Doteveryone calls for politicians to have digital mentors
Digital inclusion charity Doteveryone suggests digital mentors could help politicians keep up with useful technology
Digital mentoring - Image credit: Wiredforlego via Flickr
Political leaders need to become more digitally savvy if they are to properly represent the electorate, according to digital inclusion charity Doteveryone.
The charity, which was founded by digital guru Martha Lane Fox, ran a mentoring scheme for four MPs between May and July this year to improve their use of technology.
The scheme saw mentors work with MPs Yvette Cooper, Calum Kerr, Matt Warman and Norman Lamb and their staff in both constituency and parliamentary offices to get them up to speed with some of the new tools that could help their day-to-day work.
“MPs struggle to have time to keep up with new apps, programs or technology – and that means our offices become out of date too and the danger is that democracy gets left behind in a digital world,” said Yvette Cooper.
The mentors assessed the MPs’ needs and showed them different tools and services to better manage their workload and engage with the public, as well as encouraging them to change the way they think about technology.
“It’s about building their confidence, giving them relatively easy things to use that allow them to be more empowered, and helping them to think about tech in a more sophisticated way,” said Doteveryone chief executive Rachel Coldicott.
Much of MPs’ time is dominated by casework – each handles between two and three thousand cases a year – and dealing with inboxes that are inundated by campaign emails sent from sites like 38 degrees.
“We found lots of small, basic improvements in the way staff used digital technology could add up to a much more efficient operation overall,” the report said.
This included using better customer relationship management software for casework that pulls together documents, emails and letters, and using tools to set up different kinds of responses to campaign emails.
Although Doteveryone said this went down well with the MPs they worked with, it may not be accepted by everyone.
When a similar idea was put to Labour MP Stella Creasy – who is an avid user of social media – at a recent event on digital parliament, Creasy responded that if she didn’t personally write back to the senders they would feel like they were being “fobbed off”.
But Coldicott argued that the charity’s solutions would not close a line of communication with residents, but would give constituents a better idea of how to get in touch and make it easier and faster for MPs to reply “so they aren’t just being totally overwhelmed”
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