Democratic institutions today look much as they have done for decades, if not centuries. The Houses of Parliament, the US Congress, and some of the West’s oldest parliaments are largely untouched by successive waves of new technology. We still live in a world where debates require speakers to be physically present, there is little use of digital information and data sharing during parliamentary sessions, and where UK MPs vote by walking through corridors. The UK Parliament building, in particular, is conspicuous for the absence of screens, good internet connectivity and the other IT infrastructure which would enable a 21st century working environment comparable to the offices of almost any modern business.
At the same time almost every other sphere of life – finance, tourism, shopping, work and our social relationships – has been dramatically transformed by the rise of new information and communication tools, particularly social media or by the opportunities opened through increased access to and use of data, or novel approaches to solving problems, such as via crowdsourcing or the rise of the sharing economy.