National Assembly for Wales announces digital engagement plans

Cardiff Bay

PierheadSpeaking tonight at The Royal Television Society lecture in the Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, Rosemary Butler, announced a series of actions that the Assembly plans to take in order to address the Democratic Deficit, including some significant plans to develop the way that the Assembly engages with digital publishers and communities.

‘Democratic deficit’ is the term that Mrs Butler applied to the problem of many UK and Welsh media organisations failing to properly cover the work of the Assembly and the public policy differences in Wales as a result of devolution.

For example, viewers of television news in Wales regularly find themselves watching stories involving the English Education Minister Michael Gove, when it is in fact Huw Lewis, the Minister for Education in Wales, who makes policies affecting the education system in Wales.

In her speech, Mrs Butler announced a set of specific measures the National Assembly will take to improve how the Assembly communicates its work with the people of Wales including,

  • work with digital and hyperlocal media and partner organisations to create a journalism hub in the Senedd that could provide content to these new digital channels;
  • make it easier to report the Assembly’s work by providing better communications facilities on the Senedd estate;
  • make the Assembly’s data more open and accessible;
  • ensure that Assembly Members are fully informed about how best to use the communication tools now available in this digital age;
  • work more closely with media organisations to take the Assembly out to the communities they represent with a series of regional Assembly press days; and
  • also work with those organisations to provide induction sessions for trainee journalists to ensure a better understanding of the work of the institution.

NativeHQ welcomes these announcements. They will make a significant contribution to the way that the work of the Assembly is communicated to the people of Wales. We have been involved in the discussions the Assembly has held about these issues over recent months – you can view a video of Carl Morris contributing to the discussions on our blog.

The key to the success of these initiatives will lie in the way that they are implemented. Some of this is already underway. The flagship Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, where the Presiding officer made her remarks, has finally been given internet connectivity, which the public can use via wifi, and it is good to hear there will be better communications facilities across the Senedd estate.

NativeHQ will itself be involved in the effort to inform Assembly Members about the best ways to use digital communications tools as one of the organisations chosen to deliver training in digital and social media to AMs and their political staff. We’d welcome comments from our blog visitors if you have any thoughts about the key skills that Assembly Members need to know in order to become more effective using digital tools. What do Welsh politicans need to know about the social web?

The proposal to ‘make the Assembly’s data more open and accessible; opens up the exciting possibility of allowing journalists and citizens to analyse the data in new and innovative ways that could provide fresh insights to help the Assembly to do the important work of representing the interests of Wales and its people, making laws for Wales, and holding the Welsh Government to account. It will be important for the Assembly to work with industry leaders in the field of digital democratic engagement such as MySociety as well as local Welsh technology companies who understand the specific nature of the Welsh political landscape.

The idea of creating a journalism hub within the Senedd for niche digital publishers to engage with the work of the political community is a promising one, though not without its challenges for the Assembly. We would suggest that the Assembly guards against over-reliance on the idea of ‘hyperlocal’, as not all niches are geographic. While hyperlocal sites are an increasing feature of the digital landscape in Wales, many digital publishers focus not on an area of the map, but on an area of policy. For example YnniCymru is a blog which looks at the specific topic of renewable energy, right across Wales.

These topic and hyperlocal specialists are savvy digital users, so we’d suggest that the Assembly looks to create an information resource with smart filtering and notification systems that they can use to ensure that any Assembly activity relating to the area of  information that they focus on – be that geographical or topic based – gets to them quickly.

Image by Capt Gorgeous (Creative Commons BY licence)

Video: Democratic Deficit event / Fideo: digwyddiad Diffyg Democrataidd

Gwahoddodd Llywydd Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru fi i’r Pierhead i gadeirio trafodaethau grŵp am sut mae cyfryngau digidol yn gallu cyfrannu at ddemocratiaeth gwell yng Nghymru, fel rhan o’r digwyddiad Diffyg Democrataidd: Lleoliaeth – achubiaeth datganoli? ar 12fed o Fehefin 2013. Maen nhw newydd rhannu fideo o fy nghrynodeb o syniadau a sylwadau yn ôl i bawb. Roedd sôn am y we, newyddion lleol, sgyrsiau aml-blatfform, data agored a gwleidyddion a newyddiadurwyr ar-lein. Dyma fersiwn gwreiddiol o’r fideo heb lais cyfieithiad ar y pryd.

The Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales invited me to the Pierhead to chair group discussions on how digital media can contribute to better democracy in Wales, as a part of the event Democratic Deficit: Localism – the salvation of devolution? on the 12th of June 2013. We mentioned the web, local news, multiplatform conversations, open data and politicans and journalists online. I gave my summary of the discussions in Welsh and here is a dubbed version of the video with a live translation into English.

Think Digital Cardiff: some notes about Platforms & Practices

Here are my slides from my talk entitled Platforms & Practices at the first Think Digital Cardiff event.

This was a bit of a freeform talk about social media. There are no bullet points! Its purpose was to inspire people to think about creative use of digital media. Some quick notes follow.

Platforms & Practices: the general point was that it’s not enough to say you’re using tool X, a platform such as YouTube or Twitter or the web itself. I want to highlight the question of practices – what are you doing and how is it benefitting your work? If there is no practice then you are just playing with the platform, which is fine as long as you’re aware of that. The two need to be there together if you have a hope of any work-related strategy.

Collaboration: I deliberately began with Google Docs as a suggested improvement over email attachments for some situations. It’s an example of online collaboration with colleagues on documents, an easy thing that gives us a hint of what could be possible with bolder forms of collaboration. (At the bar afterwards someone mentioned that true collaboration is about working with people from different disciplines which was a good point. I could have added here that it’s about the practice as well as the platform of Google Docs. But we had to start somewhere.)

The cloud: it just means servers. I’m personally uncomfortable with the term ‘cloud computing‘.

Wikipedia: another glimpse of what is possible when people use social software to collaborate. Also available in Welsh, Spanish, German, Japanese, etc.

Ravelry: a social network for knitting enthusiasts. But we know that hobbies are big on the web.

Here Comes Everybody: recommended book by Clay Shirky, about easier group formation

giffgaff: just one example of a business which nurtures an online ‘community’ to fix problems and cut customer service and marketing costs. Some of the community members know more than the staff about aspects of real world use. I really wanted to emphasise that this is not merely Social Media Marketing. Mobile phone networks are an interesting area – they play to the network, including friends and family deals. The network effects keep people using the system and give value to people according to their connections/friends/etc.

National Theatre Wales Community: we worked on the strategy and trained the team. A very interesting project, with some unexpected outcomes in terms of how people participated.

1 / 9 / 90 guideline: there are wisdoms around online communities and participation. You can gather metrics on many things that are important to you, much more than just member count.

OnePeople documentary: commissioned to celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence. A superb example of remix and social video. Maybe the fact they’ve booked Kevin MacDonald to edit the DIY videos is the most conventional

Remix by Lawrence Lessig, another recommended book

YouTube: there is a culture of YouTube. It can be about you and your DIY video, made on a phone camera or Flipcam. It can be a mistake to hire an expensive crew with professional editing. It doesn’t have to be about broadcast quality or production values.

It’s all about your second video: just a thought that you should probably go through the process of making a short video (maybe just a conversation about your subject or industry, forget about overt marketing pitches) and uploading it. Then you have gone through the ‘initiation process’. It’s the beginning. You might get a comment, etc.

Platforms & Practices is also about play. You can experiment on a personal account. This informs your practices as a company.

There it is, there wasn’t much time to elaborate further but a lot of hints that people will have found useful – I hope.