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“Moores’ Law of Digital Governance”
(London School of Economics - June 2000)

One to Many Represents a Political Opportunity
Many to One Represents a Constitutional Challenge
Many to Many is Evidence of Subversive Behavior

Democracy”, said the Greek general Alcibiades, “Is acknowledged folly” and if he had lived another two thousand years, he might have had something to say about the future of eDemocracy as well.

In a progressive sense, government is on the right track this week by allowing an eDemocracy debate in The House of Commons. The idea of course is that British voters, a badly endangered species, should be able to email in their views on new legislation before it is rubber-stamped by an enormous majority and passes on to the statute book

Labour MP Graham Allen is asking parliament to consider expanding its e-democracy programme to allow the public to comment on the small print of new laws, “pre-legislative scrutiny” and the webcasting of special committees, to avoid problems in future. Poor old Sir Humphrey Appleby must be spinning in his grave at the thought of such a thing. Of course two good examples of legislation, which could have benefited might have been the IR35 and the RIP legislation but it’s hard to find anything today, which can smoothly pass into law without encouraging a collective shudder from the rest of us.

My own view mirrors Alcibiades, who got it right before the Athenians shoved him into exile for being a little too good-looking and ambitious. You start allowing the people to decide on the direction of legislation and who knows where it will lead? These days watching Kilroy on television is as close to people get to becoming involved in social issues and the only people who get really involved in politics are the card-carrying zealots and the party-faithful. Take the hunting argument on-line and MP’s will be swamped with email from people who are in favour of spending the weekend annihilating small furry animals, while the rest of us remain at home, eating pizza and watching Neighbours or Match of the Day.

A better idea perhaps, rather than encouraging an email plague from the Countryside Alliance, is to develop the Sky News interactive polling model. It’s very simple, Red button, green button. “Should we invade Iraq”? Answer Yes or No? Do you believe anything Steven Byers says?? Yes or No.

It’s Big Brother all over again, not George Orwell but Channel 4 TV's version and it’s also a great opportunity to start involving the people, you and me, at least in the early stages of legislation, conquering apathy and the digital divide through the medium of television and the six thousand UK-Online centres across the country.

What the politicians forget, is that regardless of class or education, most people have a surprising amount of common sense. Today’s politician is also unlikely to have a strong grasp of classical history and doesn’t realise that democracy was an early form of mass entertainment, which gave the hungry masses a sense of involvement, something that we have very little sense of in this country anymore.

Watching webcasts, it’s useful because it shows willing and cuts through the veil of secrecy that continues to plague our democratic process. My wife, who once used to work as a press officer in Downing Street, tells me that the MOD’s entertainment budget is an official secret!

You should have the right to email your views on legislation in the same way that you should rightfully expect to be able to email your MP. Many don’t like this at all. However, I simply can’t see a process of email consultation really working and I have had experience of this working in practise. It costs money; lots of money, to moderate the incoming message flow and attracts hackers like flies to honey. All that will happen is that government will be swamped and generate even more paperwork that MP’s won’t have time to read.

Much better to do a deal with Sky Television, the BBC and the new local Digital TV pilot projects with the likes DKTV and HomeChoice. Concentrate on the big issues and not the small details. Ask the people what they think, rather than the MPs who simply do as they are told. Press button polling may be the answer, reminding ourselves that we live in a democracy and reflecting your right to express an opinion every now and then. Come the revolution brother and our right to digital democracy....!.


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