328 pages of Manifesto pledges and promises, but does digital get a look-in?

So this week is ‘manifesto week’; Labour went first on Monday closely followed by the Conservatives on Tuesday and the Lib Dems released theirs on Wednesday morning.

With bated breath I searched through each one to see how much digital – skills, digital government, broadband access and mobile coverage – featured in each one.

Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Skills

Labour

“We will support community-based campaigns to reduce the proportion of citizens unable to use the internet and help those who need it to get the skills to make the most of digital technology.” A great commitment to increasing digital skills.

Conservative

“We will save you time, hassle and money by moving more services online, while actively tackling digital exclusion.” A big more vague, but still promising.

Lib Dem

“We will uphold the highest standards of accessibility in digital services and maintain government programmes in digital inclusion.” Maintenance is good, growth in programmes is better.

 

Digital Government

Labour

They outlined the important role that technology will play in the role of changing the way in which public services are delivered.“We will use digital technology to create a more responsive, devolved and less costly system of government.” They also went on to say: “We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration and sharing data between services. It will make services and transactions more efficient and simpler for people to use. To create a more connected society, we will support making digital government more inclusive, transparent and accountable.”

Conservative   

“We will ensure digital assistance is always available for those who are not online, while rolling out cross-government technology platforms to cut costs and improve productivity – such as GOV.UK.” A good statement supporting Assisted Digital, always good to see that those who aren’t online will still get help to use an improved service (that’s digitally delivered of course).

Lib Dems

“Focus on delivering efficiency, funding proven spend to save initiatives and investing in technology to get public services and frontline staff online.” Quite a broad statement but like the other parties it seems like a commitment to ensuring that the government evolves to become as digital as possible.

 

Superfast Broadband

Labour

When it comes to broadband infrastructure the Labour party have committed to the following – “Labour will ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband by the end of the Parliament.”

Conservative

The Conservatives have hedged their bets a little more; they have made one commitment to provide the majority of people with broadband access. “We will secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017.” When it comes to providing broadband access for the whole of the UK they have been much more vague: “we have set an ambition that ultrafast broadband should be available to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable.”

Lib Dems

“We will complete the roll out of high-speed broadband to reach almost every household (99.9%) in the UK.” Like the Labour statement, the Lib Dems are committing to completing the job of getting the infrastructure right.

 

Mobile Coverage

Labour

“We will work with the industry and the regulator to maximise private sector investment and deliver the mobile infrastructure needed to extend coverage and reduce ‘not spots’, including in areas of market failure.” A statement which I pretty much expected – ensuring that mobile coverage is as good as it can be.

Conservative

“We will hold the mobile operators to their new legally binding agreement to ensure that 90 per cent of the UK landmass will have voice and SMS coverage by 2017.” The Conservatives gave a little more specificity than Labour, demonstrating that there is a legal binding agreement to get better mobile coverage.

Lib Dems

There was no mention of mobile coverage in their manifesto.

A promising start

Overall, I don’t think there have been any big surprises in the manifestos and digital inclusion has featured as much as we thought it would. There’s hope in all three, and certainly the promise for us to carry on with the work we are already doing. And there’s plenty here we can build on, no matter the decision of the voters on 7th May.

We’ll be looking at the rest of the Party manifestos next week, and I’ll do another round up of SNP, Green and UKIP to see where they stand.

Remember, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, 20th April!

An exciting addition to Tinder Foundation

I’m delighted to let you know that our new Business & Innovation Director, Adam Micklethwaite, started at Tinder Foundation today.

It’s great to have Adam joining our Senior Management Team, working closely with me, Charlotte, Margaret as well as the rest of the team. Adam’s Director role will be focused on:

  • Innovation: lead on trialling, testing and implementing new business ideas. Working closely with Alice on research
  • Business Development: developing bids and pitches to Trusts/Foundations and developing our commercial offers
  • Marketing: Working closely with Anna on developing our brands, and our network campaigns

Adam was previously Deputy Director at the Department of Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) working in the Enterprise Department. Adam led BIS’s work on developing business support services, and he worked closely with the Entrepreneurship programme that BIS delivers.

During the selection process Adam impressed us with his expertise, intelligence, and commitment to social enterprise. I’m really looking forward to working with him.

Day One will be full of meetings with people in the team. Tomorrow we’re off to London for our Social Housing & Digital Inclusion Event (there’s still time to book a place), and I’ll be blogging about it later this week.

