US startup iCitizen has come up with a mobile app designed to encourage participation in the democratic process by providing users with ongoing information on political issues, monitoring the track record of their elected representatives and politicians, and giving them a platform to make their voice heard.
Washington, D.C-based think tank The Pew Center, which tracks attitudes toward press, politics and public policy issues, has revealed that every year two thirds of all US citizens take part in various forms of political activity and that 13% participate in at least five activities. This sort of involvement can however be extremely time-consuming. Activists need to get to grips with political concepts and issues, to stay up-to-date on elections, new legislation, regulations and relevant news and link up with other like-minded people. So, outside the electoral campaigns that take place every two and four years, most voters have very little contact with the political process. With this in mind, iCitizen has just launched a mobile app intended to enable people to follow the political issues that are important to them, keep up to date and make their voices heard. iCitizen has managed to raise $3.3 million and the app is proving to be a great success, with over 200,000 downloads since its launch on 19 November. This is not of course the first app designed to inform citizens and boost democratic participation. Others include Code For America, MindMixer and the extremely direct Change.org, a decision-making tool that allows politicians to reply to people who sign petitions.
Political info centralized on a single app
The purpose of iCitizen is to boost political engagement and inspire people to action. Accordingly, the app does three things: it provides all relevant information on a given topic “in the palm of your hand” – i.e. on your phone; it allows users to follow federal or local elected representatives and officials of their own choice, tracking their views and voting record on legislative bills; and it provides a communication channel through which users can express their support for or opposition to proposed legislation. iCitizen also conducts daily online polls on more general questions such as “Is the economy about to pick up again?”, thus giving politicians and relevant bodies a fast, convenient means of tapping into voters’ views. Company CEO Rodney Massey says these daily surveys regularly garner over 13,000 responses. The aim is also to be as non-partisan as possible, avoiding any particular political orientation. The iOS app for iPhones is available for free download at Apple’s App Store.
Arousing political awareness
One of iCitizen’s main goals is to create a critical mass of voters and elected representatives on its platform so as to boost its credentials, ensure the relevance of the polls and votes it organizes and give users confidence that their voices are actually being heard. By channelling relevant informative and providing a central platform for interaction on a mobile device, the app is intended to boost overall citizen awareness and promote the dissemination of political views. iCitizen is planning to publish an Android version of the app soon. The next step will be a special version for politicians, which will provide an analytical dashboard highlighting voter opinions, reveals iCitizen.