MyMP iPhone edition

Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long history, from waist-band mounted pagers being an essential accessory of MPs during the Blair years to mobile phone voting being trialled successfully in Sheffield in 2002 for local elections.

Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long history, from waist-band mounted pagers being an essential accessory of MPs during the Blair years to mobile phone voting being trialled successfully in Sheffield in 2002 for local elections. This was considered by former chairman of O2 David Varney “to work best in poorer areas, where there is a high percentage of pay-as-you-go mobile phone users. It also seems to work best among young people”.

The Finnish parliament had pioneered providing mobile email to MPs through national champion Nokia in order to keep constituents and their parliamentary representatives better connected. More recently in the UK iPhones were popularised in Westminster by early adopter David Davis (at the time, the shadow home secretary), alongside the dominant Blackberry device.

In 2010, mobile devices have become ubiquitous so efforts to improve the visibility and transparency of politics using mobile technology has got to be a progressive move. MyMP by Public Zone and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is an interesting way of moving this concept forward in 2010.

The service had been piloted by Derek Wyatt just prior to the election and has since been rolled out to a wider tranche of MPs. The idea is that the MyMP application makes the MP’s activity and location (for surgeries etc) immediately accessible and brings a greater degree of transparency to political representation.

A particularly interesting feature is the ability to poll the opinions of those constituents who have downloaded the application. The application will continue to be free for constituents to download and charge MPs a small service charge to fund ongoing costs and maintenance.

The application is an admirable move towards a more transparent and hopefully inclusive democratic process. In order to move it further along in a progressive direction Left Foot Forward has some suggestions:

• Move beyond the iPhone – Whilst one in seven of the UK population owning a smartphone and the iPhone being just a fraction of that figure, a more device-agnostic approach would allow for even greater inclusion. In addition, government ministers are only allowed Blackberry devices at the moment as iPhones haven’t been approved by government IT boffins;

• Make it compulsory rather than an opt-in process for MPs – MPs who aren’t interested in being truly representative of their constituents currently don’t have to use the MyMP service if they don’t want to; and

• Make it a game – Location-based service Foursquare has managed to build up a database of venues around the world by using consumer-submitted check-ins. This service was driven by ‘game play’ where participants could earn points, see how they compared to peers and earn badges. How could this process be used to improve the frequency and quality of MP data? Could the ‘game’ create a league table of MP transparency?

Find out if your MP has their own application at MyMP

42 Responses to “MyMP iPhone edition”

  1. DrKMJ

    MyMP iPhone edition: //bit.ly/chQPLf via @leftfootfwd

  2. apple

    MyMP iPhone edition (Left Foot Forward): Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly lo… //bit.ly/cqKRVk #iphone

  3. Morus

    Make it compulsory? Is that really necessary?

    Also, as much as I applaud ease of communication with, and transparency of, government, I don’t actually want GPS location-monitoring of anyone to become the norm. As digital rights become more important, traditional notions of privacy are going to become harder and harder to protect. IF an MP wants to be active on FourSquare they should feel free – otherwise, let’s not pretend this has much greater scope than an MPs mobile website.

    85% of the country still don’t have a smartphone, and the proportion of those that do who care enough about politics to have this app is fairly miniscule. The demographic profile of those who have them also siggests that any poll of users conducted by an MP would be somewhat skewed towards single urban professionals in their 30s working in Media or Politics.

    Don’t misunderstand me – I’m generally in favour of technology being used to make politics a little better, but this seems a far-too-charitable account of an applicaiton that deserves some constructive criticism. It is certainly nowhere near impressive or important enough for it to be ‘made compulsory’ for all MPs.

  4. News Nutters

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long hist… //bit.ly/9eKnWa

  5. Mark Pack

    Of your three points, it’s good to see you making the first one. iPhones only make up around 3% of mobile phones in use in the UK but often hype about an iPhone app rather neglects that 97%.

    But on the second point about making its use mandatory I do very much disagree both for practical and principled reasons. The practical – what about a disabled MP who can’t use a smart phone (easily)? Or an MP who is the subject of a violent threat (e.g. Simon Hughes who had to be under armed guard for a long period of time after helping to bring a South London criminal to justice)?

    And then there’s the principled: it’s so very top-down centralised decision making for someone to decide something’s a good thing and then to insist on it becoming mandatory for everyone. Why shouldn’t MPs be free to decide how best to do their numerous different roles – and then let the public decide if they are or aren’t happy with how they’re doing the job?

    Especially as what’s so special about this app? It lets MPs interact with the public – but there are plenty of other ways of doing that. Why should this one route be singled out and made mandatory?

