The NSW Greens will rely on Web-based crowd-sourcing resources to engage directly with constituents, in hopes of gaining an upper leg in the upcoming state elections.
Public website EveryMap will form the basis of the Greens' strategy, with hopes voters will submit problems they believe the party could fix should they be elected. The site maps problems and events submitted by users - numbering 500 in January alone - onto a Google Map of Australia, with integration of Twitter and Facebook APIs for sharing with other users.
Balmain Greens candidate and Leichhardt mayor, Jamie Parker, told Computerworld Australia he used his previous experience with the site to leverage the opportunity during the elections period.
“I’ve used it as Mayor, but I’m also finding it is a great opportunity for a candidate if people want to talk to you,” he said. “Some of the problems [of running for parliament] now are that it is difficult to meet every constituent at their door, so now they can be met online instead.
“Potholes on the street are one example of this. I saw on Twitter that within a couple of hours [people had a complaint about potholes] and it was fixed within 24 hours. It’s a great system and allows that direct communication.”
Parker also intends to commission an iPhone app to serve a similar purpose. Rockdale City Council in Sydney already provides the capability through its own app while developers Outware Mobile have provided the feature for all Australian councils with Snap Send Solve.
“It’s the next step beyond emailing someone or creating a website where people can give responses on a survey," he said. "It’s a lot more genuine, I think.”
Parker, an avid user of Twitter, said his current political campaign relies heavily on technology and the use of social media.
“There is a dramatic difference between 2003 when I ran as a candidate, and 2010,” he told Computerworld Australia. “To me, what I find most interesting is the level of engagement that is generated by the new social media and crowd-sourced sites."
However, the Greens candidate warned his fellow politicians that while they may be using social media, use of any sites must foster a discussion between the local community and its leaders.
“If someone [a politician] does tweet, or does go through a crowd source site or some other form of media and you don’t respond, it’s a very powerful message about whether the person is paying attention or not,” he said.
“When staffers tweet for politicians, it isn’t building on that genuine engagement and it builds on that false façade of engagement when you’re just talking to a staffer.”
Parker spoke to Computerworld last year, when he said that having an internet campaign director - freelance technology journalist Neerav Bhatt - was important to his campaign.
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