This proposal is about enabling innovative ideas from both business and individuals to be input to Government, harnessing the tremendous amount of Knowledge, Skills and Experience in the population. It fills an existing gap in our democratic system by proposing the introduction of a powerful Digital Ideas System fully exploiting today’s technology, in particular Artificial Intelligence.
The Issue and Opportunity
A serious deficiency in our democracy is that there is no satisfactory mechanism to input innovative, well-considered ideas to Government. There is only an outward mechanism to run consultations on the Government’s own ideas.
In the early days of the pandemic, it was widely reported that many organisations, wanting to offer assistance on manufacture of PPE, couldn’t get a response from Government. This highlighted the lack of an effective channel or mechanism for those not already engaged with Government to input offers of help, let alone good ideas generally.
Until recently the potential volume of ideas would have made such a system impossible to operate, but technology now makes this feasible using Artificial Intelligence to filter digital inputs and group common ideas together, to make the volume manageable and even to carry out an initial ‘triage-like’ analysis.
There is huge Knowledge, Skills and Experience in our businesses and amongst the public at large, which is not being tapped into for the good of society. Post-pandemic we have an opportunity to create an environment where we narrow the gap between politicians and the public and take full advantage of this latent capability.
If such a system were in place now, it would be perfect for gathering ideas on post-pandemic changes and initiatives. In addition, once such a system was in place, the Government could also make requests for ideas around specific topics.
We should introduce a Digital Ideas system, allowing businesses and the public to input ideas and suggestions digitally. This wouldn’t be free format but would be via a structured form to make initial filtering and analysis easier. It would also enable the originator to do some classification of the idea themselves: short-term, long-term, policy area (such as transport, housing, levelling up), improvement idea or new idea, etc.
As the idea is submitted, Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology would be used to analyse the idea, prompt for further information if necessary, check if a similar idea was already in a national database of ideas and if so prompt to add a vote for the existing idea, or to submit a variation. Once submitted the AI application would further categorise the idea, group it together with similar ideas, and perform further analysis to simplify review.
Many alternatives would be possible after this filtering, categorisation and grouping. One such approach would be that outputs would go to a cross-party ideas group in the constituency of the originator. They could also go to local media. Periodically the cross-party group would have the responsibility to identify the 10 best ideas as a group, to be raised to an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). The input of ideas and outputs of these groups should also be made visible to national media. The APPG would then have a responsibility to publish online, alongside the 10 ideas, their views of the pros and cons. All classified groups of ideas would also be visible online, so anyone at any time could look at them.
In this way the system would be entirely manageable and, over time, AI technology would allow further refinement, even to the point of assessing an idea and responding without human intervention.
The same infrastructure offers an equally valuable opportunity to create an Advisory Digital Voting system to improve consultative democracy by enabling the input of views on proposed policies in quite granular fashion.
There would be many benefits from such a system including:
• Harnessing a powerhouse of new ideas based on our joint Knowledge, Skills and Experience.
• Ideas from a much greater diversity of people and backgrounds. Not subject to ‘Group Think’ or solely from within the political bubble.
• Greater engagement with politics, and people feeling that they have a way of making a difference and being more involved if they want to be. Diminishing the apparent distance between people and politicians.
• Ensuring the ‘well thought through’ nature of ideas by the structuring requirements and subsequent filtering. A system that can continuously improve as technology improves.
• Demographic data captured associated with the originator, enabling different streams for businesses and the public and demographic groups of interest.
• A step towards wider Digital Democracy and enabling more ‘Direct Democracy’ in a well-controlled manner.
A Digital Ideas System for inputting ideas to Government is a highly desirable opportunity, of value to the whole country and to improving the practice of democracy in the country, as one strand of improving society.
The need to run a competition to gather ideas for Government vividly illustrates the need for such a system.