Adopt an MP

Ever wanted to adopt an MP? Well now you can, thanks to a discussion that grew out of the Nethui Internet conference held in Wellington this week.

It’s fair to say MPs and politicians around the world don’t have a good rap for their tech or Internet knowledge. Case in point: Alaskan Senator, Ted Stevens who once described the net as a ‘series of tubes’ or our own Jonathan Young and Katrina Shanks. But actually, we’re in the twenty first century, and it’s ‘no longer OK to not know how the Internet works’.

I’m a founding member of the cross-party Parliamentary Internet Forum and we were discussing this point and how many politicians have a less than exemplary knowledge of these issues in a panel discussion at Nethui. When tackling ways to fix this, the idea was raised: why not get geeks to adopt an MP and provide them with advice or simply be a friendly non-judging place to ask questions?

I think it’s a fantastic idea.

Within a few hours a website was built and MPs were being adopted. It’s still a work in progress, but check it out here.


7 Comments Posted

  1. Not having been at the panel discussion, was much consideration given to the mechanics of how it could work? I mean, it’s already completely possible for people to contact an MP and for the MP to take that communication into consideration.

    If the proposal is to have a system where certain people have privileged access to help MPs understand stuff, it might also work well under certain circumstances. Similar to Trond’s comment, though, my immediate thought was that I’d like to be confident that any advice is given openly and visibly and subject to public criticism, instead of becoming just another avenue for ignoramuses or lobbyists with ulterior motives to get their own biased views exclusively into an MP’s ears.

  2. Good idea. While you’re at it could we please invite some mature teachers of the English language to educate some of the politicians (journalists, newsreaders and others) into raising the level of their written and spoken language skills? Correct spelling, grammar, good diction and oratory appear to be becoming a thing of the past for many; some of whom should know better.
    The latter is particularly noticeable when following the debates on the television Parliamentary channel.

    Like it or not,if you are in the public eye, you are setting an example for better or worse.

  3. I think, Frances, that the point of this initiative is to better educate politicians for the purpose of making better policy. some of the speeches given in response to recent internet legislation have betrayed a very poor understanding of how the internet works amongst politicians, and given they’re making laws to restrict and regulate the internet this is not a good thing.

    they do of course have support staff to connect their printers for them and get the internet to work, but in order to decide on policies like whose job it should be to detect and prosecute piracy, or intercept internet traffic and all sorts of other complex but important issues we need politicians with at least a passing understanding of how the internet works…

  4. I don’t need to know how an internal combustion engine works to drive a car, bus, tractor, or ride a motorbike, so why do I or you Frances need to know how technology works to use it’s facilities?

    I think you’re too harsh on yourself, have you had your chromosomes checked recently, there might be a reason for it? 🙂

  5. maybe it’s the better way to avoid being spied and leaked if you don’t want to know much about internet?? haha!
    I myself am an internet illiterate; sometimes it’s not because we are not capable of being better on it, it is that some people are just not interested in this technological area…
    I believe to be good MPs to speak for people, their intelligence as well as conscience (plus many other good values/beliefs) are far more important than their knowledge in modern technology like internet. Don’t they have admin. support or assistant who can help in this?

  6. Love it. I’ve been working with graduate student government at the University of Washington in Seattle (where I’m currently studying) in trying to set up a similar service. Basically, the idea is that grad students in really any area, scientific, policy, or other, would make themselves available on a volunteer basis to help advise and inform politicians on technical and academic issues that they would otherwise not be able to easily get advice on.

    The hard part is to ensure that advisors are conflict-free and un-biased in their presentation of information. So, open questions, with the ability for politicians to ask anonymously, seem like they would allow discussion around issues and the presentation of multiple viewpoints. Another issue is ensuring that advisors are trained or capable in speaking professionally and helpfully to politicians. No one likes to be lectured or talked down to, least of all people in positions of power.

    Despite the difficulties, though, this sort of thing is by far worthwhile.

    How would one sign up? Also, how are you planning on ‘marketing’ this to MPs (ie, convincing them that it’s a service worth using?)

    I’d love to hear more of this as it goes on!

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