  6. MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward | The Mobile Blog

    […] more here: MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward Tags: blair devices-and during-the during-the-blair from-waist-band long-history mobile-phone […]

  7. MyMP app

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyMP iPhone edition: //bit.ly/chQPLf

  8. Ged Carroll

    Thanks for the feedback, hopefully this will provide some context:
    – transparency only really works well in a system when it’s the norm, as political funding discussions have shown – whether it’s this system or another way
    – Location based data I am less worried about as it requires a conscious

  9. Ged Carroll

    Decision by the MP to submit the data and service like Yahoos Fire Eagle allow control over granularity
    – finally MPs have something the citizenry don’t; the ability to legislate for their own benefit; something that they have a refined to a core competence

  10. MasterPM

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/ambXIC

  11. Tom Harle

    I wrote an epic comment on @leftfootfwd about @mympapp //bit.ly/chQPLf and it hasn't shown up. Sad face. Will re-write later

  12. Tech4Perspective

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/dhrPs2

  13. Michelle Mance

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/a2aBuh

  14. Tweeter Lover

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long hist… //bit.ly/8XTsAx

  15. Kim Chow

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long hist… //bit.ly/9eKnWa

  16. Lisa Cahone

    iPhone: MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/8XTsAx

  17. iPhone iPod News

    //bit.ly/9YhTIt MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a s… //bit.ly/8XTsAx

  18. Jessica Rainey

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long hist… //bit.ly/9eKnWa

  19. Peter Williams

    GA – iPhone MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprising… //bit.ly/aZTcEz

  20. Iphoneologist

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/do83xj

  21. Apple IPhone FAN

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long hist… //bit.ly/dyet8m

  22. Michael Brooker

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long hist… //bit.ly/9eKnWa

  23. ComboApp

    Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long history, from… //goo.gl/fb/LGiiM #iphone

  24. Shawn Dammermann

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/9eKnWa

  25. michel fournier

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //ht.ly/17ZPAC

  26. Tom Harle

    Thanks Ged for writing about the new MyMP, I’m part of the team that has been working on the app at Public Zone.

    It’s really great people are picking this up and helping us get the word out, and offing suggestions for future development, I hope people can keep adding them.

    I’d love to pick up on a few of the suggestions raised so far as we’re actually already well into discussions with people about other platforms. There are a few things to iron out; there are differences in the functional capabilities between the phones and the way that they’re built, but I’m hopeful we’ll be up and running soonish.

    I’m not sure about the compulsory bit though, not really because of the concerns Mark Pack makes (the content control is web-based), mainly because we want the app to work for constituents. You just have to look at the quality of the mixed bag of MPs websites, over 10 years after mass-adoption of that medium. We do actually have capability to bring in content to the app from their sites, but the MPs we’re working with now are all populating their content manually, it seems better for useability that way. But we wouldn’t want to force MPs to set up apps only for them never to use them as a means of engaging with constituents.

    Just on the capablities of the app as it is, it doesn’t actually do MP tracking, it offers them the ability to add news, surgeries and diary fixtures with references to a constituency map, so that people can match MP’s activity to their local area. It’s a nice difference between mobile and standard internet, mapping is a far more accessible way to access content on a mobile device, so we’re playing up to that.

    We actually dropped the voting feature for this version, partly because of what Morus pointed out, and also because of the intricacies of the whip system. Instead we developed the discussions feature to give MPs the chance to lay out issues and canvass constituency opinion.

    Please keep reviewing it and constructively criticising, we’ll be refining the app to make it as effective as possible and it would be great to have your input – we have a twitter set up at @mympapp and there’s more information at //www.my-mp.org.uk

  27. Jason Moss

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long hist… //bit.ly/cMXdUG

  28. Kimmy

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long hist… //bit.ly/dqTtjH

  29. Technology

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/9BnYSC

  30. Techno Buzzer

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/aPzHeA #iphone

  31. Paul Evans

    MyMP – iPhone edition //bit.ly/aBWnPx

  32. Plotonic

    MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward: The demographic profile of those who have them also siggests that a… //tinyurl.com/2wvkxdq

  33. MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward | Headline News Today

    […] Mobile devices and the political system have had a surprisingly long history, from waist-band mounted pagers being an essential accessory of MPs during the Blair years to mobile phone voting being trialled successfully in Sheffield in … »» […]

  34. iPhone NewsFeed

    NEWS: MyMP iPhone edition | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/bARuYr

  35. Jill

    Check out this iPhone app on politics – //www.mypoliticsuk.com. It was top 50 social networking app during recent general election.

  36. Anon E Mouse

    Is it true that every MEP has been “given” a “free” Apple iPad paid for of course by the taxpayers of the EU?

    If that is true then they SHOULD be forced to make themselves more available to their electorate in which case this is an excellent idea…

  37. NicolaHarwood

    Grr I tried to invent this a month ago , and was laughed out of the office! //tinyurl.com/39zc32d

  38. Tom Harle

    We’ve also added a blog to keep people updated on our progress with developing the app to other platforms, people might be interested to have a look: //mympapp.wordpress.com

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