Headlines: January 14th, 2005

The ground-braking pilot of an e-Democracy National Project to engage the public in dialogue has gone live in Bristol. Based around a standalone website, http://www.askbristol.com/  , the e-panel is an interactive way to consult a wide range of citizens on important issues. The pilot is testing discussion forums, surveys, live chats and discussions with experts. The theme for the venture is a consultation on the city centre – has it got better or worse over the last five years and what should be the top priorities for the future. Wolverhampton City Council will launch a second pilot today with a discussion on the best and the worst about life in Wolverhampton. The e-Democracy project is one of 23 centrally funded National Projects developing e-solutions and products that all local authorities can adopt if they wish to do so.Other applications within the e-Democracy National Project include: online surgeries for councillors/MPs, national councillors database, E-enabled citizens’ panels and SMS broadcasting about local government activities. The projects seek to deliver the benefits of better decision-making; increased participation and stronger bonds between the citizen, their council and their representative.

When pilot running is completed and lessons learned, local councils will receive an e-democracy toolkit to implement e-democracy and encourage participation. This will include better ways to ensure the inclusion of particular groups, a strategy guide on e-democracy with information on funding, tactics for implementing e-democracy in different types of authority and a self assessment toolkit – enabling councils to measure their progress against a national baseline of public opinion research.