Democracy Club’s two main projects, whocanivotefor.co.uk and wheredoivote.co.uk, do a stellar job of improving access to democracy and answers the questions most often asked on election days in the UK.
Democracy Club crowdsources most of their data from their pool of 4000 non-partisan volunteers and communicates with these volunteers via slack or email. They also use these communication channels to collect information from those standing for election. Democracy Club’s staff members work entirely remotely using a plethora of software tools to complete their day to day tasks. Thus, Democracy Club would certainly argue that there are ways in which technology can help revitalise democracy in Europe.
Democracy Club does this best by seeking to solve the primary problems voters have, namely knowing where to vote and learning about the candidates standing for election. Democracy Club regularly iterates the information presented to voters, and is very adaptive and flexible to the needs of its users all in a bid to ensure everyone has access to quality information about democratic processes.
The European Commission is good at challenging tech giants on their commercial power / monopoly structures, and this monopoly of access to attention is even more important in the political space than the economic one. Strong regulation or break up of companies seems reasonable. Should we also be looking at competitors and innovation — including public funding for experimental projects? The EU has not been bad at this, sharing ideas and new products, but such innovations rarely scale beyond a single city, e.g. Reykjavik or Madrid each has their own civic tech cluster of projects — this may be the best we can hope for.
Another key question to consider: where are the barriers to high quality participation in democracy and can tech help remove them?
Also worth thinking about how democracy can improve technology (such as in the case of platform co-operatives that could take on Facebook, Twitter, Uber, etc).
Digital ways of working may also be applicable to how we improve democracy: start small, research user needs, try things until you get it right.