Meant to blog this before... UK Parliament set for internet revamp. The most "exciting" bit is: "integrating website content with emails may make "e-alerting" possible for internal and external users.". Oh wheee and joy. Good to see they're putting some serious effort into just how the parliamentary process can be opened up to the public then.
Here's an idea. Give people access to the data, and let them build the tools. The Parliament is best at providing content, and lots of it. So much of it, in fact, that to come up with decent ways of shuffling through it requires either a). lots of money or b). ingenuity. I'm not sure, with all respect, that the "powers that be" have too much to spare of either. There are, on the other hand, many people out there doing extremely interesting things with data, and while it may not be centralised and instantly accessible to all via a stodgy portal, the great thing about the Internet is that these things can happen, and can get the attention they deserve. Just open the raw feeds up for parsing, make communication between MPs and the public accessible, whack a load of bandwidth behind it, and see what emerges - that's a good way to get people back into politics again, just to start with.
"As the elections last week showed, the voters have some messages for us. ... If we do not make it possible for them to have an effective dialogue with parliament, public frustration and contempt will simply undermine democracy altogether."
It's not just the dialogue wanted, it's the power, the control over our own lives, even if that's just building a website that lets other people converse.