Background To The Project

The enfranchisement of the British people has been a battle hard fought and won. The protection and promotion of this right within the context of a democratic political structure has been a characteristic of modern British history. For the last fifty years this right and structure has not been subject to overt and external threat and has been coincident with a period of declining voter participation in local and national elections. Given the agenda to stimulate regeneration through active citizenship it is necessary to look to education to energise democracy at all levels and to stimulate individual voter participation.

Recent research has shown that online campaigning is one of the most effective ways of reaching out to a young population that, otherwise, would not engage in the political process. ELECT recognises this educational priority and sees the new interactive technologies as the primary method of delivery. ELECT has started to provide an impartial electoral information service whose aim is to increase voter participation in local and national elections as well as referenda.

Equal opportunity being given to disabled, disadvantaged and foreign language speakers to participate where practicable. Special attention is being given to the lifetime educational ideal, starting by teaching simply our constitution, democracy and election responsibilities from an early age, in schools, colleges and Universities. The application of TV Friendly website versions is in anticipation of the enormous increase in access to web technology about to be a reality using new digital technologies.

The Humber subregion is in a unique position with its infrastructure of cable, independent digital TV studio and other interactive assets to develop and pilot state of the art projects.

ELECT will be becoming a key member of the European Institute for Local Interactive Communications, now in formation, with partners such as BBC, BBC Education, Granada/YTV, Granada Learning, NTL, VSLC, Hull University, Sony, Press Association, Northcliffe Newspapers, various Local Authorities and many other public bodies. ELECT sees its future as a content provider to the public and private sector taking advantage of new robust technologies as they are identified and researched by the Institute and come on stream.

For those below voting age, ELECT has started to work through schools and colleges providing information and resources, which are supporting the new National Curriculum subject of Citizenship. For adults, ELECT has started work through adult education providers, local and regional media and community groups providing information and resources.

ELECT is seeking accreditation for impartiality from the Electoral Commission, this would assist The Returning Officers to work closer with us with confidence.

In the run-up period towards national and local elections, ELECT is creating and managing web-based locations, which include information about candidates as well as statements and comments made by candidates. Users are able to both access information and question it through e-mail and messageboard; thus debate is stimulated within a managed electronic environment. Information is being presented through moving images and written or oral text (potentially in a variety of languages). Future plans for including video-conferencing will extend the scope of interaction. Similar functionality will be provided in the run-up to regional and national referenda.

ELECT recognises that, other than 'on the hustings', electoral information is "supply-led" and non-interactive, for example, via radio and television programmes and delivered leaflets. Using new technologies will ensure information and interaction is "demand-led", shifting the debate agenda to the voter.

ELECT is starting to stimulate this demand through a planned programme of conferences for community energisers, including teachers and lecturers, youth and community leaders, members of Local Strategic Partnerships and other community interest groups. In addition ELECT has started to publicise its services through local and regional media. ELECT has held briefing sessions for local politicians to encourage and help them develop the necessary confidence and competence to deliver the service from their end. 64 of the 91 Candidates in the North East Lincolnshire ˇ°Active Citizenshipˇ± project too up this offer.

In this way objectives of e-learning, e-democracy and e-government are starting to be achieved.

It is envisaged that, because of its value in the run up to elections, the service will remain active between the periods of elections and provide opportunities for polling and debate on topical issues, thus creating a continuous and active partnership between the electorate and the elected.

Schools and Colleges are required by law not to promote a particular party-political line. At the same time, the Citizenship curriculum requires programmes of work that informs learners about political processes.
ELECT's service, accredited as impartial, is starting to provide a valuable resource and give teachers confidence to work with their students in this area.

ELECT had already run a number of experimental projects before the pilot project in North East Lincolnshire in time for the local elections in May 2003, with a view to a regional and national roll-out based on the evaluation of the pilot. There are also possibilities of further trials in other countries.

The need for continuing channels of impartial information about elections is an area in much demand in other European countries and would be viewed with particular interest by the European Union as a way to promote political legitimacy. The Department of Politics and International Studies at Hull University holds privileged contacts to support the expansion of ELECT in Europe.

ELECT received financial support to run the pilot in North East Lincolnshire from the Electoral Commission ¨C New Initiative Fund (their first grant) and the first phase of the project is nearing completion.
Full support has being received from all relevant parties, including Democratic Services, Business Development and the political parties.

The directors of ELECT take the view that this is a concept waiting to be realised. ELECT's preparation, locality and capacity puts it at the leading edge nationally.

Active citizenship, energised democracy and social inclusion are inter-related imperatives. New inter-active technologies can take information and learning to places that other methods cannot reach. ELECT is ready and able to take a lead role on this exciting pathway.