The Final Countdown: A Digital Democracy Toolkit

Over the weekend I couldn’t help but think about Jack, a young guy I met last August when I was at Starting Point in Stockport to talk about the role of digital technology in democracy, during a roundtable discussion for the Digital Democracy Commission. I was reminded of Jack because it’s now only a month until the General Election, and there are only 14 days left to register to vote.

A Digital Democracy Toolkit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I first met Jack, at Starting Point – that’s part of Taylor’s Fish and Chip Shop – he’d never had anything to do with politics. He had no idea what a polling station was and definitely had no interest in voting but by the end of our chat something had changed. He now knew that politics is something that affects everyone, not just “the men in suits in Westminster”, and that by voting everyone has a say in how the country is run. He knew he had a role in the politics of the UK, and he had a choice in who should represent him.

Not only was he showing an interest, but he was angry at the fact that no-one, including his school, had made the effort to provide him with even the basic information about what democracy is, how the UK political system worked and his role in it.

I hope the discussion I had with Jack did a little to inspire him to vote in a month’s time – and I certainly hope he has at least registered to vote. If Jack does decide to vote, I wonder if he’s got enough information to make his decision as I know it can be hard navigating the rhetoric and the 24 hours news cycle in order to decide who is the right party/representative for you.

With this in mind, the Tinder Foundation team have put together a Digital Democracy Toolkit – some of the brilliant resources from around the web on Community How To so that everyone has the chance to make that decision. Whether you’re unsure who your current local MP is (take a look at Find Your MP), or you want to know what’s actually going on in parliament (TheyWorkForYou will help) there’s so much on there.

Bite the ballot

And of course, there’s a link to registering to vote on there too! If you think there are any tools missing then do just register on the site and add them yourself.

Here are the key dates:

  • 20th April last day to register to vote
  • 7th May polling day (from 7am to 10pm)
  • 8th May (or maybe a little after that) we find out who is our next Government.

I’m a passionate advocate of democracy, and I would like everyone to feel informed and included enough to exercise the right to vote on the 7th May and to shape the future we want for our country. I hope you find the new toolkit useful as you make your final decisions on where to place your vote in one month’s time.

And here’s a tool to make your own countdown clock to May 7th and election day.

Let’s shape the digital world, as it shapes us

I have a question for you:

Were you, like me, one of the million or so people that tuned in on Monday night to watch Martha Lane Fox speak at the Richard Dimbleby lecture?

Martha Lane Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

If so, have you signed the Dot Everyone petition, because at the time of writing this there were just over 2,000 signatures still needed to hit the goal of 10,000.

What I really enjoyed about Martha’s talk was the fact that she used the platform to be ambitious, to be bold, and to make a clear call to action.

Martha highlighted digital inclusion as one of Dot Everyone’s three key aims. Focusing not only on government and what happens in boardrooms, but looking at some of our most disadvantaged communities and how education is key in making sure no one is left behind. As Martha said, “the internet is a global public project”, and if we truly want Britain to be the leading digital nation, then we simply can’t have 10 million people without the basic digital skills they need to be part of that digital nation.

Dot Everyone

 

 

 

 

 

Another of Dot Everyone’s aims is to make sure women are at the heart of technology; it’s staggering to think there are fewer women in the digital sector than there are in parliament. At Tinder Foundation I’m really proud to run an organisation, with digital at our core, in which the majority of the management team are women, as well as one of our programmers. Sadly I know this is not the norm, and that’s why it’s great that Dot Everyone wants to put women where they should already be – at the heart of technology.

I’m writing this just before the UK heads into the Easter bank holiday weekend. If you’re lucky enough to be having the long weekend off work – where no doubt you’ll find yourself using your phone, tablet or laptop – I urge you to sign the petition on behalf of the many millions who can’t.

Connecting the 4.4 Billion Unconnected

On Wednesday evening I was on a train coming back from London and chatting to my colleague Alice about how important the internet, and good access to the internet, is to us personally. Alice had recently moved house and all her furniture was in storage, but she was happy as the broadband was connected and she had a beanbag to sit on.

Alice and I had been to an event where about 60 social entrepreneurs, business people and delivery projects from around the world had been discussing the Why and the How to connecting the last 4.4 billion people who still can’t or don’t use the internet.

In the UK we still have 10 million people who don’t have the basic digital skills to use the web. As part of my day job I get meet with many of the thousands of people that Tinder Foundation and our partners help every month, and I hear about the life changing effect the internet is having on new users who have: found work, saved money, been in touch with distant friends and relatives, no longer felt lonely, got healthier, and stopped rough sleeping.

