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Election 2014: New tool creates a different kind of question time for youth voters

A new web tool will let young voters put Kiwi politicians to the test and encourages them to get involved in the upcoming general election.

Ask Away is one of two projects developed out of Massey University’s Design and Democracy Lab, which creates online solutions to spark particpation on social issues.

The first is On the Fence, a political values questionnaire presented as an online game, while Ask Away was prototyped for the Wellington Mayoral Election last year.

From 1 August young voters will be able to ask questions of politicians, which the lab will sort into categories to be answered by the relevant party spokesperson using a site login.

Users vote on the questions they think should be asked and the system’s algorithm sends questions higher as they get votes and lower as they lose popularity.

Team member Meg Howie, a Master of Design Candidate, hopes the tool will have an offshore market in the longer term.

“It seems like something there’s an obvious need for this all the time, in local body elections and internationally. We’re hoping it will be used here in New Zealand but also it could help in developing democracies.”

The open source development team numbers 12 and is led by Jon Lemmon, also a co-founder of democratic participation tool Loomio.

The Design and Democracy Lab will work with other groups out to encourage youth to vote in this election, including Rockenrol rockenrol.me and Hannah Duder, who’s working on a Tinder-like app for youth voting.

Amanda Sachtleben is an Auckland writer and social media type, who's also Idealog's former tech editor and business journalist.

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