The beta version of MySociety’s e-petitioning system is now publicly available here. As Simon Dixon says, a brilliant example of what can be achieved by a small group of motivated (open source) developers [link to repository]; there is a BBC article on this here too.
The e-petitioner developed by ITC for the Scottish Parliament makes for a useful comparison. With the PM’s version, the email address is used to verify the signatures and a valid-seeming postcode is required: only UK residents are allowed to sign, making the process a little tighter than Scotland’s. The requirement for an email address will exclude a proportion of potential users – I don’t know how much, though I guess it would be possible to find out.
Things I like:
- It works, and has a clean, fast interface
- It acts as a great example of learning through a public beta process
- Being able to create short-cut names for petitions (eg http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/badgers)
- A rejected petitions page (an interesting concept). The reason for the rejection is given too – a nice bit of transparency indeed
On the down-side, there is no forum of debating the associated issues. Also, the follow-up mechanism seems restricted to emails to the participants to say what the government will do: ie no apparent public disclosure (and ownership) of what (if anything) the government has decided to do with the completed petition.
In summary: a great idea with loads of room for improvement. But a low-cost commitment by the PM’s office, with minimal effect on the level of citizen engagement in comparison to the Scottish experience: does the current system really enhance democracy?
Let’s see what the final version comes out like.
More technical information and thoughts on improving the process can be found via a later blog entry here
I found the MySociety blog entry for the golive <http://www.mysociety.org/2006/11/14/no10-petitions-system-goes-live/> – some feedback is trickling through there. The main feedback process is via email; open RFE systems can work better I think. But maybe the volume of feedback would be unmanageable