The idea that the internet can be a transformative space for democracy, especially in OECD countries, is a common place. Also of huge interest is the drive to make PSI [pubic sector information] assets available online.
It's also often said that an informed e-literate citizenship is a core requirement for all this to take place. Less common is an emphasis on the digital literacy, or e-capability, of our representatives. In short, how digitally literate are our MP's? A recent report from the UK Hansard Society provide some welcome insights.
The most widely used digital media are those which are mainly passive in nature, such as websites.
Interactive forms of media which could be used by MPs to develop a two-way dialogue with their constituents, such as blogs and social networking, are used less commonly.
Where these tools are used, it is often in passive 'send' mode with few MPs exploiting their full interactive potential.
Key findings from the research are:
- 92% of UK MPs use email
- 83% of UK MPs have a personal website
- 23% of UK MPs use social networking
- 11% of UK MPs blog
The Hansard Society is one of the UK's leading independent, non-partisan political research and education charities.
The study is written by Hansard Society's Director of eDemocracy Programme, Andy Williamson. He is a former member of the DSAG [New Zealand Digital Strategy Advisory Group], and, when based in New Zealand, was a well known advocate of the benefits, boundaries and opportunities of using digital as a community development platform.
But has any of this changed of late - say through the rise of Twitter? TweetMinster, again from the UK is an interesting experiment in mapping the tweeting world of the UK parliament at Westminster. Might be interesting to see a NZ, or Australian equivalent. I note they acknowledge My Society's They Work For You as one of their inspiration points. NZ does have its own version of this excellent initiative.
UK Royal Mail
As I write, the feed is full of comments on the UK Royal Mail story, including the potential mass revolt of over 100 Labour MP's. So it definitely picks up the current pulse of the political landscape