Comparison Sites Make Elections More Transparent
Over the last couple of months a number of people have said that the future of democracy online lies in disintermediation. Basically, what this means is that online you can cut out the middle man. And it’s true to a point. But only to a point. This isn’t a new term, the concept of dis-intermediation has been around since the early days of the eCommerce. Drastically shrink the supply chain and connect directly to the customer. Saves money, increases margins and improves customer service (in theory at least). And it’s works in lots of places.
The problem is, it isn’t always the best way. Sometimes you don’t want to dis-intermediate. Books are a good example. I can go directly to many publishers, I can go to the bookstore or I can go to Amazon.
Amazon isn’t a producer and it isn’t (in the old sense of the idea) a bookstore. What Amazon does is it re-intermediates. It creates all the economies of shrinking the supply chain but increases the convenience to the customer (moral and tax issues aside) by giving us a wider choice in our home (or office, or on the train). Insurance comparison sites are the same, so too flight comparison apps. Where there are a lot of suppliers offering similar, competing products, going direct takes a lot of effort. It’s wasteful and prone to errors. Particularly when it’s a product we don’t consume often, is complex and we perhaps lack deep knowledge of. That’s where re-intermediation comes in.
And so to democracy. Or more specifically politics. There is significant potential in dis-intermediation, putting us closer to power, to decision makers (and them to us). But when it comes to voting at election time, to understanding what parties stand for, do you want to trawl around a dozen websites, each different, and try and understand where they stand, what they really mean and what you agree with? I don’t. I really don’t.
I’d much rather there was a trusted place where I can compare policies and match them to what I think and want to do. That’s where comparison sites such as VoteMatch come in. They demonstrate that dis-intermediation isn’t the end of the journey, just one option. They make the electoral process more open, accessible and transparent for people who wouldn’t perhaps otherwise read policy statements or manifestos (and that’s most of us). Of course, we also need to make sure that there are many and varied ways for us all to participate effectively too, democracy is much more than voting!