Changing Democracy With Code: A Word From The Developers

Why we citizens need Memopol.

A simple observation

It all starts with a simple observation:

During an election, when you have the possibility to vote to choose your new representative, most of the time the elements that can help you make a choice are:

  • the representative's party's program
  • their communication campaign
  • the promises they made
  • your historical attachment for the representative's party or for the candidate
  • the vibe you have for a candidate
  • maybe some analysis published in the press or on TV that barely gave you any comprehensive / understandable information and is most of the time biased…
  • and sometimes, you might even remember a few thingsthey've done

Sounds fine?

Well in fact, if we take a closer look at it, we see that there is nearly nothing concrete (/rational) in this. Nearly all those elements are emotional.

Don't you find this annoying?

Let me rephrase it: when you vote for a representative, your choice nearly never (hardly ever) relies on anything concrete.

In fact, most of the time, nobody will do intensive research to see what those elected representatives have actually done in their political carrier before they decide to vote for them. This just takes too much time and involvement, and it's really complicated to do.

Two worlds

And if we take a look at the global picture, we see that we have two worlds: the political world and the citizen world, our world. They barely talk to each other and they hardly understand each other.

This lead to the unpleasant consequences that we know:

  • most of the time we blame the political world for being totally disconnected from our reality and it's hard for us to pass a message or a recommendation to their world, we feel that most of the time we aren't being listened to.
  • on the other hand those representatives are nearly never gratified or sanctioned when listening to us or actually representing us, since we don't use that information when we choose who to vote for. So they don't have incentive to do so.

This situation is barely acceptable. Let's be proactive citizens: how can we try to improve this?

Well, let's start by simplifying this a bit: we can identify two important causes of the problem.

  • Our memory, as in “the human memory is really bad, we are barely capable of remembering what we ate 3 weeks ago”. How can we expect to remember what an elected representative did during the past several years?Assuming we were even aware of what they did.
  • The complexity of the system, as in “the political system is horribly complex, it's hard for a citizen to really understand it”.

The Magic box

From a programmer's point of view, the memory part isn't very hard to solve. It's a very common task: collect data, store data, display data and gather user input. It's not specifically hard nor easy, it just takes time to code. In fact, a lot of people have already done this. So, let's say that we have coded it, and let's call it our magic box.

magicalbox

Our magic box contains all the data we have been able to gather on our elected representatives, like their public information (contact information, mandate, party, group etc...), their public speeches, their votes, the amendments they tabled, etc...

Now, let's use our magical box. We are asked to choose between several candidates, so let's ask our box to tell us what it knows about them. Well here's the catch: we end up with a mountain of data that we can barely understand.

Complexity just hit us.

So how do we solve complexity?

Complexity is annoying because we can't solve it by coding.

But we can use a trick. Maybe, we can't manage this complexity, but, we know people that we trust and that can solve this complexity for certain subjects that they've mastered, for which they have expertise. For example, I trust la Quadrature du Net on Internet Freedom related subjects.

But how can we use that?

Solving complexity

Let's use another trick: let's ask la Quadrature du Net to give us the best way for an elected representative to vote on texts related to the subjects la Quadrature du Net have an expertise on. And here the magic happens: if we combine those voting recommendations with our magical box, we get a ranking of the elected representatives, organised according to the ideal behaviour this advocacy group promotes.

This begins to be interesting.

In other words:

  • Magic box + la Quadrature du Net's voting recommendations = semi accurate concrete data on who represents me the best

You get the idea? Let's ask all the citizen groups that represent our interests to do the same.

This gives us:

  • Magic box + voting recommendation of all citizen groups that represent our interests = way more accurate concrete data of who represents me the best

We just solved complexity.

In fact, what I want to see (and to build) in the future would be a website that allows me, and every citizen, to:

  • Select a series of representatives I can vote for;
  • Select a list of citizen groups that I personally trust to represent my interests;
  • Decide if I want to give certain groups more weight to better represent my concerns and priorities (we could even imagine giving negative weight to citizen groups we dislike);
  • And have in result concrete data on which I can rely to make my choice.

And you know what? Being able to do this won't even be the best reward.

The best reward will come when elected representatives start realising that we actually know what they are doing and that their actions matters. Guess how they will change their behaviour.

And this is only the beginning. For instance, having a real time feed of what your elected representative is doing on the subjects that matter for you will be really easy.

What this magical box is offering you is a paradigm shift, a bridge between those two worlds for them to better understand each other and to work together again.

Memopol is the magical box we are building.

It's time for us, citizens, to take back our role in politics.