Monday, 28 March 2011

To what extent will digital technology around the home help transform political campaigns?

In the past week I have finally got my hands on an iPhone4. It’s amazing that over the last 12 months my once “fashionable phone” now looks like a brick in comparison. But this has got me thinking, just how influential is mobile technology when it comes to politics? Will things like the iPad2 and Internet Ready TV’s really impact the way in which politicians communicate with voters?

A close friend of mine Mark Wray, a home automation specialist from Cardiff, was explaining just how much politics will benefit from a rise in mobile phone and digital technology. He believes that young people will become more actively involved with politics through the growth of social media, particularly with new technology around the home.

Mark Wray, Managing Director of Smarta Technology said: “The growth in internet ready televisions, smartphones and tablet devices has brought social media away from the study or bedroom and into the living rooms of households across the country. When installing home automation systems nearly every component can now communicate directly with the internet, whether it’s a touch screen control panel on a wall or a new line of 3D Televisions. This will no doubt contribute to a transformation in the way in which advertising and communication messages are received around the home. Giving political parties a fresh opportunity to communicate with voters”

With such a high usage of social media worldwide where an expected 2 billion people actively online at any one point and with nearly 1 in 5 people now a proud owner of a Smartphone, its become essential for political parties to embrace social media marketing as part of an ongoing public relations strategy. Many would argue that there has never been more communications between politicians and voters. The recent Yes For Wales Campaign successfully used online marketing tools including viral videos on Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness of the issues facing Wales in order to promote a Yes vote in the assembly election.

In the next decade there will be a significant transformation in the way in which social media is accessed from home. With Home Automation now being pre installed into many new build houses, it’s provided a fresh opportunity for businesses, charities and political parties to interact with a range of different members of the public. Home Automation will enable markets to be segmented into different groups including age, sex and social classes, which will significantly effect digital marketing." Mr. Wray Continued.

Although the rise in accessible social media at home is likely to encourage more young people to get involved with politics in the future, social media can also be a communication tool that can significantly damage a reputation of an individual or party. With the recent case of politician Colin Elsbury whom was instructed to pay out £53,000 to town councilor Eddie Talbot after he wrongfully tweeted his rival had been thrown out of a polling station last June. Proving that a miss communication on twitter can result in significant consequences.

To what extent home automation systems will transform politics in the future may still be unclear, but it’s not unwise to consider the significant affects that internet ready televisions, games consoles, iPads, Smart Phones and even iPods are already having on politics on a regional and national level. A further growth in home-based technology will undoubtedly change politics in the future and it may be the case that the parties that are first to adapt to this change will reap the biggest rewards. For more information about social media in a smart home please visit

*This post was created by Gerwyn Holmes, a supporter of Cymru X.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Post Referendum Thoughts

So its all over. All the build up (or lack of it), the expected result (maybe better than expected) and we now have a proper parliament, with primary legislative powers (almost). So why do I feel slightly deflated about it all, I certainly didn't on Friday night when celebrating our much deserved win.

I think it is possibly a number of things. Firstly that for those of us interested in politics, I'd kind of been looking forward to this referendum for some time. I remember going to a Tommorow's Wales event maybe a couple of years ago where the move from Part 3 to Part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 was the main topic of debate (it makes you wonder how a referendum on such a topic got even 35% of voters to the polls?). It was to me then as it is now such a painfully obvious choice, and thankfully we got the right result. But how could 36% of people vote No? I suppose the debate did become more about a number of other things as all such referendums inevitably do. It became a question of scrutiny, it became a question of competence (of the Government and the Welsh people), and finally it became a question of the devolution journey.

On a slight aside, the question of whether there is an agenda on the part of some towards a nationalist future was often raised by the No campaign (even though one of the parties makes that their clear aim). In the classic style of all conspiracy theorists they tried to plant in the public's mind the idea of a sinister and power hungry establishment that were itching to pull up anchor and sail the good ship Cambria away from England and to the promised land. It was rarely raised by Yes campaigners the equally obvious agenda of many No campaigners, often denied, who wished the assembly wasn't there or that it could slowly be eroded until it went away, no matter the consequences for Wales (if you watched David Williams post referendum TV program, one of them wanted to blow it up or burn it down. I don't think he was that serious, good old Len!).

