The transformation of scrutiny: what was really different about the PAC hearing today

I have received a number of e-mails this evening about the PAC hearing on broadband being unprecedented. They are correct but they miss what was truly innovative. Both questioners and witnesses were using tablets, not only as aides memoires but to receive inputs from outside parliament to help inform questions and answers. And the chairman was allowing this happen.

The implications are truly profound.

The chairman knew exactly what she was doing.

I remember a PITCOM visit to Washington, twenty years ago, when we “bumped into her” in a corridor – she was staying the same hotel. As rapporteur for the visit, I listened to (but did not record) a fascinating discussion involving Michael Marshall (conservative) and John McWilliam (labour) on how and why things were then happening with regard to US communications regulation – including some of the mechanics of the lobbying and scrutiny.  

A decade later, during a PITCOM visit to California, I reported discussions in Sacramento on the effect IT was having on the way Californian legislation is produced and scrutinised. California is about the size of England (population and geography) and almost as incompetant in its public sector use of IT, except in its legislature.

Watch this space.

IT has indeed met Politics.  Or is it the other way round?