Feeds

Politics needs a technology injection

When did you last email your MP?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Technology has not lived up to its promise of transforming the way politicians communicate with the public, according to research. A meagre one per cent of the population has contacted their MP by email, but 38 per cent said they would if they knew what the address was.

According to a Telewest survey of 3,150 people in the UK, around a third of whom had internet access at home, young people are much more likely to email their MP. The 18-34 age group also said they would be more likely to vote if they could do so online, while the vast majority (over 80 per cent) of those over fifty said the option would make no difference. People also said they would be more likely to vote if contacted directly by their MP, but 50 per cent of us still don't know who our representative is.

Ruth Turner, director of Vision 21, the company that carried out the survey, said that the results needed to be interpreted with caution. "There is a potential for technology to really ramp up voting turnover," she said. "Although 80 per cent of people say they intend to vote, there is always a gap between intent and action, particularly with younger voters"

Stephen Ward, a research fellow at the Oxford Institute agreed that though technology has the potential to engage young people, it would not be the solution in and of itself. "They [young people] still need a pre-existing motivation. They are willing to engage, but there is a gap between what they say and what they do. Politics and parties will have to change, and that change will have to be wider then getting an email address."

Derek Wyatt, chairman of the all party internet group, and something of a champion of MPs using technology said that MPs in marginal constituencies are more likely than any other to keep up with technology, because it gives them another way of interacting with their voters.

"Why wouldn't MPs have websites? Any MP worth his salt would have a website and an email. It is natural to want to communicate with your constituents," he said, before adding: "Some MPs don't even run surgeries, though."

Not every member of parliament has embraced the technological revolution. Upon election, every MP is allocated an email address, but not everyone takes it up. As for an online presence, the Lib Dems have the most tech friendly reputation and the Labour party now has a template for building a website that all its MPs can use, but across all parties only seven or eight MPs maintain a blog.

Wyatt suggested that the government should be more forward thinking in its use of technology, proposing that the electorate be polled annually on key issues, such as GM foods, abortion law and the MMR vaccine, as a way of informing policy decisions. "How do people feel about these issues? I don't think we know. It would be interesting to ask," he said.

But Declan McHugh of the Hansard society said that we need to be cautious of moving to what he called direct democracy, saying that the system of debate and consultation has a lot to recommend it. Stephen Ward supported his argument, saying that there was a risk of amplifying the voices of those that already participate rather than engaging new voters. ®

Related stories

Ireland faces 50m e-voting write-off
California green lights e-voting
UK gov planning switch to e-voting for 2007?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
Inside the EYE of the TORnado: From Navy spooks to Silk Road
It's hard enough to peel the onion, are you hard enough to eat the core?
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.