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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 11:38 GMT
Why the BBC has invested in iCan
By Sian Kevill
Head of BBC New Politics Initiative

ICan is an exciting, innovative website which will help people engage with politics not from the top down but from the bottom up, using their own experiences to help others.

iCan website
The site will help connect people with local action groups
It is a very new departure for the way the BBC covers politics.

The idea for the new site came from a series of staff brainstorms which sought to answer the difficult questions posed by the BBC's research into people's attitudes to mainstream politics.

This showed that many people are very disillusioned and cynical about politicians and local civic institutions.

Yet people are interested in issues, especially those directly affecting them or their local area.

Unique approach

They often do not do anything about things that concern them because they do not know where to start.

Many just do not feel they can accomplish anything on their own.

Ican is designed to use the power of the internet to overcome these obstacles, by delivering in-depth information about a myriad of civic issues.

If you pop in a post code, you can access all your local civic information, from who your MP and local councillors are, to help on how to contact them.

iCan is exactly what a publicly funded, publicly accountable corporation should be spending our money on
Tom Watson, MP
The site also has unique interactive tools, such as local notice boards, which allow people to get in touch with other like-minded locals who share the same concerns.

And people can have their own public space in the form of a webpage, to publicise their causes.

Through these features, iCan aims to make politics accessible to ordinary people confronting a problem.

That also means helping people to actually find the new website at those moments in their life.

Therefore, the BBC is piloting ways to tell people about the site through local radio and TV in five pilot areas - Leicester, Bristol, Cambridge, Sheffield and South East Wales.

Open portal

By bringing a broad audience to the site, iCan hopes to connect people to non-BBC resources on the web too.

The site is designed to be a portal to other websites with good information, with some 1,500 links already.

But if a user finds good advice on another site which is not featured on iCan, this can added to the list of organisations on the site.

One MP, Tom Watson, has already said that iCan "is exactly what a publicly funded, publicly accountable corporation should be spending our money on".

We hope that lots of people who use iCan to help address a problem or change things in their world will agree.

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