29 September, 2016
Six weeks remain until elections in the United States. Yet many Americans say they still do not know who they want as president.
Now, there are some new tech tools that might help them decide. Startup businesses are creating products that try to change behavior and increase political activity.
Brigade is one of those startups. The California-based company runs a social media site and mobile app. It did not even exist in 2012, when the U.S. held its last presidential election.
Brigade is a platform for debating and deciding political positions. Users can follow the political issues that interest them, such as gun rights, immigration or the environment.
Matt Mahan was a creator of Brigade and now serves as its chief executive officer. He says a few problems need to be solved to increase American civic involvement.
"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 make it part of the conversations they're having with friends, and we need to create cultural norms around participating."
Brigade lets users debate issues and try to influence other people online. Users can also see how their opinions compare with other users as well as political candidates.
"I think that's kind of 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 kind of create the greatest good for the most people."
Crowdpac is another politically-minded technology company. It also did not exist at the time of the 2012 presidential election.
Gisel Kordestani is Crowdpac's chief operations officer. The company is, in her words, "using technology to try to help the average citizen to connect and engage in politics."
The Crowdpac website describes itself as the first crowdfunding site designed for politics. It provides information about individuals seeking public office. It also helps users find and support the candidates who share their opinions. And, it helps those running for office raise money. It does this through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is the activity of raising money through small donations from a lot of people. Generally, crowdfunding takes place on the Internet.
Kordestani said technology companies are changing how Americans take part in politics by creating new ways for political participation. That is why, she thinks, politicians should look to Silicon Valley, America's technology center.
"This region has just grown over the last four decades, has grown into not a powerhouse just in the U.S. but globally, in setting the technology, the platforms and the rules of engagement of society, for work, for the environment, globally."
Kordestani said many tech companies in Silicon Valley also recognize the importance of working with politicians and the government to create positive changes.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Elizabeth Lee reported on this story for VOANews. George Grow adapted this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
startup – n. a new business
mobile – adj. able to move from one place to another
access – n. a way of getting at or close to something or someone
embed – v. to set or place firmly in something else
conversation – n. a talk or discussion
participate – v. to be involved with others in doing something
crowdfunding – n. the act of seeking donations from a large number of people, especially on social media or through a website
globally – adj. of or related to the whole world
platform – n. a structure where people or machines do work
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