SUMMARY
The Hansard Society has been commissioned by Parliament to forecast the form a digitally-enabled Parliament might take over the next 10 years.

The research will explore the contribution technology has made to democratic processes to date. It will also provide a neutral space for Parliament to think creatively about how it can take advantage of new media – now and in the future – by networking with those leading advances in the use of information and communication technology (ICT).

The Hansard Society is inviting individuals and organisations to contribute their ideas and visions of how Parliament and parliamentarians should use digital ICT to enhance communication, representation and scrutiny; they will form the Parliament for the Future (P4tF) Incubator Group.

The research report will be published (on and offline) in August 2007.

THE SITE
The P4tF site will provide updates as the project progresses and an opportunity for anyone to discuss the issues it raises.

THE PROJECT
Parliament’s internet strategy makes provision for investment in information and communications technology over the next five years. This technology will be brought in to help facilitate the strategic aims of Parliament’s online communications activity:

– Making information more accessible;
– Promoting Parliament;
– Facilitating dialogue between Parliament and the public.

Digital information and communication technologies can provide significant efficacy and efficiency benefits to Parliament and its stakeholders in three areas:

– Information – using ICT to improve communications and marketing;
– Legislation – using ICT to enhance scrutiny and performance;
– Representation – using ICT to strengthen democratic connections.

However, this assertion must be continually revised and deliberated as technologies develop, converge and are used more frequently by parliamentarians and the public. Parliament for the Future (P4tF) sets out to ask critical questions about the contribution of technology to parliamentary politics and what influence it may have on processes and relationships between citizens, elected representatives and political institutions in the long term.

P4tF addresses each of the three areas of information, legislation and representation and seeks to map:

1. How has technology been used in these areas to date?
2. Which technologies or processes might emerge in these areas over the next five years?
3. By what means and measurements can Parliament plan strategically towards future ICT investment and provision?

To answer the first question, we are undertaking a programme of desk research to review existing data, debate, policy and practice. We have identified Parliament’s key policy papers, research papers prepared by and for committees and we have plotted chronologically Parliament and parliamentarians’ use of ICT as a political engagement tool.

The second question has been put before a selection of leading designers and technologists (from the academic, NGO, and private sectors). This Incubator Group – drawn from the Hansard Society’s extensive contacts in the UK and abroad – has been issued with a brief and asked to respond with a hardware and/or software solution. They are not being asked to produce a product – rather, we are inviting them to contribute ideas and solutions, contained within a pitch, which will be presented in the end of project report.

The third section of the research will be conclusions and recommendations informed by the results of the first and second sections.

HANSARD SOCIETY
The Hansard Society is an independent, non-partisan organisation that operates across the political spectrum to support the democratic process and improve the relationship between the public, elected representatives and political institutions.

We carry out an intensive programme of work aimed at enhancing engagement in civic and political life. The value of our resources, action research, on- and off- line projects and events is recognised by representatives of all political parties, the business community, the voluntary sector, and communities across the UK and overseas.

The Hansard Society has a distinguished reputation in the field of eDemocracy, spearheading the use of interactive technology to engage people from all sectors of society in the political process.

Since 1997, our eDemocracy Programme has explored online participation with an aim to establish effective, manageable dialogue between representatives and the represented. This has involved working with a range of constituents, including children of school age, senior citizens and more vulnerable groups within society, as well as with MPs, Peers and government.

The Hansard Society eDemocracy Programme was established to examine how democratic institutions can adapt to an age defined by digital technology and a knowledge-based economy. At the outset we rejected exaggerated claims that the internet was about to make representations obsolete and introduce ‘push-button democracy’. Our interest has been in strengthening representation through better communication and enhancing opportunities for engagement.

MORE INFORMATION
For more information about ‘Parliament for the Future’ or the Hansard Society, contact:

Dr Laura Miller
Researcher, eDemocracy Programme
Hansard Society

edemocracy[at]hansard[dot]lse[dot]ac[dot]uk

or visit www.hansardsociety.org.uk.

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