Announcing Call on Congress: Bringing Capitol Hill to Any Phone

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A non-smart cellular telephone with keypad that can be used with the Call on Congress service.Call on Congress is the Sunlight Foundation’s new free service to help anyone with a telephone connect with and learn about their lawmakers. Simply dial 1-888-907-6886 to find out how your representatives are voting on bills and raising campaign money. Being connected with your lawmakers’ Capitol Hill offices and getting details on legislation is now as easy as ordering a pizza or calling family.

The service allows callers to navigate a simple phone tree to search members of Congress by ZIP code or legislation by bill number, with overlaps listing all possible results. For lawmakers, Call on Congress offers a short biography, top campaign donors, recent votes and the ability to transfer your call directly to their office. Bills in both chambers are available with summaries and news about any recent or upcoming actions. Call on Congress encourages callers to exercise their rights by providing contact information for their local election office.

While many people get their information online, there are still many who are on the other side of the digital divide without easy access to the internet. We hope this tool will help to lower the barrier for civic engagement and make vital government information more accessible. To broaden accessibility further, the service is available in English and Spanish (and Esperanto!).

Call on Congress began as a Sunlight Olympics project, where teams of Sunlighters collaborated over two days to come up with new creations from Sunlight’s existing tools and goals. At the core of the tool is Twilio, a simple cloud communications API that allowed us to venture seamlessly into the brave old world of voice apps. After the initial fun and frantic Olympics presentation, Call on Congress went on to get a more polished script, more options for information and human voices! To learn more about the cool tech behind Call on Congress please check out my colleague Jeremy’s blog post.

“Call on Congress opens up our democracy, whether you have a computer and broadband or not. It’s an easy-to-use tool that helps bridge the digital divide and puts crucial information in everyone’s hand,” said Jeff Perlstein, director of strategic engagement at ZeroDivide, a nonprofit dedicated to improving access in underserved communities. Other groups endorsing the Call on Congress project include the National Civic League, People for the American Way and LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

If you are a non-profit, community or advocacy group interested in learning more about Call on Congress, please contact Amy Ngai.

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