Do you feel as if our democracy hasn’t been working lately? Join the crowd. TechWatch editor Emily McDaid reports.
There’s a new app being built in Belfast to increase public engagement. Cleverly named Sussd, the app has backing from a major investor and has been refined over the past 18 months. Young entrepreneur Callum Curry is founder and CEO – and he’s passionate about politics.
“I want to revolutionise how our democracy works. People should have a say about what’s going on in politics,” said Curry. “The public should be able to interface directly with their leaders in government.”
He said: “We had a soft launch in December 2016 and then Stormont collapsed one month later. Back then, the app was focused on gathering political opinion on the voting at Stormont. But we talked to many local businesses, community groups and people, and found that, actually, the issues important to them weren’t being addressed by Stormont. That’s when we realised our mission could be expanded to include any type of organisation that needs to gauge opinions.”
Curry noted that Sussd has evolved from this early starting point, to providing any organisation with a method to canvass people’s opinions. The app will provide local people with a platform to make their voices heard in an effective way, while giving local organisations free market research, and local businesses a place for free advertising.
Businesses will be able to create polls through the Sussd app, which can be downloaded on iOS or Android. Users will be incentivised to answer polls through a reward system.
Curry leans on a typical philosophy: that building a community comes first.
How is Sussd different from common polling softwares?
We provide a better service than online survey sites in the following ways: time, cost and access. The likes of SurveyMonkey or YouGov are not social platforms, and therefore require you to provide personal information before answering questions, with little return in value for doing so.
We don’t charge a fee to specify your audience, to engage with people outside your customer base. Also, sending links to people via email to get their opinion doesn’t work. We’re used to instant access to information at the touch of a button. That’s why we built an app.
How much do you have to engage with the app, to unlock rewards?
10 polls a month. After that, you’ll enter a new area of the app, with vouchers and promotions from local businesses.
It seems to me that the corporate usages of Sussd may be more lucrative than the public policy engagement, but Curry’s vision remains the same.
You can’t ram the importance of political engagement down people’s throats – that doesn’t work. You must first engage people with issues they care about, and then show them the connection between those issues and our political system.
What’s your background?
I’ve always been interested in technology. I was in Newcastle working in music production and I developed a keen interest in what was happening politically back home. I started attending a lot of business workshops, and I came up with the idea for a civic engagement platform in 2014. Halfway through the following year, I quit my job to focus solely on it.
What’s up next for you?
We’re working closely with local people to create the best platform we can, before relaunching for iOS and Android in January 2018. We’ll test its functionality with more than 30 local organisations before launching onto the market.
NI is a great testbed for Sussd. We’ll seek a further round of investment in the early part of 2018. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my team small to reduce overheads and keep tight control on the future of this app.
By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch
A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch