Last week saw a Westminster Hall debate to discuss the report of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. Andy Williamson argues that while concrete steps are being taken to implement some of the recommendations, greater drive will be needed to create a coherent long-term programme for the digital modernisation of Parliament.
The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy has concluded leaving a rather important question hanging in the air: what happens next? The Commission had no powers, no formal authority to do anything and what remains is a question of its half-life, its ongoing influence and the ability of the former Commissioners and others to advocate for change based on their work. I felt that the Commission report had ‘the potential to set the pace for digital democratic practices for the next few years’, not least because it echoes the findings in my own research on the future of citizen engagement with parliaments, but it’s far from certain that this will happen. I’ve discussed the recommendations here but, to briefly recap, the final report gives us five key targets and 34 mostly pragmatic rather than radical recommendations:
- By 2020, everyone should understand what Parliament does.
- By 2020, Parliament should be fully interactive and digital.
- The newly elected House of Commons (in May 2015) should immediately create a new forum for public participation in debates.
- In the 2020 general election, 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 open format.