The Speaker of the House of Commons has announced a ‘Digital Democracy Commission’ to look at the implications of the technological revolution for parliament and democracy.
The Commission, which will begin work early in 2014, is in part a response to the rebuilding of the reputation and trust in parliament as a result of the expenses scandal. The speaker acknowledged that ‘parliament had become a dignified part of democracy without much dignity’ saying that people see parliament as ‘a green room where mainly men shout at each other for short periods of the working week.’ Recent reforms such as elections for the speaker and select committee members and have gone some way to revitalising the institution but there is still much to be done to rebuild trust and credibility with citizens.
In announcing the commission he said there is much that needs to be understood about the digital world and what a digital parliament may look like. There is no doubt that change is needed: democracy needs to evolve to thrive. But the commission will also be charged with looking at difficult issues such as trust and exclusion in the digital world.
The commission members will be announced soon and will comprise of a mix of parliamentarians and outside experts. It will be supported by a further 30 ‘expert commissioners’. Its work will be open and anyone can contribute. The speaker hopes to have contributions from tech leaders from across the UK and the world and apply ‘disruptive minds’ to the issues. It will look at work in other places such as Estonia where 25% of all votes are cast online. He plans for it to be fast, flexible, fluid and fun.
The project is ambitious: the timescales are tight; it is a massive subject area, which is constantly changing and is a new format, which will be funded from existing budgets. It will report in 2015, just before the election, with the aim to inspire the new parliament.
The publication of the report will also coincide with the 750th anniversary of the parliament in Westminster, a fitting reminder that those 750 years have only been achieved by adapting our democracy to changes in the world. Democracy is from the people and has to evolve to be relevant to those people.
You can read the full speech here http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Designing-a-Parliament-for-the-21st-Century-Hansard-Society.pdf