Scaling that up, a vision of connecting the 4.4 billion people unconnected is mind boggling. Many of the stories, I heard on Wednesday, of lives transformed were familiar to me: people getting new skills so they can find useful work, people finding a voice, people linking to essential services. But other success stories were about how to use technology to solve very different challenges. For example, Instant Network School from Vodafone Foundation helps children displaced by conflict access education resources via tablets and the internet. We heard from Internet.org about infrastructure solutions, free data to use basic Facebook and other public services for mobile phones in the developing world, and about digital literacy.

There were common strands in our discussions. Such as technology is just the tool; what we really need to make change happen is to develop programmes importantly involving users and helpers that result in behaviour change. We talked about value and cost. In the UK I keep banging on about the people who just can’t afford the internet.

For many people still digitally excluded in the UK, just like people in some of the developing world, the choice is an internet connected device or something else – where the ‘something else’ may be food or travel costs to get medical help. It’s just like the prevent or cure agenda: we never get truly focussed on prevention when there are so many people who need curing. I often feel hopeful and frustrated in equal measure.

Bob Gann, from NHS England, and I gave a short talk on our Widening Digital Participation Programme. I brought it right back to the 4.4 billion people and told the story of just one of them – Ron, who used to live in a tent next to an A road just outside Hull.

Ron Dale and Bob Gann

Ron Dale and Bob Gann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too often the big numbers obscure the fact each statistic is a person and each time they are empowered to change their life for the better that’s one more life improved. Ron’s story has been told to the UK Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, and this shows that one small change in one life has the potential to change the opinion of the man in charge of the NHS. We have to look bottom-up but we also need to make sense of it top down, so we can scale change as well as learning from local practice.

Bob and I talked about the Tinder Foundation Network Effect. How the thousands of hyperlocal partners we work with in our network achieve more because they are part of that network. Yes, it’s about products and services and platform and grants – the things we provide. But it’s about more than that, it’s about belonging to something bigger. Ron was helped by Inspire Communities in Hull; Inspire Communities’ work is very important. Southampton Library, and Starting Point, and Cook E-Learning, and the Bromley By Bow Centre, and thousands of other hyperlocal partners work is very important. They all tell us they know that by working with Tinder Foundation their work, their expertise and their efforts are all respected and valued, and they also tell us that they feel part of something bigger. We are all part of something bigger. Together we have a bigger impact than just working alone. That’s the network effort.

Alice and I met people in India and South Africa who are working in a similar way to Tinder Foundation. We will keep talking. We now belong to a bigger network of people with a similar vision and tireless energy to keep going until we cross the finish line.

Yesterday’s event was hosted by Huawei, and they published a microsite a year ago with articles and further information about the 4.4 billion unconnected.

Everyone’s been at it recently…

…talking about digital inclusion that is. Well, that’s how it’s felt after celebrating some important milestones over the past week.

In my last post I talked about the Digital Leaders Annual Lecture and following on from that I wrote a post for the Digital Leaders blog – which just so happened to coincide with the Digital Democracy debate at the House of Commons, led by Meg Hillier MP. It was also the first time the public (me included!) could use electronic devices during an MPs debate.

The Digital Democracy debate in Westminster Hall, March 2015

Fast forward a few days and it was back to Westminster, this time at the House of Lords, for a big day for the Tinder Foundation team. For the past six months we’ve been working with Vodafone UK and 17 UK online centres to research how mobile technology can contribute towards bridging that digital gap. The results of the project have formed a new report, “Mobile: Helping To Close The Digital Divide?

I must admit (it’s something I talked about on Tuesday) when we first started working with Vodafone I was feeling pretty fed up of attending events to hear people saying that everything (digitally-speaking) was fine because “all the old people will die soon and everyone left already owns a mobile”. And I was definitely fed up of replying (or often shouting) that they were wrong.

But the project with Vodafone has reignited my enthusiasm for mobile as there have been some really great results.

The launch event for ‘Mobile: Helping To Close The Digital Divide?’, a report produced by Tinder Foundation and Vodafone UK

We thought the people taking part would find using a mobile more intuitive (and they did) – which has had a huge impact. But the health and wellbeing impacts, and the impacts for people with caring responsibilities – were a real ‘bonus’ finding. The below is only a taster; I hope you can have a read of the findings in full here. Let me know what you think by using the hashtag #digitalmobile:

  • 55% not only learnt in the UK online centre with the help of the brilliant staff there, but they also carried on learning and enjoying their mobile device at home (and 45% didn’t learn independently)
  • 88% improved their digital skills, with their motivations for using the internet also changing dramatically
  • 65% reported improvements to confidence and self-esteem.
  • Overcoming loneliness and isolation was a big gain, with 67% saying they had better and more frequent communication with friends and family.

