Democratic Accountability: Look at Lobbying

Filed under: Governance,Politics — lenand @ 12:08 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Thanks to the Great Emancipator we have seen a US view of “Government-wide Information Sharing for Democratic Accountability“.  The author, J.H. Snider, is suggesting using semantic web technology to monitor the connections between powerful politicians, public officials and lobbyists.  He points out that these techniques are used on the weaker members of society, but the powerful will cite privacy and cost for not applying the same methods on their activities. He recommends that the President’s transactions are monitored in detail as a showcase for monitoring Congress and executive relationships.  What are the chances of linking up data of the Prime Minister, Ministers, senior civil servants, leaders of councils and their suppliers of hospitality?

Well, there is the work going on in the Cabinet Office led cross-government information architecture.  They are attempting to use standards to provide interoperability between different departments and agencies.   Amongst these are the building of an “Upper Ontology for Operational Service Delivery” – perhaps this has the same intention as Snider’s “Who-What-When-Where ontology”.  The USA has a more accessible name for what may be the same thing.

It will take a long time, if ever, to develop a lobbying information system. Even though some MPs are calling for the establishment of a register it would eventually have to be linked to lots more sources of reliable data.

Where Quarkside differs from Snider is in the use of Global Unique Idenifiers (GUIDs).  They may think they have them in the USA, but it is not credible or politically acceptable in the UK. Reflecting back on a post from last year,

  • A person does not need a Unique Identifier (UID).
  • The Law does not demand a UID.
  • Use just sufficient data to identify a person.

Openness in personal relationships can only built from an understanding of federated identity, multiple identities, not by demanding a UID.  The likes of Experian can do it – so could UK plc. Maybe Liam Maxwell could assist here. Maybe we could also publish information about political lobbying that would improve democratic accountability.


Digital Democracy: Challenge to MPs.

Digital Democracy, a Quarkside link, needs more support:

“Digital Democracy was Nationaly (sic) launched yesterday has resulted in many new members. Thanks to those that have made proposals and have been participating on the site. However, site members don’t seem to be making as many proposals as we would hope! Please let us know if there is any particular reason for this.”

Democracy is a form of Governance. Bang in the middle of Quarkside’s trilogy; Process, Governance and Technology. Digital is a form of Technology. The remaining question is whether the Process is fit for purpose.

Their Founding Principles are:

  • To empower individuals and groups of people whose viewpoint has been marginalised from a decision making process, where their quality of life is affected by the outcome of the decision.
  • To facilitate people’s democratic involvement in decision making.
  • To promote democratic reform and individual / group empowerment across and throughout communities, regions, nations and legally recognised organisations.
  • To create forums that enable individuals to express and discuss issues, then collectively take decisions.
  • To encourage power structures / decision makers to align their decisions with the collectively expressed views of those affected by the decision.
  • To encourage power structures / decision makers to routinely scope the opinions of those affected by their decisions, and then to ensure that decisions are informed by the views of those affected by the decisions.

In the spirit of cooperation, the home page headline is “Digital Democracy enables you and your community to discuss and prioritise issues, then challenges your MP to respond“.  That’s not much of an Outcome.  An opportunity to reach an MP has many more effective channels.

The Governance of the system is weak.  The ability to prioritise is subject to People in pressure groups who don’t have a strong eID.  Credibility is diminished if MPs can’t be certain it is their own constituent expressing an opinion.  There was a cry for more proposals, but the number of votes doesn’t give encouragement for people to contribute more.  It is not a secret ballot.  Total number of votes is all that could be shown until the closing date.  Massive, single issue, campaigns are needed to reverse government policy.  Local referanda governance is probably the minimum necessary to carry any great political weight.

The Technology looks little different from old style forums.  It does not have many of the desirable features of WordPress.  All of the proposals are national.  The Founding Principles want to encourage local democracy, so it needs a tailored link on every MP’s constituency web site.  Perhaps something on DirectGov could help.  A Twitter feed is not going to have any impact unless it has a celebrity prepared to provide an occasional tweet.  Tom Watson?

Good luck, but as a number of MPs have said, “We have enough mail to keep our assistants busy, we need more as much as a hole in the head.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.