The Rise of E-Democracy
I was recently a panelist for the ‘The Rise of E-Democracy’ event at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. I had the opportunity to sit alongside two very bright-minded and forward thinkers, Leah Lockhart, The Democratic Society, and Emma Mulqueeny, Young Rewired State. The session posed a lot of challenging questions around governance, digital, ambition and what the role of technology is in the future of public participation and democracy.
This immediately triggered a number of questions: what do they mean by e-democracy/digital democracy? How does digital engagement fit into the wider picture? What are we already doing? What should we be doing? What is my role in all of this? Ultimately, there were more questions than answers.
My initial inclination was that we’re still trying to figure all of this out as it’s still quite a new concept. After all, recently there have been numerous reports exploring how digital tools can support democratic outcomes, below are just a few:
- Nesta – Digital Democracy: The tools transforming political engagement
- European Parliament – Potential and Challenges of E-Participation in the European Union
- Snook & Democratic Society – Consultation Platform Discovery
Having considered what is currently being achieved around digital democracy it became clear that the Scottish Government is doing a lot. From blogging to our website in transition (beta.gov.scot), digital consultations, social media and live streaming, we’re doing a lot to increase transparency and participation in policymaking. We’re also training civil servants on how to use digital tools to engage better and to talk about their work.
It seems as though everyone is trying to understand what digital democracy is in practice. Discussion at the Rise of E-Democracy panel illustrated how we, as experts from different backgrounds, are trying to navigate digital tools to seek opportunities to improve the way we engage and communicate. Whether we’re focused on training, user experience, research, digital platforms, engagement… we’re all trying to improve openness, transparency and participation with the aim to improve democracy.As panelists, we all agreed that digital democracy is much bigger than online voting, there’s a bigger sense around participation. After all, this isn’t about digital, it’s about democracy.
How do you think we can use modern technology to increase democratic participation?