Tomorrow morning I'm speaking at a meeting in the Commons on a report published today by Orange and Future Technology on how technological developments might affect politics over the next twenty years. While I don't expect to see a hologram of David Cameron at PMQs there's little doubt that technological developments will have a major impact on the way we do politics and conduct the business of government. The key findings of the report include:
• A challenge to UK politicians to keep up with a new generation of ‘digital natives’ who expect MPs to get up to date with 21st century technology so they can have two-way meaningful conversations with the public and not just a one way online presence through a static website.Tom Savigar, Director of Future Laboratory comments: ‘Obama has really shown the way ahead. In the US election we saw en-masse small-scale donations and we saw decentralised campaigning, where activists themselves fed canvass returns straight into the politician’s online database. There was real integration of communications and data technology – Obama’s people had wrist devices which could take a donation and send you follow-up email or text within minutes.’
• Citizen politicians could be at the heart of the political process, both on the internet and in Parliament. In the future Prime Minister’s Questions may allow a regular slot where the public can ask questions about the issues of the day.
• Wikilaws will allow the public and experts to have their say on legislation. MPs and the public will be able to keep in touch with debate and scrutiny in real-time.
• MPs can matter more, leading online campaigns and bringing government direct to the public. Digital technologies will place MPs at the heart of their constituencies and allow instant multichannel communication between constituents and public services to solve surgery problems.
• The political long tail must be grabbed. Obama raised $280 million in small donations under $200, demonstrating the dramatic impact new technology has on the political process. British political parties will have to follow this lead and rely once again on mass participation not a few large donors.
I think this whole area is fascinating, and I've asked Phil Hendren to write it up for the next issue of Total Politics. You can download the full report HERE and comment on the Orange blog HERE.
MPs and other politicians need to be bold and put themselves at the heart of this process – in blogs, in online discussion and online campaigns. Too many people in politics view new technology and new media as a threat rather than an opportunity - hence the fact that fewer than 40 MPs have blogs, and the fact that all the political party websites are woeful in both content and ambition.
It's probably a generational thing, and will change over time as the web literate generation becomes more powerful and influential. Roll on that day!