And finally, on Wednesday we celebrated another important milestone in our Widening Digital Participation work with the NHS, where I was joined by Dr Ollie Hart. Ollie is a GP from Sloan Medical Centre in Sheffield and together with local partners in Sheffield he has been integral in referring his patients to the UK online centres “digital surgery”, run by the Heeley Development Trust.

I’ll be blogging more about the Widening Digital Participation programme soon, but in the meantime take a look at http://nhs.tinderfoundation.org/.

We’re also holding a great Tweetchat next Thursday to find out what GPs, CCGs and other health practitioners think of the Widening Digital Participation programme. You can find out more here, and so do join in if you’re interested using the hashtag #NHSWDP – we hope to see you there!

Digital Democracy at the Digital Leaders Annual Lecture

Helen Milner, Chief Executive Tinder Foundation and Commissioner on The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, spoke at the Digital Leaders Annual Lecture on 24th February 2015.

This is the transcript of her speech, “Digital Democracy”:


 

Thank you Robin for asking me to step in at the last minute. It’s a real pleasure to be speaking to you tonight.

I was really pleased to be asked by John Bercow to be a Commissioner – it was a way to bring together two things I really care about – digital and democracy – and I was pleased as my role on the Commission was to be the person who knew about inclusion – social and digital inclusion.  I’ve promised Robin I won’t talk about digital inclusion, and I keep my word.

I’m not a policy-wonk, a politicians, nor an academic. My day job is working with people out there in our communities who are struggling with basic technology, through thousands of hyperlocal partners, and in here, with policy people, politicians, and current and future Governments.
I want to start with three simple statements. Just to put them out there straight away. I like simple language. Three important things:

  1. People are just people. Just because someone has a smartphone and uses social media it doesn’t mean they will go on to use a political app. People need to be engaged, they need information, they need to be listened to, they need dialogue.
  2. Technology is just a tool that people use to get things done. Digital only exists with people. It’s not separate.
  3. We can’t talk about digital democracy without talking about democracy.

When I told people that I was a Commissioner on the Digital Democracy Commission one of the things people often cited as evidence of digital democracy was the Arab Spring. So let’s start with the Arab Spring – the ‘internet revolution’.

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I remember the huge optimism we all felt in January 2011 when we read this story – a new born baby (a new life) and a new democracy, with democratic change brought about by a relatively new digital tool – social media.

I slightly wince when people talk to me about the Arab Spring. As a Commissioner I was keen to make sure I knew the facts. In December 2010, a young man, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire outside a Council building in Tunisia – a very personal protest sparked by police harassment. But what distinguishes this specific act of protest was that his friends and family wanted to get his story shared and in order to get around the country’s heavy censorship they used social media. Later that day a cousin and a friend of Bouazizi’s held a peaceful protest outside the same Council building, a friend filmed it and posted the film on Facebook, along with pictures of Bouaziz in hospital. The Tunisian Government didn’t think they needed to censor Facebook.

The film was picked up by Al Jazeera, sparking other activists to take to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs, to keep up with what was going on and to organise further protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere. As a result of the protests sparked by Bouaziz’s self-immolation and the film made and posted by his cousin, less than a month later Tunisia’s ruler Ben Ali stepped down.

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This is a picture that I and thousands of others tweeted in January 201. It’s thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, again these protests were organised through social media, and again they led to the resignation of their President – Mubarak – less than a month later.

Keen to get below the surface of anecdotes about the role of social media in the Arab Spring I looked at an analysis by academics at the University of Washington. They found that conversations about liberty, democracy, and revolution on blogs and on Twitter did immediately precede mass protests; the 25 January 2011, Tahrir Square protests had 600,000 views on YouTube, and 23 hyperlocal Egypt videos on the protests had 5.5 million views; in the week up to Mubarak’s resignation, tweets from and about Egypt rose from 2,300 a day to 230,000 a day.

Social media alone did not cause political change in North Africa, but mobile phones and the internet did provides new tools for activists to produce and share information, to inspire one another, and to share hints and tips on how to use digital to start a revolution.

