Geoff de Ruiter, a PhD candidate at UNBC, developed the app Democracy Link.
Do you want to use your smartphone to direct a message to Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau? Or maybe send SMS and text messages to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne or Toronto Mayor John Tory? There’s an app for that.
Geoff de Ruiter was reading the comments section on a newspaper website when he got the bright idea of encouraging people — especially young adults — to grab their smartphones and communicate directly with elected officials.
“I developed the application for my use, and everyone else’s,” said de Ruiter, a PhD candidate at the University of Northern British Columbia and researcher for the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. “Even a politically inclined guy like me has emotional and motivation barriers in wanting to contact a politician, so I was certain others were the same. I wanted to make the link more fluid and I think that’s what I’ve done.”
With $2,400 of his own money and the help of two computer science students who coded the application, de Ruiter came up with Democracy Link, a free app that makes the process of phoning or emailing one’s representative as easy as posting a comment online, or phoning a friend on speed dial.
Download the app, and fill out a short profile with your name, address and email. Then add federal, provincial, and municipal representatives using drop-down menus, and you’re ready to connect by phone or email.
The next time you open the app, your riding’s MP and MLA, and local city councilors or mayor will show on the home page. Users can also add contact info for other politicians at all levels of government. After that, with just a click or two, users can call or send a text or e-mail to elected representatives of their choice.
“I’ve used the app for quick communication about topics such as Bill C-51 and electoral reform and in voicing my concerns about the economy and the environment,” said de Ruiter. “I send short messages, only a few lines long, but since the politicians I’ve contacted know me and where I live, these comments get recorded in their files. That’s a big difference from Twitter or Facebook.”
So far, more than 1,000 people have downloaded the app, which is available for Android and Apple phones. The app is free, but de Ruiter is encouraging users to donate what they can in order to recover some of the cost of creating it and to pay for any further work on the app.
“I don’t think I’ll recoup everything I’ve invested, but I think my cause is more important than what it costs me personally,” de Ruiter said. He just hopes hundreds more Canadians download the app and start a serious discussion with their representatives at all levels of government, all across the country.
to download the English or French version of the app.