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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Former Sen. Sam Blakeslee Launch ‘Digital Democracy’

New platform gives journalists, organizations and citizens a new way to watch and research government issues.

In what could be a glimpse into the future of transparency technology, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Sen. Sam Blakeslee on May 6 launched “Digital Democracy,” an interactive platform that enables users to conduct detailed searches of legislative video footage.

Developed by students at the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy (IATPP) at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), the system uses voice and facial recognition algorithms as it mines video of government hearings. A person types in a search term, and Digital Democracy executes a “Google-like” search to identify “utterances” of that term, and those who said it.

“The California State Legislature does not produce transcripts or minutes from these hearings. There is no list of who was in the room, influencing decisions that were made,” Blakeslee said in a statement. “With this powerful new platform, Californians will be able to see exactly what people are saying as state laws are being written.”

Digital Democracy was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation. Users of the system can also clip and share video clips of their searches on social media to discuss issues and further public discussion.

Access the platform at

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines from 2011 to mid-2015.