EDem09 – Day 1

Reports from the EDem09 Conference, Day 1. Read the reports from day 2 here. You find excellent coverage of EDem09 at “Snurblog”.

Welcome address from the Austrian Computer Society: E-Governance – the challenges ahead.

Roland Traunmüller, OCG, University Linz

Reminds us of the history of E-Government, it’s 10 years ago that the term “E-Government” (in Europpe) and “digital Government” (in the USA) were “invented” as such. Now the “e” is increasingly being replaced with “m” for “mobile” or “k” for “knowledge” and public governance has a broader scope. Today it includes a number of themes, including E-Voting and E-Participation, evaluation, E-Democracy. Although E-Democracy is a special topic – it is about engaging citizens, it is about communication, community and individual empowerment, inclusion and feedback.
Now Web 2.0 promises to give E-Government, public governance a new impulse, to improve it. Here the user is central (as reflected in the Time 2006 person of the year: “You”), and can assume a number of roles, produce information, collaborate with other citizens and institutions. And ICT changes society, but at the same time, society changes ICT: the young generation pushes and demands for changes to happen.

eVoting at the Social Elections in the Federal Republic of Germany

Hans-Eberhard Urbaniak, Federal Commissioner for the Social Insurance Elections, Germany

The German social security agencies (pensions, medical insurance institutions) have “social elections”, as the citizens must administrate themselves and assume the responsibility for the work of the public social institutions.These elections are a reflection of democracy. Usually, the social elections are based on a postal vote – but increasingly people want to vote directly. Many citizens naturally also want to vote online, but the elections have to ensure the anonymity of the vote. Germany has decided to go this electronic way, so this is the main technical issue that needs to be solved at the moment. The technology is available and it has to be used – it already plays a central role in daily life, it cannot be ignored. Especially the young generation will expect e-voting and will not accept an alternative way of voting.

German Summary: Sozialversicherte müssen sich selbst verwalten, und können auch Vertreter in die Gremien Wählen. Briefwahl soll die Ausnahme sein, aber immer mehr Menschen verwenden diese Form der Stimmabgabe. eVoting ist ein neuer Kanal zur Stimmabgabe. Bundesregierung Deutschland hat des Projekt WIEN – Wählen in elektrischen Netzen – injiziert, das prüfen soll, inwiefern elektronische Wahlen gesetzlich und praktisch umgesetzt werden. Vor allem der nicht-parlamentarisch Bereich soll hier Vorreiter sein. Deshalb ist eVoting für die Sozialwahlen ein wichtiges Thema. Die konzipierten Wahlmaschinen wurden von Richtern abgelehnt, weshalb hier Nachbesserungsbedarf besteht. Die deutsche Bundesregierung hat sich bereit erklärt, die Implementierung von Wahlmaschinen für freie und öffentliche Wahlen zu fördern, damit die online-Wahl bald in den demokratischen Prozess Aufnahme findet. Insbesondere die jüngere Generation soll erkennen, dass auch im Internet Demokratie stattfindet. Die BRD gibt jedem Versicherten eine elektronische Krankenkarte aus, die die Basis für die Registrierung beim Wahlprozess sein wird. Der Wahlprozess soll geheim sein, gleichzeitig soll der Bürger auch Feedback über seine Wahl bekommen. Die Datenübertragungen müssen sicher sein, damit das Wahlergebnis nicht verfälscht werden kann. Nur Rechtssicherheit ermöglicht eVoting in unseren Demokratien. Außerdem muss das Wahlsystem mögliche Manipulationsversuche oder unordnungsgemäße Nutzung problemlos Verwalten können, damit die Wahl nicht angefochten werden kann. Eine durchgeführte Wahl soll nicht als nicht-verfassungsgemäß annulliert werden.

