“The challenge is how we reconcile traditional concepts and institutions of representative democracy with the technical revolution which we have witnessed over the past decades or two which has created both the demand for and an opportunity to establish a digital democracy. Quietly, over past decades, a radically different world has emerged which in time will make the industrial revolution seem minor” - Mr Speaker to the Hansard Society 27 November 2013, Towards a 21st Century Parliament
(Full transcript of the speech here)
Sometimes don’t you find that the planets just seem to line up perfectly. On 10 December the LocalGov Digital Steering Group will celebrate its one year(ish) birthday. Indeed a cause for celebration. Its Chair @carlhaggerty has deservedly received the Guardian’s Public Service Leadership Excellence Award *cheers*. Speaker Bercow shines a light on Parliament and raises the profile of an issue that means an awful lot to some of us – democracy in a digital age. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the Rewiring Local Democracy work stream of LocalGov Digital will be launched on 10 December *tips hat to @Localopolis*. Nothing big or fancy at the moment, but all of a sudden it seems a little more relevant. About time some might say
“For representative democracy to thrive it has to evolve and there has to be a step change improvement in its responsiveness to the electorate and the country at large.”
As a digital democracy advocate, and a fully paid up member of the local government club, I personally welcome the widening out of the debate. The bedrock and heart of local government is its democratic mandate and democratic legitimacy. The challenges we face in local government, the lessons we are learning and the innovation that is taking place is relevant to the work of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. That said, the real challenge, for the Commission and local councils, is to ensure the focus is on citizen engagement, participation and involvement in the breadth of democracy and the processes that underpin it. As @curiousc has said before it’s more than councillors (politicians) using Twitter. The Steering Group believe that local public services must be Open by Default -Digital by Design, relevant considerations for the Commission’s work.
Officers and elected councillors have done some great work over recent years to test, challenge and embrace digital – the learning is relevant and transferrable. As Speaker Bercow says, it is important that the work of the Commission is “seen outside of Zone One of the London Underground Network”. Couldn’t agree more.
It is for this reason that the Steering Group will proactively seek to inform the work of the Commission either directly or as part of public hearings and calls for evidence. Watch this space.