In recent years, commercially-developed communication technology has expanded the capacity and capabilities for many aspects of modern life. Unfortunately there has been very little investment to support technology specifically designed to advance the public sector, and especially little investment or attention to technology that can enhance the representative functions of the legislative branch of government. The recent Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of building technology that can support the continuous functioning of democracy in times of crisis. But our need for public-oriented technology to support the representation functions of government extends beyond the immediate crisis. The long-term declines in trust in government, combined with the rise of polarization and misinformation, strongly suggest the need to develop new methods to connect the people with their government, and to enable individuals to have a voice in policy making.
The TeCD lab has built a prototype of an online town hall platform called “Prytanea” that enables elected officials to engage constituents on important policies at scale. In 2019 the lab collaborated with POPVOX to redeploy Madison, which is an open source collaboration platform that enables citizens to comment on proposed legislation and is currently being used by the Natural Resources Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives for a first-ever, technology-facilitated hearing. In addition, the TeCD lab is an integral part of the Connecting to Congress (C2C) project and provides the tech support to enable C2C to conduct online town halls.