The Demise of Electronic Government

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapur

Has the end of E-Government come?
What was the promise held? It was more efficiency, economic growth, better service, increased trust in government, deepening citizen participation in public matters.The reality…is less promising
First of all, the economic gain is unclear – we are faced with a “measuring challenge”, as we measure what is available, and that doesn’t seem to be much. Furthermore, the methodology is flawed as such: an institution can gain an initial 25% points just by having an email address. And customer value is elusive – although the public institutions followed the consultants’ advice “build and they will come” it turned out that “they” didn’t come. Public administrations are producing “white tails” (a term from the aircraft-manufacturing industry, these aircraft built without customers) – i.e. online services which are not being used. Actually, only a tiny fraction of the services online are actually used. Technology platforms are also unable to ignite citizens or public administrations, as the US’ FirstGov shows. The aim was to encourage institutional, bottom up collaboration. But it didn’t work that way –and it became a ”monumental failure” that private enterprise was asked to solve. Although the private-public project was a success, the institutions abandoned the partnership, and each developed their own platform.
So there is no economic gain,  and the (re)brith of strong democracy has failed. A solution? I-Government (“i” for  information): we need to move away from IT, infrastructure  and move towards information, look at who is empowered or disempowered by the information flow. Refocus away from technology, towards organisational behaviour so as to reconceptualise the citizen, and involve the media as information internediaries.

The Use of Information Technology in Support of General Elections with Conventional Ballots

Alexander Leiningen-Westerburg, Siemens IT Solutions and Services

Even though Siemens was not involved in the ÖH-eVoting in Austria, they are interested in keeping this technical solution alive and develop it furhter. The most often used argument to use eVoting is to increase participation, but that argument has not been proved yet. Another argument is, that expatriots shall be able to vote easily. The next EU-elections will also be won by internet campaigning. Technology is only a part of eVoting processes. Security is a major issue, because it the systems fail once, they might not be used again in near future. The internet can only be a channel for voting, but it must not change the voting system itself. Will the public trust the government, when it leaves traces on the citizens desktop-computer? The discussion about the control of personal computers by the government reduced trust in governmental internet applications. If only one eVoting system in a country that doesn’t allow fully democratic elections, trust into the system will be lost and the market for eVoting will be lost to businesses. Companies must act as transparent as possible.
And: Make eVoting trendy!

eParticipation as a pre-requisite for mature eGovernment

Matt Poelmans, Burgerlink

Citizens often do not know what eGovernment is. The Netherlands started the project Citizenlink and wanted to build citizen-centric platforms, seeking to actively involve citizens. Citizen-centricity focuses on three aspects: Service Quality, Make Citizens Satisfied, Involve the Citizens. Each agency tries to make their clients (citizens) happy, but every agency has different approaches. Governmental agencies should focus on the needs of citizens.
Dutch governmental agencies now have to increase standards, so that citizens can use the websites and eServices more easily. eGovernment is just one more channel; still, other channels (phone, letter) need to be provided by agencies. The new technologies are a good means to inform citizens. They can be used to make processes more transparent.
Government has to be efficient and effective, not cheap. eGovernment shall make government better and more efficient. In almost all relations between citizens and government, there are specific life-events that are similar to all citizens. (Life-events: being born, going to school, getting married, dying …) The main focus is on improving the services for individual life events.
A successful eParticipation project dealt with noise caused by Amsterdam International Airport. Municipalities measured noise caused by planes and discussed solutions to reduce the noise. Now this system is used to measure real-time noise in municipalities. If citizens are annoyed by noise, the have now data that supports their claims. Before, citizens had no prove that they were annoyed. Due to such projects, citizens started to discuss, what eGovernment can do for them and what else it can be used for.

The ruling of the German Constitutional Court on eVoting and its technical consequences

Alexander Prosser, WU

Transparency issues of eVoting: Is it a real issue? Several regional elections had to be cancelled and repeated with ballot boxes as some problems occurred on several levels. Austrian students-union-elections: An independent recount of votes was not possible. … How can eVoting processes become more transparent?
Change of perspectives on eVoting: In the past 10-15 years, people wanted to make the software of eVoting more transparent, but now the election process must be transparent. There are several procedures how eVoting can be realised. From a technical perspective, eVoting can actually be forged (cf. slides). However, there are concepts that solve present problems. The technical part can be solved as well as the transparency aspects.

eDemocracy Design: Citizen Consultation on Contentious Issues

Mary Griffiths, University of Adelaide

Does participation mean democratisation? Not necessarily
Connective power creates different kinds of relationships and rules in the online communities. But there is a difference between quick digital intimacy and online trust. We are still learning how to deal with digital culture, how to operate in online system. This can be seen in “We, the Media” (Dan Gillmour, 2004)  – what citizens write online although not trained as journalists and the online roles they decide to assume (Maguire 329) e.g. media watchdog, newsmaker, story breakers. Blogs do make an impact (see Adriana Huffington’s blog), but what is it that makes some more attractive than others, what values do they provide? We also have to think what knowledge and online format enable a civil debate between citizens?
See: Hindman (Myth of Digital Democracy): online winners already take it all – online concentration which works against diversity and new start-ups

