Smart apps to encourage youth vote

GED CANN
Last updated 06:43 19/08/2014
voter apps
LOREN DOUGEN/FAIRFAX NZ

ENCOURAGING YOUNG VOTERS: Ask Away leader Meg Howie and On the Fence creator Kieran Stowers at Massey design school.

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Recent antics at Internet Party events have raised concerns about how young people engage with politics.

But two campaigns launched in Wellington paint a more positive picture of young people's willingness to engage in constructive debate.

The Ask Away and On the Fence campaigns have already recorded 77,000 visits between them.

On the Fence is an interactive tool that matches the user with a party based on their perspective on different issues. On the Fence leader Kieran Stowers says the time users are spending on the site is also an indicator of interest in political issues.

"Visitors are spending eight minutes on the site on average, engaging on topics from social welfare to environment. It's really positive."

Ask Away aims to open communications between young people and political parties by providing an online forum where anyone can voice questions and have them answered by politicians.

Project leader Meg Howie said the response has been fantastic. "[There have been] 292 questions asked and 82 answers, including from the ministers for finance, education, social development and climate change, and the Green and Internet-Mana party leaders.

"The most prolific spokesperson so far has been Tracey Martin, who has answered 46 questions," she said.

Users can also vote on questions to create a trending list for politicians to respond to.

The site has attracted responses from the major parties, with ACT, Maori and Conservative parties failing to contribute. Both campaigns are products of Massey University's Design and Democracy project, and are among several that make up the Virgin Voters Collective.

Project leader Karl Kane says it is a learning experience for the students and politicians.

The traditional methods have failed to engage young voters, he says.

"They are based on systems from the 18th and 19th century.

"These are old methods and these are 21st-century kids.

"Young people do not respond to personality politics, they want policy. A lot of people are underestimating Generation Y, but they are more social and responsible than people give them credit for," he says.

Wellington is one of nine red zones identified by the Virgin Voter Collective where less than 60 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds are enrolled to vote.

Others include Auckland, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Dunedin North.

Also involved in the Virgin Voter Collective is the Candidate app, which uses a Tinder-like operating system to match the user to a political "date" for the election.

Candidate will be launched at AUT University tomorrow.

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- The Dominion Post

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