[wdmmg-discuss] An idea for an app on public input on the deficit
rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Sun Jul 11 11:22:34 BST 2010
I realize there has been no direct response on list so far. However, I
have been talking a lot with one of our community members (Tim Hubbard
in cc) and we're very interested in this area. The main issue for us
was the timeline, which was very tight, especially to do this "right"
(with a proper participation structure, a proper voting structure
Furthermore there is the existing gov effort at:
<http://spendingchallenge.hm-treasury.gov.uk/> (launched on 25 June)
plus the facebook 'tie-in'. I'm personally not sure either of these
are the perfect way to do things (I have yet to see the exact form of
the FB effort ...) but it makes me wonder how much room there is here
for us to offer something useful (and used).
What do you (or anyone else on the list!) think about this?
One alternative, and one we have been looking into is calculating and
showing the real effects (on spending etc) of particular cuts options
-- something we feel is rather absent from the current debate (it's
actually rather hard to do right since cuts don't have a simple effect
on spending the state of budget depends on many factors, GDP, world
On 22 June 2010 21:06, Rufus Pollock <rufus.pollock at okfn.org> wrote:
> Here's a really interesting idea (with lots of detail) from Stuart
> Bradshaw for doing a public input app around addressing the deficit.
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Stuart Bradshaw
> Date: 22 June 2010 18:41
> Subject: An idea...
> To: ...
> I have an idea that I hope will be interesting to you. I have copied
> both of your organisations on the same email as I wondered if there
> might be value in you working together (since WDMMG has the financial
> knowhow and base data / app, and MySociety has plenty of experience
> with this type of site plus clearly knows how to get politicians to
> pay attention to what they are saying). My idea is as follows...
> - As you will no doubt be aware, there are already a number of
> calculators out there that essentially ask "What would YOU do to
> resolve the deficit?", with the two most notable I have seen being
> WDMMG and BBC News
> - As you are also probably aware, the Coalition has stated that over
> the summer it intends to consult widely with the public on how the
> major spending cuts should be implemented, ahead of the Spending
> Review settlements in September / October
> - The tricky part to this is that I don't think anyone has figured out
> *how* they intend to canvass the views of so many people so quickly,
> or how they are going to make people well-informed enough to give a
> meaningful opinion
> - So, what about adapting the online calculator concept slightly to do
> this? There are about 60 million people in the UK, so as a
> start-point we could say that on average, HMG needs to save one
> 60-millionth of the overall deficit, per individual (which comes to a
> bit over £1,000 each I believe) - you can probably refine that a bit
> based on an individual's income etc (so the rich lose out more than
> the poor)
> - So, users could log onto a site, tell it some stuff about their
> household (how many people, how old are they, which industry sectors
> do they work in, what do they get paid, do they have kids, do they
> drink / smoke / own a car / travel a lot etc, whatever else) and then
> the site could allow them to choose how they would cover their 'share'
> of the deficit, based on tax rises, spending cuts and whatever else
> - As they move the sliders, checkboxes etc, the site tells them about
> possible consequences of their choices, tailored where possible based
> on the info they have given - e.g. "cutting the defence budget might
> make oil prices go up, and you do a lot of driving so that could be
> bad for you"
> - The key point is that it starts from the value that you're going to
> lose out on and works backwards to find the least painful way for you
> of doing so - so this isn't about just trying to set it to minimise
> the loss for yourself
> - What's in it for citizens?
> All the calculators I have seen so far talk in generic terms about the
> whole UK economy - this would be specific to an individual.
> Personally is very hard for me to get my head around impacts on the
> economy as a whole but much easier for me to understand (and, frankly,
> care about) the impact on my own family. And not only can it deal in
> hypothetical situations based on choices that users select - it can
> also remember their details for later, and give them tailored info on
> the consequences of big decisions made by HMG as and when they emerge
> - e.g. "HMT has just announced a x% decrease in xxx benefit, which
> means your family will have £y less per month". When the Spending
> Review itself is published, each site user can get a personalised
> email telling them how they might be impacted and where it differs the
> most from what they wanted to see. Obviously it's still a simplified
> rough-and-ready model and all numbers would be indicative (and
> caveated as such), but it could still bring a very dry financial topic
> to life for people in a very personal way. Plus, users will know that
> HMG will be aware of their preferences and will try to take them into
> account (see below).
> - What's in it for Government?
> This is the clever bit (I like to think)... the site could (with
> users' permission of course) allow HMG to see on aggregate what
> combinations of options have been selected by different categories of
> users, giving them the consultation data that they need in terms of
> how the public wishes them to tackle the deficit. So, as a simplistic
> example, HMG might decide to raise taxes for families with young
> children but to lower support instead for pensioners because that's
> what they indicated they prefer. Clearly there are other ways to
> collect this kind of information from the public - but to do it this
> quickly would require paying market research organisations a lot of
> money and clearly that's not an attractive thing to do right now. Not
> only can ministers and treasury officials look at what people have
> said they prefer, but they can also "try out" different options,
> seeing directly what kind of impact each would have on individual
> people and getting some objective evidence that they are hurting the
> rich more than the poor etc. Plus, individual MPs can get a sense of
> what their constituents want them to lobby for and be seen to respond
> to this.
> - What do you need to do?
> If you want to do something like this then you need to move fast: all
> government departments have to make their SR bids by mid July ready
> for a consultation period in late July and through August / possibly
> part of September. You would therefore need your site ready for
> people to use by mid July. However - I think you are most of the way
> there based on what is already in the WDMMG calculator, you just need
> to present the info slightly differently and set up the mechanism to
> share the data with ministers (and this second part doesn't actually
> have to be ready for mid July, as long as the public-facing part is
> good to go). Presumably you'll need to check quite early on that CO /
> HMT doesn't already have plans for how to run this consultation (I can
> help there - I have contacts in both organisations that I can talk to
> if I know you're interested in developing this). In order to get wide
> coverage quickly, I would suggest contacting the BBC News website -
> your calculator is better than theirs and it would save them the
> trouble of making their own. I would also suggest you consider
> getting it linked on Directgov and businesslink.gov.uk (I have
> contacts at both if you wanted to approach them) plus obviously
> data.gov.uk. Once you have this tool, it would presumably be
> something you could update and roll out again for every subsequent
> Budget etc as well, so it's time well spent.
> I hope this is of some help - feel free to use or ignore as you see
> fit but I wanted to share it. I think the whole data.gov.uk /
> transparency concept is a very brave one for government to be pursuing
> and I want to see it succeed as more than just a passing fad - I think
> it's now just waiting for an app with wide relevance to the whole UK
> population to really make it take off, perhaps this or something like
> it could do so. If I can be of any help or if you have any questions
> then let me know.
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