Promise Tracker App: Keeping elected officials honest

I caught this article and couldn’t help but smile.  After all, one of the biggest complaints about elected officials is that we don’t keep our promises.  We promise you the world to get elected, and then fail to deliver.  How many times have you been disappointed in an elected official for just that reason?

The Promise Tracker app has some real potential in keeping elected officials honest.  The app, which has appeared in Brazil only, allows people to keep track of the promises that their elected officials make and then survey others to see if those promises are being met.  Here’s how it works:

  • An elected official makes a promise, say to help put more unemployed teenagers back to work.
  • Users of the app then go to the website and create a survey on the issue; for example, “Are the teenagers in your house employed if they want to be?”
  • Others would then answer the questions from the app; answers could include pictures and GPS data.

This quote from the article got me the most:

The idea behind Promise Tracker is that your civic duty hasn’t been fulfilled once you’ve hit the ballot box — it’s just begun.

The app itself came from Ethan Zuckerman, who is the director of the MIT Civic Engagement Center.  As a blog entry from the project notes, the creators of the app have actually been working with partners within the government of Brazil; honestly, I’m very impressed by the fact that Brazil is willing to use official resources on a project like this. The blog entry also notes that they held workshops within the country to help with the app roll-out, meaning that they used real-world engagement to help encourage the digital variety.

I really hope that this app eventually comes to the U.S. This is a fantastic way to engage people and get them involved in tracking their own elected officials. The greatest danger about it, as far as I am concerned, is that the only people who would use an app like this are already those who are very engaged, most likely to vote, and most likely to be aware of whether or not an elected official is keeping their promises.  In that sense, I hope the makers of the app have a plan to engage ordinary citizens, rather than just the well-informed political elite.  It’s extremely hard to breakthrough the noise of everyday life and get ordinary people to pay attention to politics and their government, but I’m all about anything that can create more civic engagement, and I think this app can do just that.

What do you think?  Good idea or overthinking?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to the the Email newsletter!  It’s all information (no spam!) and is sent out just once a week.


  1. I think if was built into other consumer review sites
    Like Yelp or Angie’s List it has a better chance to


  2. ha! Now that’s an interesting comment! A review of a politician like Yelp or Google Reviews. What might be interesting, more than their believes, is if you reviewed their constituent service. That could really be something.


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