John Bercow’s digital commission looks to engage young people in politics with a fully interactive parliament by 2020

The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy today publishes its report calling on parliament to embrace digital technology in order to help it to be more transparent, inclusive and better able to engage the public with democracy.

Entitled ‘Open Up!’, the report sets out five key targets for the House of Commons and calls for a fully digital and interactive parliament by 2020. Innovations include creating a new online forum to enable the public to participate in the debating function of the House of Commons, and crowd-sourcing questions from the public to engage Ministers.

The Commission also recognises that Parliament can do more to facilitate real-time dialogue with the public. To that end, the current restrictions on the public using mobile devices in the public galleries should be removed, and the House should experiment further with live social media coverage of debates.

>See also: 30 years of technology in education: BESA report advises government on lessons learned

Similarly, the Commission urges parliament to take steps to improve public understanding of its work, and while technology can help with this, parliament also needs to simplify its language and procedures. New digital tools, visual data and better use of infographics can help provide alternative methods for understanding content, the report says.

Data.parliament, parliament’s new open data platform, is commended in the report, and the Commission recommends that it should be a priority to make more data availablem including Hansard and the register of MPs’ interests. It also calls for video content of debates to be made easier to access, download and share.

One of the report’s key targets specifies that by 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters. This would be complemented by changes in political education in schools, helping to ensure that increasing numbers of young people register to vote and understand the democratic process. In addition, the report recommends that MPs who are unwell or have childcare responsibilities should have the option to vote electronically away from the Chamber during a division.

Whilst digital technologies are key in achieving the targets outlined in the report, the Commission cautions that parliament must also work hard not to widen the ‘digital divide’. Measures to tackle exclusion include a programme of education to target less-engaged groups, as well as improving the ways that constituents can effectively communicate with their MP.

A special event in Parliament will today mark the launch of the report, which is the culmination of more than a year of research by members of the Commission. Members of the Commission will speak at the event, including John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons. The event, which will be live streamed, is accompanied by regional events across the country.

>See also: Government investment drives UK lead in the Internet of Things

“I set up the Digital Democracy Commission to explore how Parliament could make better use of digital technology to enhance and improve its work," said Bercow. "I am very grateful to all those who contributed to the Commission's work, and have been particularly struck by the enthusiastic contributions from those who expressed a desire to participate in the democratic process, but felt that barriers existed that prevented them from doing so.

"This report provides a comprehensive roadmap to break down barriers to public participation. It also makes recommendations to facilitate better scrutiny and improve the legislative process. In a year where we reflect on our long democratic heritage, it is imperative that we look also to the future and how we can modernise our democracy to meet the changing needs of modern society."

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics

Government & Politics