Gordon Brown’s much publicised tweet has created some turbulence in coffee thoughts. On the face of it the tweet can really be seen as a step change. His minute-by-minute, almost ludicrously detailed commentary of his PM’s agenda, complete with interactive feedback from its audience, represents a monumental shift in how politicians – or at least their staff – communicate with citizens. So putting aside any cynicism about tweeting being a part of a Brown relaunch it’s a move that has to be applauded at least in spirit of the transparency it could engender in relationships between the governors and the governed.
However, the essential ‘news worthiness of this initiative worries me: why should an official tweet be so unusual that it makes the news? The Internet as a force for empowering citizens and conversations with politicians and policy makers has been broadly understood since the 2004 Presidential election. In this time, a pioneering society should have been able to deploy a myriad of tools and channels to build this dialogue between institutions and citizens. Yet apart from isolated acts the No10 petition being a notable example the UK has done little to build a true digi-democracy.
It is easy to see this as either a social failing, a part of Britain’s growing apathy with politics, a reflection on the innate conservatism of Britain’s institutions and dearth of innovation culture. However, even in the US the tradition behind land of free has led to much greater dialogue but the establishment of a true digi-democracy seems stunted or a preserve of special interest groups.
For me it noticeable that for the shift to a digi-democracy to gather pace greater integration with existing platforms and better awareness amongst citizens themselves of the potential for real dialogue, is required. There is clearly a perception gap between what empowered citizens think they can do and the technical ability to deliver a joined up political conversation.