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Political platforms just a swipe away

Want to brush-up on the various election platforms before voting on Oct. 19? Queen’s students have developed Politips, an app that allows users to discover key points from the party platforms without sifting through reams of documents and news coverage.

[Politips founders]
Pamela Simpson, Artsci'17, (right) and Kaily Schell, Artsci'15, are the founders of Politips, an app that delivers information about the election platforms of the federal political parties.

“Our team is passionate about getting more Canadians, especially young people, engaged in the political process,” says Pamela Simpson, Artsci’17, chief executive officer of Politips. “Recognizing that inaccessible information is a major barrier to electoral participation, we decided to create an app to deliver accurate information in an easily understandable and non-partisan manner.”

Ms. Simpson, who is studying politics, was in class last March when the discussion turned to voter apathy among young people. As she scanned the classroom, she saw her classmates on their cellphones. That’s when she had the idea of creating an app that would appeal to voters her age.

“We see our app as laying the foundation for discussion. We did a lot of beta testing and found that users want to scroll and get a general idea of the most contested points,” she says.

[Screenshot of Politips app]
A screenshot from the Poltips app.

Ms. Simpson teamed up with Kaily Schell, Artsci’15, who is the chief marketing officer of the company.  Iain McKenzie, Sc’17, is the chief technology officer, while Justin Taub, Artsci’17, is providing research support. Peter Li, a student at OCAD University, is working on the graphic design of the app, and Zach Buck, an alumnus of the University of Toronto, is editing the material.

The Politips team scrambled to launch its app after the election writ was issued surprisingly early on Aug. 4. With Ms. Simpson still in Japan on an internship, the team collaborated over Skype. They managed to release the app in late August, and they have been adding platform points as parties unveil them. Jonathan Rose, an associate professor in the Department of Political Studies, has agreed to serve as an advisor on the project.

Politips also received support from the QyourVenture program offered by Queen’s Innovation Connector. Members of Politips had the opportunity to attend the same lectures and workshops offered to students participating in the QIC Summer Initiative program.  

The company also worked out of Launch Lab, Kingston’s regional innovation centre, inside Innovation Park at Queen’s University. QIC and Launch Lab have formed a partnership to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship demonstrated by students like those involved in Politips.

Ms. Simpson says the team has learned a lot over the last few months. The company hopes to expand the app to incorporate future provincial and municipal elections.

Politips is now available for download through the App Store on Apple mobile devices.