So it is over, I feel I worked quite hard and played my part. But like all of the things in your life that you make a big deal, it soon becomes clear when its over that it wont make as big a difference as you first expect. Don't get me wrong, this is a major and important step forward for Wales. But for me my life wont in the short term be drastically altered. Hopefully we wont see a raft of legislation just for the sake of it, I'm sure we wont as our politicians aren't quite as daft as some make out. So I wont feel the primary legislative powers of our soon to be elected representatives add to the weight of needless bureaucracy already resting heavily on our heads.

What seemed more important was the shift in attitude that the results seemed to portray, as they were announced, followed by cheers it seemed that the unclothed zeitgeist of Wales was on display, well the zeitgeist of the 35% that bothered to vote, but it still seemed important. The speeches of the party leaders and Roger Lewis summed it up. Something that we had struggled for for centuries was happening, not that we were getting more power to legislate, but that Wales was uniting behind something. Not entirely, we cant get too carried away, but as county after county returned Yes verdicts it seemed, to coin a phrase we had one Wales, slowly uniting behind the institution that housed our democracy. The ancient sparring kingdoms and principalities united, the rural and the urban united, the welsh speaking and English speaking welsh united. The differences were still there if you bothered to look at the results closely, but it was fading. A transport network geared east to west could not hold back a shared and growing sense of shared history and culture. Only the apathetic spoiled the party. We may be coming to terms with Wales as a political nation, but the majority of the nation still gets its media and much therefore of its thought and culture from the British media. This is a dangerous problem in terms of Welsh democracy, and the low turnout in this poll is just one sign.

Unless you are interested in Welsh politics as I obviously am, then you probably would have voted in the referendum on a couple of very simplistic ideas. Both the Yes and No campaigns tried to make it about these simple matters in order to capture our imaginations, to varying effect. Laws that only effect the people of Wales should be made in Wales, vote No to the slippery slope, give our Assembly Members the tools to do the job, don't give them any more power they don't deserve it. We heard all these simplistic arguments, and the standard of debate was poor as a result. But it is hard to grip the imagination of people who don't really care much for what happens in Cardiff Bay unless it directly affects them, especially when the British media pretty much ignores anything going on in Wales which they might deem a bit too parochial, and not the fundamental battle of ideas that it could have been. The stronger the press and the media of a country the greater the potential for good quality debate. As in all referendums both sides normally have some good points or stumble on them accidentally, no matter how kooky or outlandish they seem, and we should take heed of them as we go forward. Wales needs better forums for its future debates if it is going to engage the majority of its people and come to good decisions. How to achieve this I'm not sure, but the online sphere played a vital role in this last referendum and if we can engage more people through it all the better. But the old fashioned mediums of TV and newspaper still dominate.

To come back to my original thoughts on why I quickly realised that we cannot celebrate for too long, and the long hard slog of politics and government must continue. We have to up our game, we always will. Those of us who try to steer public opinion through all mediums including politics have a challenge ahead. We now have a proper Assembly as some of us have long wanted. We will probably want more, more powers for Wales (or should that be “in” Wales, sorry Luke!), but we must use what we currently have well in the years ahead if we hope to go any further.

I think it suddenly dawned on me, that we cant sit idly by and let others do it. All of us who voted Yes on Thursday the 3rd of March 2011 have a duty to ourselves and our country to take responsibility for what we do next. Its quite a depressing thought really, I was quite happy for others to get on and do it for me.

To end with, I have been thinking over the last couple of days of a couple of quotes from 2 films I like (this time its the American media shaping my thoughts). A classic line in Spider-man is: “with great power comes great responsibility”, sorry about the obvious cliché I have just concerned you with. But in my favourite film of the moment Kick Ass we get this expansion “with no power comes no responsibility........except that wasn't true”.

Daniel Lawrence

Daniel Lawrence is a Non-Portfolio Member of the National Executive Committee. He writes in a personal capacity.