House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has called for online voting to be available by the 2020 General Election.
Bercow has set up the Digital Democracy Commission (DDC), which is investigating the opportunities digital technology can bring for Parliamentary democracy in the UK.
Yesterday, DDC released its first report which focuses on using digital technology to bridge the gap between the public and Parliament.
“I set up the DDC to explore how Parliament could make better use of digital technology to enhance and improve its work,” claimed Bercow.
“This report provides a comprehensive roadmap to break down barriers to public participation. It also makes recommendations to facilitate better scrutiny and improve the legislative process.
“In a year where we reflect on our long democratic heritage, it is imperative that we look also to the future and how we can modernise our democracy to meet the changing needs of modern society,” he added.
By 2020, Bercow wants the House of Commons to have ensured that everyone can understand what it does, arguing that currently, this is not the case.
The document recommends a new communication strategy that involves making more people aware of what Parliament and MPs actually do and get more members of the public involved in this.
In the same timeframe, the House of Commons is expected to be “fully interactive and digital” with new ways for members of the public to put forward questions for Ministers and have their say about laws which are being made.
Parliament should work with both national and local organisations to try out new online activities and find ways to work with groups of people who do not vote.
There is also an emphasis on engaging more young people and this may include encouraging young people to use modern technology such as e-petitions.
After the General Election, DDC has said that member should be able to have a new method of having their say during House of Commons debates, preferably an online public forum.
By 2016, the report expects Parliament to make the vast amount of information and broadcasts about it work it publishes available online, allowing the public to download and re-use it.
“Over the past 25 years, we have lived through a revolution – created by the birth of the World Wide Web and the rapid development of digital technology,” claimed Bercow.
“This digital revolution has disrupted old certainties and challenge representative democracy at its very heart.
“With social media sources such as Twitter, blogs and 24/7 media, the citizen has more sources of information than ever before, yet citizens appear to operate at a considerable distance from their representatives and appear ‘disengaged’ from democratic processes,” he added.
It is for this reason, Bercow claims, that the Open Up report became necessary.