I’m not going to comment about democracy in North Africa; I’m not qualified. But I will say that the initial wave of optimism that followed these internet enabled people revolutions hasn’t materialised into democratic stability. And, it’s clear that people who have had power and wish to keep power are also using technology to their own ends – for example, employing hackers in Morocco, or utilising face recognition software as they have in Bahrain to locate, identify and punish activists.

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There are examples where the desire of the people to be involved in democracy, using technology, and the will of the Government overlaps. This is the “Pots and Pans” revolution in Iceland – 2008 – where people took to the streets in peaceful (not silent) protest about the Government’s will to support the failing banks. These protests led to the Government to subsequently resign.

Following this, it was decided that Iceland needed a new constitution – and the Government decided to draft this using an open crowdsourcing process. In 2011, they choose 25 ‘normal’ people (not politicians, not experts) to form the drafting committee. They shared the most recent versions of the draft constitution online and the general public were asked to comment on 12 successive drafts. They also set up a Facebook page for comments. The resulting constitutional proposal was approved by two-thirds of the voters in an October 2012 referendum, but the bill based on it ultimately stalled in Parliament in Spring 2013.

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There are other good examples of where activists are challenging the old norms of Government, challenging old ways of looking down Party lines, and of consulting the people. In Argentina, the Net Party, competed in the 2013 election and gained 22,000 votes, a good result but no seats. However, if and when The Net Party secures seats, they say their elected candidates will always vote in line with the consensus of people using their “vote-and-debate online tool” – DemocracyOS. The Net Party didn’t win any seats, but they are now credible; so the Argentine Congress is going to use DemocracyOS for public consultation on three pieces of legislation, and in Mexico they are planning to use the DemocracyOS platform too.

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And of course, Estonia is leading the way in many digital Government areas, and it is the first country in the world to have implemented online voting into their elections system.

I’m not going to talk about online voting as I think it’s more important to focus on what happens in our democracy between elections. There’s too much emphasis on the single act of one vote and not the five years between.

So, what have we learnt? We’ve learned that there are people who are using digital tools to organise, to gain consensus, to crowd-source, to host robust public debates. But for real political change, digital needs to be on the inside of the political process. Calls to change our democracy, to end party politics, to made a radical change, will fall on deaf ears and will not make a difference. Change through influence and persuasion, through role models and prioritised process re-engineering on the inside will make a difference.

So, let’s talk about the Digital Democracy Commission.

We live in a country of early technology adopters. In the UK we love to use the internet. We spend the most per head shopping online than in any other country. At almost £2000 per person in the UK, significantly higher than the next highest valued Australia (£1,356 per head) and the US (£1,171 per head).) More than £1 in every £5 of retail spend – other than food – is now online.  There are more UK Facebook users than  the number of people who voted at the 2010 General Election.

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So in my view the Digital Democracy Commission was about balancing the UK people’s positive appetite for digital tools with an opposing negativity about politics, politicians, including voter apathy, low turnouts – and seeing if we can do something about it!

The headline recommendations from the Commission are:

  • By 2020, the House of Commons should ensure that everyone can understand what it does.
  • By 2020, Parliament should be fully interactive and digital.
  • 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.
  • By 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters.
  • By 2016, all published information and broadcast footage produced by Parliament should be freely available online in formats suitable for reuse. Hansard should be available as open data by the end of 2015.

I’ll go under the surface on a few of the other recommendations, as John Bercow will give you the headlines in his own words later.

We engaged with a lot of people, we wanted to demonstrate the type of methodologies we were suggesting – openness, online-ness, getting to people who are usually engaged, lowest barriers to participating. Practicing what we were preaching I guess. We opened up channels:

  • Input via email, video, a web survey, and a web comment thread
  • Roundtable discussions
  • Interactions on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • A letter to the vice chancellor of every university in the UK
  • Online student forums
  • We held formal, open (and live-streamed) evidence sessions of the Commission
  • We had informal meetings with a wide range of people.

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I ran lots of roundtables up and down the country. On a hot August day last summer I led a roundtable at Taylor’s Fish and Chip Shop in Stockport. The wonderful, entrepreneurial owner, Anne Wallace, even made some of her staff (who she was paying) take part. One lad, Jack, told me he didn’t know anything about politics, he didn’t know he needed to be on the electoral roll, or that there are polling stations. There was a lot of negativity in that room and in other rooms where I led roundtable events, but a lot of it came down to pure and simple information and awareness.

That’s why I’m really keen to see if we can push the Department for Education on the recommendation to improve the political education within schools, through digital means.