Citizen Consultation from Above and Below: The Australian Perspective

Axel Bruns, Queensland Univ. of Technology, Jason Wilson, University of Wollongong

Axel Burns presents us with the Australian perspective on citizen consultation. At the moment there are 3 major models of consultation: government initiatives (e.g. Digital Economy Blog which was launched in December 2008 and was available for 2 weeks only);NGO initiatives (e.g. Project Democracy based on the UK theyworkforyou.com and tracks the work of the senate); and individual social media initiatives which provide a middle ground between top-down and bottom-up.
This third way is being used by politicians, albeit in different ways or different “styles”. Some politicians may use social networks as channels for their political messages, although this content is curated by staff and represents limited citizen involvement. On the other hand, “social politicians” use social media everday, not just for their political messages, and thus directly engage with users.
What can we learn for future for citizen consultation?
Topdown approaches need careful management, and the governments have only limited experience engaging with online communities. Whilst highly innovative, the bottom-up approaches need the collaboration with media or government (which they don’t always get). The social media initiatives may be the best to reach deep and real engagement, although hey often have problems of scale. Probably, it would be best to weave the three approaches together.

From Representative to Digital Democracy: Using the Internet to Increase Citizen Participation in Government

Michael Milakovich, University of Miami

How much democracy, how much participation is necessary  before it turns into something you can’t control or something you don’t want?  We have 120 million blogs, 30 billion websites; young people have multiple, competing channels of communication; citizens seek more information from private and public organisation. At the same time, the information age comes with demands for accountability and transparency.
Democracy and citizen participation – imply a more activist (informed?) citizenry that can and wants be involved in the processes of governmental decision making. Obama used polisphere – a space devoted to political activities such as blogging and discussion to enhance political participation.
The US election 2008 brought 10 million new voters which were younger and more tech-oriented – they had responded to an individualised and personalised e-campaign. It showed a citizen who could assume an active role and be a co-producer of services – and how essential it is to provide improved customer service and empower the local communities to act in their own interest.
What are the purposes of participation? To:

  • provide information to citizens
  • receive information from /about citizens
  • improve public decision-processes,
  • enhance public acceptance of governmental activities
  • alter patterns of political power and allocations of public resources
  • protect individual privacy, minority group rights and interests
  • deal or avoid difficult public policy decisions

Obama’s victory was not a landslide – but why did Obama win? Was it due more to a Bush-o-phobia than an Obama-mania?Obama applied the new ICTs to garner political contributions and generate new voters. He used the ICTs to empower the citizens. Can this participation model be used to improve public administration?

A configurable architecture for e-participatory budgeting support

César Alfaro, Javier Gómez, Jose M. Lavín, Juan J. Molero Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid

Participatory budgeting constitute allows citizens to decide how part of the public budget is spent. It is based on dialogue and citizen participation. The benefits are greater legitimation, transparency, useful local knowledge and a real public decision. On the other hand it often employs little methodology, is usually based on physical meetings and there is often little real participation as those attending have little IT or communication skills.

E-democracy 2.0: involving citizen anyway and anywhere in Emilia-Romagna ( Italy)

Sabrina Franceschini, Regione Emilia-Romagna, Roberto Zarro, Università di Bergamo

The project Partecipa.net aimed to create an integrated participation process to ensure participation within and outside public administration. At the same time it was to be a usable tool and a way to test and disseminate an e-participation methodology. Results show that it is difficult to involve citizens and decision-makers and that you need a lot of communication is actually necessary? E-Democracy 2.0 is more than just a technological matter, it is also an organisational and cultural one too.


Social networking tools and widgets to promote or expand eParticipation initiatives

Organised by:Ella Tailor-Smith, Edinburgh Napier University, Ralf Lindner, Fraunhofer ISI

Please note that the slides, summaries and chat transcript from the Use of Social Networking Tools workshop are all available here:


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