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8 oct 2018 9:00Am

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UQ students make history by using ‘democracy app’ for campus vote

By Dion McCurdy, Ceo

University of Queensland students will make history this week as the first Australian voters to have universal access to a ‘democracy app’ ahead of an election.

The app, UQvotes.com, will enable students to share information, create policies and even tell candidates what their priorities are during the University of Queensland Student Union election campaign.

The online democracy software will be launched on the St Lucia campus today, and was designed by the not-for-profit group, NewVote Australia. The UQ student union election runs from Monday to Friday.

NewVote was set up in 2016 by Brisbane lawyer and UQ graduate Dion McCurdy.

“The ultimate aim of this app is to get students politically engaged. In the last election only 28 per cent of UQ’s 52,000 students voted, we hope to see a lift in the numbers” he said.

“And the UQvotes app is so much more than just political debate online. It’s a policy wiki. Students can even vote about particular campus issues and then lobby candidates to adopt their stance.”

Mr McCurdy said NewVote collaborated widely to design the app with a team of UQ student volunteers, including students of business, engineering, IT and political science.

“This app gives UQ’s students the opportunity to engage with their political representatives in a new and innovative digital way,” he said. Mr McCurdy described online democratic software as a way to bridge the divide between politicians and voters.

“Worldwide we’re seeing a disconnect between people and their leaders. These political apps are what’s needed to upgrade democracy to the 21st century,” he said.

UQ’s Head of the School of Political Science, Richard Devetak, supports NewVote’s purpose to advance education and enhance democracy.

NewVote’s Head of Research Committee, Nichola Cooper, a PhD candidate at the University of the Sunshine Coast, believes that the app could galvanise students into discovering politics. “

We’re on a mission to break down the barriers that impede everyday citizens from directly engaging in political conversation, forming ideas, co-designing and getting involved in decision-making.” she said.

Michael Partington, a student of UQ and NewVote volunteer, said UQvotes.com would expose students to a cross-section of views and gives them a space for meaningful deliberation.

“Because this takes place in a digital, not physical, space it is convenient and happens in real time,” he said.

“The app will also keep running after the election, meaning students will continue to shape policy with their newly elected representatives, long after the campaigning is over,” he said.