Half a billion new users got connected to the web in 2014, which was an increase of 20%. This means there are now more than 3 billion web surfers worldwide which is staggering, but this only equates to about 40% of the world’s population so there is still plenty of growth to come!

The internet is such an important part of our lives now for so many reasons, from running a business to catching up with friends and online shopping, the internet serves an ever increasing range of functions. It’s role in aiding democracy is also increasingly important. Here’s why:

Five reasons why the internet is an important part of democracy

  1. The internet is a primary source of information for people about what is happening with local or central government. This is particularly true for younger people who consider the internet to be an easy and reliable way to find information.
  2. Because the internet provides instant gratification, people are more likely to research and get involved in politics.
  3. Social media allows people to express their opinions quickly, judgement free, from the comfort of their own home and often anonymously.
  4. People that share their opinions on high traffic websites are capable of having an influence on a large number of people.
  5. Politicians can get feedback and advice from citizens via the internet. This collective decision making and problem solving gives more power to the citizens and helps get decisions made faster and more cost effectively.

Where to from here?

Over the years, government – both central and local, has shown an ability to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of the age by incorporating things that are modern or different in order to meet the objectives of the people it serves.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see some significant changes to the way we have our say in politics in the near future. Specifically, is it too much of a stretch to suggest that voting may soon be done with the help of modern technology? If this was to happen there would be some definite advantages – it would be more efficient and it would open up democracy to more people because they could use modern technology in a way that suits them best.

The most brilliant apps for democratic participation could definitely be built, but no doubt it would be a bit of a challenge to get people to use them and use them well initially. Here at PublicVoice we are already actively involved in digital democrinacy and we look forward to seeing how things develop in this area in the coming years.

PublicVoice Citizens’ Panels – aiding digital democracy in New Zealand

Our Citizens’ Panel service embraces this idea of digital democracy and gives members of the public a convenient way to have their say in the decision making of local government. Involving anywhere between 500 and 5,000 people, Citizens’ Panels are a representative sample of the local community. Panel members are invited to complete surveys on a regular basis on a range of important topics.

Since establishing these panels we have found that people really enjoy having their say in this way. Lots of people have opinions about how they would like things run in their community and Citizens’ Panels ensure that the views of the wider community are conveyed – not just the thoughts of the vocal minority which was arguably the case before technology made the feedback process much easier.

Contact us if you would like to know more about how our Citizens’ Panels can help your organisation.