The 21st century has seen the rise of a new form of government; a new form of democracy, and while many facets are yet to be put in practice, some are already. I am referring to the merger of the internet and democracy into the aptly named e-democracy.
E-democracy is the application of digital communications technology in order for a more effective parle between the government and the elector. The favour for e-democracy, by the public, varies on a spectrum from the conservative to the enthusiast. Governments across the world have different degrees of implementation of e-democracy with the more developed nations often exhibiting more features than the less developed. One aspect I want to focus on especially is government e-petitions.
E-petitions litter our social media feeds and email inboxes. They work in a similar way to regular petitions and are from a range of sources. A few governments have their own e-petitions. The UK has Petition Parliament, which offers a tally based system of requirement. If a petition reaches 10,000 signatures then the government will issue and official response. After 100,000 signatures the government will ‘consider’ the petition for debate in parliament. As well, all petitions are recorded in the official record of parliament.
Petitions range from local issues to international issues; changing NHS 24 revival rule, freeing a disgraced solider from prison, disallowing an American presidential candidate to the enter the country. It is plain to see the benefits of this infrastructure. The voice of the people is made a little louder with a little more convenience, but it comes at a cost. Some see e-petitions as a stepping stone to devolving more power to the people in a way that frightens many. For instance, while many are in favour in having their voices heard; after the result from the summer referendum to decide the future of the UK’s membership of the EU, many considered that there should have never been a referendum in the first place, and it is the job of our elected officials to review the facts and determine what course is the most favourable for our country. With current technology there is nothing to suggest that governments could not only have decided the outcome of the referendum by an e-vote, but that many more issues could be decided in a manner that there might be an e-referendum every other week in which the silent, and often ignorant majority will govern.
Banksy – 2009 – ‘Monkey Parliament’ (cropped)