Today I was impressed by the government. It doesn’t happen often, but today it did. What was impressed by? I was linked to an online petition through the Open Rights Group I am a member of, hosted by the Downing Street website. I went on to discover that the website is running a trial of an online, automated petition system that allows any British Citizen to submit a petition to Downing Street and let any other British Citizen electronically sign it.
Petitions have long been sent to the Prime Minister by post or delivered to the Number 10 door in person. You can now both create and sign petitions on this website too, giving you the opportunity to reach a potentially wider audience and to deliver your petition directly to Downing Street.
The system is run by mySociety and the software used is open source and can be downloaded by anyone.
It also states that:
Once your petition has closed it will be passed to officials who work for the Prime Minister in Downing Street, or sent to the relevant Government department for a response. Every person who signs a petition via this website will receive an email detailing the Government’s response to the issues raised.
Ignoring all cynicsm for a moment, I think this is a great idea. It is very easy to send out an e-mail to people to ask them to click a link and fill out a quick form to add their support to a petition and this service allows that petition to be delivered directly to Downing Street.
Of course, the main issue is whether this will be more effective than delivering a paper petition in person or not, but still the principle is there and making it easier to get your voice heard can’t be all bad, particularly if you’re guaranteed a reply.