Can we create Web Democracy for the UK?

I would not normally write about politics on this blog but Non-Brits may not have caught the raw anger of the UK electorate about the betrayal of trust by their elected representatives (members of Parliament). I believe that web democracy is now essential for modern government. By web democracy I mean the processes that so many of us have developed in our own work. I am not suggesting that conventional government is replaced by Web processes but that web processes should be used to supplement the process of government and be baked into that process. That is why Net Neutrality matters so much.

This morning BBC ran its regular Broadcasting House program where they asked 3-4 of the great and the good to comment. A unelected bishop, Tony Benn and the unelected Lord Sainsbury. Lord Sainsbury was the Minister for Science who did much to resist the introduction of Open Access into the UK (or certainly did nothing to promote it). The program asked us to mail our comments I have no idea what they do with them but I wrote rapidly (a sort of megatweet):

In your current program (2009-05-17:0900) you ask for input to create a new democracy for the UK

Government can be made transparent through the Internet.

An outstanding example of web democracy is given by mySociety ( and similar organisations which provide sites for public transparency. Examples are theyWorkForYou (what MPS have said and voted for), WhatDoTheyKnow (FOI requests). The Cabinet Office has supported some of this.

Transparent public information is now key to democracy

The first point is that I am more likely to get my voice heard through the media than through the formal process of my MP. (I recently wrote twice to my MEP about Net neutrality and also left a message on their answerphone and got no reply. This is not democracy). The Guardian ran a story on Thursday about Heather Brooke a journalist who fought for 5 years for freedom of information about MP’s expenses and was fought aggressively and relentlessly by the MP’s and the Speaker (the person who is meant to run the House of Commons but publicly fails to do so). The MP’s have deliberately tried to cover up their expenses, and it’s credit to the Daily Telegraph that we now have them.

The argument that we can vote out Mps after 5 years is not tenable in the Internet age. I’m not asking for mob justice, but I am asking for Open Government. That’s what mySociety has done so spectacularly. You can now make formal requests for information from any public body. I’m also impressed by Downing Street posting petitions on their site (as for the campaign against the EPSRC policy I blogged about).

So let’s see, listing Mps expenses. It’s trivial to do technically. Or where they are forced to reply to our views.

While on this subject, we have local and European elections next month. I always try to vote. I’d like to emphasize the importance of Web Democracy and might be persuaded to carry a placard with a simple message. Any suggestions?

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