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Welsh Government backs digital democracy projects

10/03/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Welsh Government has approved funding for projects to encourage local authorities’ use of digital technology in meetings and engaging with the public.

Julie James

Minister for Housing and Local Government Julie James (pictured) said the moves are part of the allocation of the £500,000 Digital Democracy Fund created as part of the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021.

They include the development of an app to facilitate multi-location voting in meetings and the creation of a digital space in which councils and the public will be able to exchange ideas.

Another initiative will provide equipment for hybrid meetings – with some physical and virtual participation – including the implementation of accessibility software and additional licences to support video conferencing.

In addition, money is being made available to purchase hardware for councillors to use in working virtually.

Pandemic effect

James said the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to develop new ways of running the democratic process using digital technology.

“Developments in digital technology offer new and different opportunities for individuals to actively participate in their communities while enabling more flexible arrangements for local authorities to operate in different ways,” she said. “I know that many local authorities are already making excellent use of digital technology in service delivery.

“However, there is also the opportunity to exploit the use of digital methods and tools to support greater engagement in democratic processes in terms of both democratic representation and citizen involvement.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated how important it is that we embrace this approach and transform democracy and create an environment where barriers to participation are removed, solutions are developed and benefits realised.”

Image from National Assembly for Wales, Open Government Licence v3.0

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