Politics

New technology tries to engage voters beyond the ballot box

The makers of a new mobile platform/website are hoping their technology will engage voters, even when an election isn’t on the near horizon.

iMatr, a Hamilton-based tech startup, began building the platform three years ago to allow Canadians to use their mobile devices to comment on political matters, be they local, provincial, or federal, and to communicate directly with those who represent them politically.

“The simple goal is to make democracy better,” Leo Lehman, director of government relations for iMatr, told iPolitics.

The website is designed to work on any mobile device, including a smartphone, tablet, or iPad.

“(We are) giving citizens the tools to connect and engage with their political representatives,” thereby reducing voter apathy, he said.

Voter turnout in the last election was 62.5 per cent, meaning about 17 million people voted, according to Elections Canada. This was down from about 67 per cent in 2019.

Lehman says the tool combines geolocation and real-time user engagement to provide information directly from the user to his or her elected official without a third party in between.

To prevent citizens from engaging with politicians in other jurisdictions, iMatr uses the latest data encryption. A user must also go through a three-step sign-up process that verifies his or her identity, so politicians know they’re engaging with an actual constituent.

Lehman says iMatr is hoping to launch the tool nationwide in the coming months. Its big electoral test will come next June during the Ontario provincial election.

“Every registered candidate will have the ability to have a profile on the platform and for citizens to reach out to them on issues.”

Lehman sees it as an effective tool for MPs, as well.

“(This) aims to give representatives a direct way to hear from citizens,” he said. “It’s a valuable tool for them to get input on where (constituents) stand on issues.

“There’s a lot of excitement (about) this,” he continued. “We’re looking forward to more conversations” with politicians before the launch.

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