After the glorious success of our previous ‘Digital Heroes’ posts I thought it was time to broaden the spectrum somewhat and hear from one of our democratic allies – Luke Ashby of Electoral Reform Services. Luke helps pioneer new approaches to elections by embracing the opportunities of digital, something that we at Delib thoroughly approve of. At this point I’d usually write a somewhat rambling introduction but, as Luke has actually answered the questions seriously, and in long form, I’ll instead let him do the talking.  Let’s jump right in.

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
It’s Luke Ashby and I grew up in Oxford, living in London now…

2. What do you do for a living?
I’m a Digital Consultant for Electoral Reform Services.

3. Favourite band and/ or artist?
Roots Manuva is a long standing favourite.

4. Android or iPhone?
I have the iPhone.

5. PC or Mac?
MacBook Pro and an iPad // BOOM! (work laptop is a PC though).

6. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
Keeping a lid on my maverick thoughts requires full-time attention! Take a look at some ideas from the fringes here

7. Your house is on fire, what do you save?
There are a couple of paintings I would be very sad to lose.

8. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
If the opportunity is there I think it’s best to take it!

9. Best project you’ve worked on at ERS and why?
There are some very exciting projects going on here at ERS, I’m still waiting for my invitation to the Brit Awards… In the meantime, I’ll go with a glass factory in Enniskillen. Far less glamorous, but manning the ballot box for a couple of days and listening to the conversations of employees as they cast their votes was a real insight into grass-roots democracy.

10. Where do you hope ERS will be in 10 years in terms of wider digital democracy? Opportunities and pitfalls.
Aside from the fast-moving advances in the use of communication channels and content mediums (which I think within 10 years will be predominantly video optimised for mobile devices), I hope the use of data will be the big change.

In my opinion there is great opportunity to benefit democracy with more sophisticated use of data and targeted information, addressing voter apathy in particular. Considering the increasing relevance of content delivered to individuals by the likes of Google and Amazon as well as initiatives such as the Institute for Government’s MIND SPACE, I think it’s possible to expect election information which is highly tailored to an individual’s specific personal interests in order to make democracy more relevant and engaging.

In my mind the challenge of addressing concerns about online voting security will soon be won. With the rapid increase and acceptance of the conduct of financial affairs on the internet, the argument against voting online for security reasons is wearing thin, indeed most ballots (legislation permitting) administered by ERS include an online element. It will, however, be much more complicated to tackle the ethical issues presented by manipulating election messaging. While I personally believe that content made relevant to individual voters will have a positive effect on election turnout, maintaining a position of independence and impartiality will be a challenge when different variations of voting material are sent to the same electorate.

11. Best gov site you’ve seen and why? Other than GOV.UK
Hmm, nothing jumped out at me so I did some research and found the US Airforce website which is pretty slick, complete with its own Airman Challenge computer game! I’m not much of a gamer, but do like gamification as a concept. I recently read that the Swedish Government use speed cameras to take photos of drivers sticking to the limit so they can be entered into a lottery with a chance to win a percentage of the speeding fines. Now that’s progressive policy making!

So there you have it, 11 questions answered relatively seriously. If you’d like to talk to Luke yourself about ERS stuff or that blog of his, you can as always find him on Twitter.

Until next time.