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Website puts your questions to political parties

August 5, 2014

Website puts your questions to political parties

It’s called Ask Away, and that’s exactly what the designer of an election question and answer web platform wants prospective voters to do by putting questions online to respective political party representatives.

The website, designed by Massey University Master of Design student Meg Howie, then lets representatives from each party log in each day to respond to the most popular questions, ranging from and including health to housing to tertiary education, as voted by website users.

Party spokespeople responsible for those issues will be answering questions on the site up till polling day, September 20, giving people an easy way to get informed and involved this election.

“It’s about making it as easy as possible for the parties to respond to the issues the public care most about,” Ms Howie says.

“It’s also about including the people who are less informed, and who don’t know how policies affect them and don’t have in-depth knowledge about politics. If you don’t have a question to ask, you can vote for questions that are important to you. By voting up a question to increase its likelihood of getting answered, you’re helping to shape the discussion for this election.”

The platform is targeting youth, as this is one of the groups that have historically been significantly under-represented in voter turnout. “Voter participation levels in New Zealand are rapidly declining and we need to do something about it,” Ms Howie says.

“I hope that by providing a platform for youth perspectives this election, Ask Away will help break down the perception that politics aren’t relevant to young people, and that it will also help the candidates become more aware of the issues that are affecting youth.”

The Ask Away website is part of Massey’s Design & Democracy Project, which explores design research solutions for encouraging civic engagement, with a focus this year on building youth electoral participation.

Content from the website will also feature as part of the online election coverage of Radio New Zealand, and also its youth platform The Wireless.

Digital editor Alex van Wel of Radionz.co.nz described Ask Away as a new and innovative way to empower voters in a general election, giving them a chance to define the issues during the campaign by drawing attention to the questions directly relevant to them and prompting discussions separate to those triggered by the political parties.

Many web developers, including several from Code for New Zealand and the Enspiral Foundation, are donating time to build the platform. As it is under an Open Source License anyone will be able to use the code and Ms Howie hopes that it will be used for similar purposes internationally.

The site will be live from August 8 at www.askaway.org.nz

ENDS

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