Jack, who I met in Stockport, started off joking and laughing, proud that he knew nothing about politics nor Parliament and by the end of the session he was angry that the school system let him down. We should use our education system to prepare our children to take part in our democracy.

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So now to the Cyber Chamber, Open House or the Wiki Westminster Hall – maybe our first task should be to crowdsource a decent name for it!

Westminster Hall offers MPs an alternative chamber for debating issues that interest them – in the past year, topics debated in Westminster Hall have included zero-hours contracts, football club bankruptcy, badger culls, domestic violence, the humanitarian situation in Gaza and voting at 16. You could see this recommendation as the UK’s version of the crowdsourcing of a constitution in Iceland or the DemocracyOS platform in Argentina. Our recommendation is that members of the public could use an online platform to see what debates are coming up, comment on those debates, or just watch what others are saying. MPs would watch what people are saying, also take part in discussions online and then go into the physical Westminster Hall debate better informed about the view of the people. You could see this as a start to co-creating policies and even legislation. The Commission recommends that Parliament does this in 2015 – this year – and it will give us a way of engaging more people to take part in actual political debates through a digital means.

Parliament should be fully interactive and digital – is a big recommendation with lots of rich elements to it. This is where we should use more digital tools to target groups who are currently not voting – the politically disengaged who are online.

I met so many people who didn’t know what their MPs did, didn’t know that they were allowed to contact them, didn’t know when or how to contact them, didn’t know what their MP did for them. Also, most MPs I meet are working 6 or 7 days a week, they are rushing from here to there, and can’t cope with the amount of correspondence they get now. We need to increase the engagement between people and their MPs, their representatives. But doing it with current processes, channels and tools won’t work; it would mean an unbearable workload for MPs and probably make things worse for the people too as the dialogue they want just wouldn’t happen. Parliament can’t do this alone. We need companies – big and small – to help our MPs to increase the quantity of dialogue they have with their constituents. MPs and their staff can’t bolt on digital to their current practices, they need help to re-engineer how they communicate and interact with their constituents, and they need new tools to make this possible too. And we need a culture change in Parliament so that politicians realise that this is a need-to-have not a nice-to-have.

We also can’t leave anyone behind.

Why don’t we tell people how they can engage with Parliament?

I never thought I’d be someone getting excited about Select Committees – but let’s put Facebook Ads out to tell people there are Select Committee right now, today, asking for written evidence on Sure Start Centres and Sustainability in the NHS.

Just because people are online, and then we put more parts of our democratic processes online, it doesn’t mean they will see them, think that they’re relevant, or really believe we want their points of view. We have millions of people who are politically disengaged. The Commission recommends that certain groups are targeted – we think that face to face interaction for example in “Democracy Cafes” will help this engagement – and have highlighted groups such as young people not at university, homeless people, and people living in communities with traditionally low voter turnout. Digital will be part of the kit bag to help this to happen. This recommendation is to make politics relevant and local and interactive. This recommendation is to make sure democracy and political engagement is no longer just for the people in the know, no longer just for the people who shout the loudest.

And, we need to make sure all of the improvements made to Parliament using digital are available to the 10 million adults in the UK who don’t use the internet. The digitally excluded. The Commission recommends that local grassroots organisations are supported so that they can act as local intermediaries to help people to get online or to interact using online tools through a proxy. We can’t improve the way our democracy works and leave 10 million people behind. The Commission is clear that nobody should be left behind.

I’m sure May 2015 is an important milestone for digital and for politics. Because in this year’s General Election there are many more contested seats than in recent years, and therefore running a really good, winning campaign matters. Even politicians who are technophobes understand that lots of voters use the internet to find things out and to help them make decisions. Be it volunteer engagement tools like NationBuilder, crowdfunding and donation platforms, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter – all the parties are at it. And if you’re an MP who wins your seat using these tools, let’s hope you also want to use them to be accessible and accountable to the people you represent.

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And finally, it’s time to tell you what I really think. Am I proud of the work of the Commission? Yes. Do I think the report is really radical? No. Do I think implementing the recommendations of the Commission will give us a more responsive Parliament and a more engaged people? Yes I do.

However digital is just the tool. The real conversations are going on today here – in Westminster amongst this elite – and out there – in pubs and front rooms amongst the people. We need more interaction. We need to bring these conversations together. I suggest politicians, and their staffers who help them, stop worrying about the sound bites, and start listening, responding, engaging, and building trust and dialogue. Digital is a tool that makes it possible.

Thank you.