Political knowledge – there’s an app for that. In fact, there are many. But are they a truly effective way of engaging prospective voters? In this article, the author explores the trend towards creating digital applications designed to raise interest and understanding of our democratic systems. Commentators suggest that these applications will be most effective when widely promoted, and are only one part of broader engagement strategies which will focus on open data initiatives and fostering two-way communication between politicians, governments and the public.
A growing number of digital developers are using their skills to create applications to foster greater engagement in politics among Canadians, and particularly among youth. Yet, while citizen engagement advocates agree that social media and emerging digital technologies can play an important role in reversing a decades-long decline in Canadians’ interest and involvement the country’s formal political institutions, it hasn’t happened yet and may not happen for quite some time.
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The Community Outreach program offered by the Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations Branch of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario brings the experience of Queen’s Park to communities and schools in a way that transcends financial and distance barriers. Participants get a hands-on experience learning about how Ontario’s parliament works, the responsibilities of the three levels of government, and civic engagement.
Learning the responsibilities of government and how the electoral and legislative process works is something every Ontarian should be familiar with. Unfortunately, travel costs preclude every resident from travelling to their federal, provincial and territorial assemblies to get a first-hand look at legislatures in action. To bridge this distance, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has created the Community Outreach Program. Groups of children, young adults and ESL (English as a second language) learners have all gained an opportunity to learn the basics of parliamentary processes through this service. Shaped around the participating group’s existing knowledge, the program aims to fill the gaps of what they don’t know in an informative and entertaining way.
Continue reading “Community Outreach: Bringing Parliament to Life”