Digital Democracy platform plans to expand to New York

A platform that allows users to scour data pulled from California Legislature hearings may soon be available to political junkies in New York state.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —  A platform that allows users to scour data pulled from California Legislature hearings may soon be available to political junkies in New York state.

Developers behind Digital Democracy — which uses voice and facial recognition, data mining and natural language processing to unlock a trove of data from legislative hearing videos — said they plan to launch a similar platform for New York’s Legislature by the end of next year. Sam Blakeslee, project director of Digital Democracy and a former California state senator, said it’s part of a larger plan to spread the group’s service nationwide.

Created by an advocacy organization at California Polytechnic State University’s Institute for Advance Technology and Public Policy, the platform allows users to search for information by keyword, topic, speaker or date. The portal also provides transcripts of all legislative hearing videos.

Hearings can be long and dull, Blakeslee said. The few people who attend them may have to wait a while before the bit they’re interested in comes up.


“We wanted to create a portal, a tool, to tackle this problem head on,” Blakeslee said.

As the portal expands to other states, Blakeslee said there’s a learning curve. Each state has its own way of organizing hearings and video content, and developers must figure out what it is, he said.

Looking ahead for the California portal, Digital Democracy developers are working on a push notification system that allows users to sign up for alerts when the platform publishes new content on certain bills, lobbyists and other government officials.

“One of the features that we are currently developing is the capability to have the tool actually talk to you, so you don’t have to continually go to the tool and look, it can be looking on your behalf,” Blakeslee said.

Developers also are working on an automated updating system so that they no longer need to upload new content manually.

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