Bristolian Holly Nicholls works for digital engagement specialists Delib, where she acts as the bridge between tech and the business. She previously worked in e-learning. She used her 300 seconds to explain how technology can transform our democracy.

300 Seconds Bristol - Holly Nicholls

Technology, says Holly, is changing the way that we live, in so many areas of our lives. Some have described the internet age as a second age of enlightenment; instead of printing and distributing leaflets, we’re taking to Google and talking about the issues of the day on forums and social media.

Holly talked about My 2050, a project Delib worked on for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). This aimed to get the public involved and engaged with the issue of climate change, looking at ways they can meet their ambitious target to reduce carbon emissions to 20% of 1990 levels.

Delib took an incredibly complex dataset – the ways carbon can be reduced, and the impacts these would have – and created a tool that enables people to explore the consequences of these actions in a more meaningful, understandable way. This made a highly challenging topic accessible, helping people to get involved in the debate, informing the conversation.

Over 10,000 people got involved in the debate thanks to the My 2050 tool. Because it was easy to use, 2050 could facilitate an informed, ‘energy literate’ discourse. The tool is still being used several years later; the Guardian recently used it as part of their Big Energy Debate series.

But, cautioned Holly, technology alone won’t save democracy. The partnership with DECC worked because they were open to the idea of involving the wider public in complex debate. Holly’s role at Delib is to demonstrate the possibilities of technology in facilitating informed public debate and engagement – because it’s that, she argues, that will ultimately save democracy.