The eDemocracy Programme was established in 1997 to ask critical questions about the contribution of ICT to parliamentary politics: what influence it is having on processes and the relationships between citizens, elected representatives and political institutions. P4tF began by isolating three areas of parliamentary business in which ICT might improve effectiveness and efficiency. These were:
- Information: using ICT to improve communications and marketing;
- Legislation: using ICT to enhance scrutiny and performance;
- Representation: using ICT to strengthen democratic transactions.
The Hansard Society developed a "brief" that set out three problem scenarios based around the three parliamentary business areas. This brief was sent out to 100 academic departments, companies and consultants whom the Hansard Society had observed taking an active and consistent interest in Parliament's use of technology. These individuals and organisations — few of which were already active in parliamentary politics — were invited to review the brief and produce a solution (for some or all of the scenarios) based on 5-10 year projections of technological development. Nineteen of those invited ultimately submitted a solution.
Although forecasting constitutes the core dynamic of the P4tF report, the authors were also interested in attempting to provide an historical overview of Parliament's use of technology. To do this within the resources and time available, they limited themselves to looking at the use of internet-oriented technology. The also tended to focus on the use of the internet to enable communication between citizens, elected representatives and Parliament (as a corporate entity).
The earlier sections of this report combined with our findings from working with central government departments and local authorities, are formed into a set of recommendations to Parliament for creating the conditions in which ICT innovations could be promoted across both Houses.