Communication has come a long way in recent years. The ‘90s brought us the first widely available internet browser (1993) and the first mobile phone with an internet connection (1996). The past decade saw the evolution of these tools into new digital networks and resources: FlickR and Facebook in 2004; Youtube in 2005, and Twitter in 2006. Today, 10% of the world’s population has a fixed internet subscription and almost 30% has a mobile subscription, with the figures doubling in developed countries. Additionally, there are now 7.1 billion mobile phones and 1.9 billion smartphones with an internet subscription (ITU figures).
Parliaments around the world have embraced ICT and other new technologies at varying rates, and to varying degrees of success. The great majority of legislatives now have a website and many of them are active on social media networks. Some have gone further still, piloting mobile constituency offices, virtual hearings and a whole range of digital platforms designed to improve communication between citizens and their representatives (see below). Yet, countless opportunities for better use of these technologies go unexplored.
This brief illustrates how new technologies can better connect parliament with the people it represents. It discusses the use of ICT in administration, the adoption of social media, the development of citizen engagement platforms and the strategies employed by parliamentary monitoring organisations. It also offers suggestions on how to keep costs down and mobilise support.