United Kingdom politics and the online opportunity

By Paul Grant

The United Kingdom’s politicians have missed many opportunities created by new Internet phenomena such as social networking, according to various research papers in recent times. In spite of this, could it now be time for Members of Parliament and electoral candidates to harness the capabilities of new media, particularly in relation to meaningful engagement with constituents?

Giving the people the information THEY want

It seems that the time has come for government to embrace the power of the online medium. In July 2008, we see the launch of an exciting new website at the domain showusabetterway.com

showusabetterway.comThe UK Government has offered a prize of £20,000 for the best community generated idea that uses information held by the country, to better serve the people. Only one week after launching to the public, a staggering 150 conscientious ideas have come forward from the well-meaning public. These ideas are not just from software developers, but from citizens from all walks of life.

The best of these ideas will be taken into development by a professional team, funded by the government, in order to advance the services provided to the public by the government.

Inspire Inform Involve


Other government focussed communities have sprung up over the years that aim to improve society through the use of collaborative tools. TakingITGlobal.org provides a portal for young people to find inspiration, access information and get involved in improving their local and global communities.

“As social networking sites have taken off, TakingITGlobal provides a critical niche for youth who really want to make change happen. It is the place for youth to organize change and create a sense of community. TIG is needed now more than ever as a beacon for social change.”
Anurag Nigam, Member, Sand Hill Angels

With over 170,000 members, this community is surely one to be reckoned with.

It is our society after all


Some of the true pioneers of community engagement with government using the Internet include the talented and proactive bunch at mysociety.org. They have been able to help the government take notice of the need to use once-experimental media, for the benefit of real-world engagement with constituents.

Some of their notable examples include FixMyStreet, HearFromYourMP, NotApathetic, PledgeBank, TheyWorkForYou, and the most famous e-Petitions functionality as utilised on the Number 10 Downing Street website.

So what about the future?

It is very interesting to watch and learn from the various governments of the international community as they embrace the various aspects of social media and online engagement. Barack Obama has clearly seen the benefit of building a campaign around such tools. One thing seems certain: The UK Government is starting to see the online opportunity and to cautiously embrace it.

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Meet the Author

Paul Grant