The Commission started by looking at how Parliament could use digital technology to work more effectively and in a way that people expect in the modern world. We also considered how digital could enhance the voting system, as this is a fundamental part of the UK’s system of representative democracy. We asked people to tell us their views online or in person and we heard from a wide a range of people. They included not just experts, MPs and interest groups, but members of the public—people of different ages and backgrounds and people with varying levels of interest in politics and the work of Parliament.
One message that resonated very clearly was that digital is only part of the answer. It can help to make democratic processes easier for people to understand and take part in, but other barriers must also be addressed for digital to have a truly transformative effect. As the Democratic Society put it: “[T]echnology in itself is not a panacea and it will not effectively correct poor existing practices…we need to look beyond new digital tools to existing processes that do and do not work, and then critically explore how technology can help us to make democracy work better.”
Key targets and recommendations
The Commission has outlined five key targets and a number of reccomendations which are a route map for the House of Commons to meet these targets:
By 2020, the House of Commons should ensure that everyone can understand what it does.
By 2020, Parliament should be fully interactive and digital.
The 2015 newly elected House of Commons should create immediately a new forum for public participation in the debating function of the House of Commons.
By 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters.
By 2016, all published information and broadcast footage produced by Parliament should be freely available online in formats suitable for reuse. Hansard should be available as open data by the end of 2015.