Open voting advice application platform

Social participation has become increasingly fragmentary and voter participation is declining. The open voting advice application (VAA) platform aims to promote the development and diversification of VAAs. Ideally, it could encourage voters to participate more actively in society.

What is it about?

Social participation has become increasingly fragmentary, and people’s interest in voting continues to decline. We need to develop tools to encourage participation and engagement on issues that matter to people.

Voting advice applications, or VAAs, have become an important tool for Finnish voters. Studies show that they have a proven impact on voting choices. At the same time, research on voting advice applications has demonstrated that the implementation of many VAAs are prone to errors that may distort the candidate or party recommendations they provide. What we need now is more transparency in their design.

The advancement of Finnish voting advice applications is also hindered by the fact that they require a wide range of skills to develop. As a result, many smaller organisations lack the resources to develop their own VAAs.

The open and transparent VAA platform, developed with the support of Sitra, offers the opportunity to reinvent VAAs. We believe that the platform will inspire voting advice applications developers to create more diverse voting advice applications that offer different uses and perspectives.

At a later stage, the platform could be used to build new civic participation tools.

What do we do?

Our goal is to improve the agency and autonomy of people in the digital age. We want to provide diverse alternatives, not only to increase participation but also the diversity of democracy in general. ​

Sitra supports the development of voting advice applications by funding the development of an open VAA platform. The platform can be used to build the next generation of VAAs that will better connect different voters and candidates, and develop an understanding of the different societal perspectives of voting advice applications users.

The aim is to provide developers with an open-source platform that they can use to implement the basic functions of their VAAs. This means that releasing a basic voting advice applications will no longer require as many resources as before, allowing even smaller organisations to develop their own VAAs.

The platform’s open source nature will make the operation of VAAs more transparent and allow for developers to check for any errors in its design. For example, anyone can check the platform’s recommendation algorithm and test its operation on their own home computer.

Thanks to the platform’s open access approach, the publishers of voting advice applications will be able to use it to develop new features or tailor it for different use cases, such as an organisation’s internal elections. This development work will be supported by a methodological guide to be published during the project.

The open VAA platform promotes the development and diversification of VAAs and could ideally even encourage voters to participate more actively in society.

Who is involved?

The open VAA platform is being developed by the Finnish OpenVAA association together with its partner organisations. The platform will be tested in pilot studies.

A University of Helsinki research project on the use of voting advice applications and habits of young VAA users, funded by the Kone Foundation, will be conducted in parallel with the platform project. The project is being arranged in collaboration with the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi. The outcomes of the research project will also partly guide the development of the VAA platform funded by Sitra.

Contact us

Kirsi Hantula
Senior Lead, Digital power and democracy
Jukka Vahti
Project Director, Digital power and democracy

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