Friday, February 27, 2009

Hansard Society telling UK MPs to engage online

A report has been co-published by the Hansard society and Microsoft discussing how UK Members of Parliament are using the internet and providing strategies on how they can better use the internet to engage with their constituencies and with interest groups.

It's been highlighted already in the Victorian eGovernment Resource Centre, and discussed widely in UK government blogging circles.

Entitled MPs online: Connecting with Constituents, according to Kable, the report found that while 92% of MPs used email and 83% had a website, only 23% used social media and 11% blogged.

The report urged MPs to,
develop strategies for online media that include assessing the target audience, whether the site is interactive and what resources are needed. It also says they should develop a clear policy for the use of email, publicise it on their websites, and provide automatic responses to senders.

Among the other recommendations are that they
- create links from websites to social networking pages and vice versa;
- ensure people referencing material provide a link to the source;
- make better use of community created digital media, including websites;
- support third party projects that promote democratic engagement; and
- connect their online and offline communications strategies.

It also urges the parliamentary authorities to review the access to its digital archives and consider the licensing and re-use of the content.

All of these are good sense in my view and reflect the same approach that government needs to take in Australia.

The report also highlighted that the internet is still being considered a one-way broadcast medium by MPs rather than as a two-way channel,
Andy Williamson, director of the eDemocracy programme at the Hansard Society and author of the report, commented: "MPs are transmitting and not receiving. They use the internet as a tool for campaigning and for organising their supporters, rather than opening up two-way communication with constituents."
Essentially this report reflects the comments made by Joe Trippi at yesterday's Politics and Technology forum.

As both US and UK commentators are saying the same things about what government and MPs need to be doing online, perhaps we'll see more local movement towards embracing the online channel across government.

A PDF copy of the report is available at the Hansard Society's website.


  1. I found this report interesting too, especially how a number of MPs were still using the internet for one one broadcast communication.

    Would be interesting to know whether the situation similar in Australia

  2. Hi Letitia,

    here in Australia there have been a few individual MPs and departments who have taken a few halting steps into online engagement.

    However I think I can safely say that the internet is not yet broadly used for two-way communication and engagement by most Australian governments yet.

    It will come, as governments come to understand that with clear rules and appropriate moderation and security the online channel is the most effective way of engaging, listening to and collaborating with large numbers of geographically separated citizens.