs will be to them.
About Che Applewhaite
Che Applewhaite is the Editor-in-Chief of Whippersnapper. He is a 18-year-old student who is passionate about understanding the issues today that he thinks will affect the future, primarily changes in international relations, feminism and global warming. His musical tastes are defined by a deep appreciation of jazz, minimalism, house and rap, though by no means are limited to those genres. He can often be found in a museum or bookshop on a weekend.