SAN FRANCISCO —
Many people still don’t know who they want as U.S. president. New tech tools, created by startup companies aiming to increase political participation, can help.
One such firm is Brigade, a nonpartisan mobile app and website that wasn't around in the last presidential election.
Matt Mahan, Brigade’s co-founder and CEO, said increasing civic participation requires solving a couple of problems.
“We need to give people easy access to the information they need to make decisions, but we also need to embed that within their social lives. We need to to make that part of the conversations they’re having with their friends, and we need to create cultural norms around participating,” Mahan said.
Some tech people say these tools are disrupting the old way of political engagement by creating new ways for involvement. Brigade, for instance, allows users to debate issues and try to sway others to their positions. Users can also see how their views align with political candidates and pledge to vote for a certain candidate.
Mahan actually sees the startup as a way back to political discourse.
"The point of democracy is to create this public square where people can discuss and debate their values and their perspectives on issues and ultimately create trade-offs and come to a conclusion about what’s the best way to move forward to create the greatest good for the most people," he said.
Crowdpac is another politically minded, San Francisco-based tech company that emerged since the 2012 election cycle.
“We’re using technology to try to help the average citizen to connect and engage in politics,” said Crowdpac's co-founder and COO, Gisel Kordestani.
The nonpartisan site describes itself as the first crowdfunding platform designed for politics. Crowdpac provides information about people running for office, helps users find and support the candidates that share their views and helps those running for office raise money.
Kordestani said tech companies that create new avenues for political participation give politicians more reasons to pay attention to Silicon Valley.
“This region has just grown over the last four decades. [It] has grown into not a powerhouse just in the U.S. but globally, and [is] setting the technology, the platforms and the rules of engagement for society, for work, for the environment globally.”
Kordestani said many tech companies in Silicon Valley are also realizing it’s important to work with politicians and the government to create positive change.