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e-Democracy update - 19/7/06 - New Queensland petitions site, Lebanon-Israel conflict online, and US bans overseas info sharing

19 July, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

Queensland Petitions online

Queenslanders now have another way to have influence government. The Local Government Association of Queensland’s new e-Petition site allows voters to petition their local government online.

The site was developed for the LGAQ by The National Forum and contains a number of innovations.

Traditional petitions only allow electors to support a petition. The LGAQ system allows voters to also register their opposition. According to Executive Director of The National Forum Graham Young this is "the 21st century equivalent of the Town Hall meeting."

Mr Young said that the Forum planned to introduce the concept to other government areas and levels.

"Politicians and government need quick access to the best information available about issues that affect their voters," he said.

"Opinion polls are one way of doing that, but an online poll of the community is probably more effective because you capture what the grass-roots opinion leaders think, rather than the barely considered view of the householder caught between Home and Away, the kids, and a telephone pollster."

Visit the Queensland Petitions site here.

Lebanon-Israel conflict covered online

Bloggers are covering the war between Lebanon and Israel extensively while some are launching online petitions against the conflict.

Tel Aviv-based journalist and blogger Lisa Goldman describes the Lebanon-Israel conflict as the first to be blogged from day one.

"Bloggers from both sides of the border - some of whom were already aware of one another before this tragedy began - have been providing live updates, commenting on one another's blogs and sometimes linking to posts by bloggers on the other side of the border," she says.

"Will this turn out to be the first time that residents of 'enemy' countries [are] engaged in an ongoing conversation while missiles were falling?"

She includes comments from an Israeli soldier stationed at Lebanon’s border.

The soldier wrote on the Lebanese Bloggers Forum: "I don't want to start arguing about who's right and who's wrong, the finaly (sic) word is that it's not right that civilians get hurt in the process, from both sides."

"I'm sending you my best wishes from here, and hope that you and your family will be strong and be alright until this horrible situation will be over."

Read more of Lisa Goldman's comments here and here.

An e-petition has also started in defense of Lebanese civilians, which so far has collected nearly 46,000 signatures in the last five days.

See the petition here.

US Congress bans personal info sharing with authoritarian regimes

The United States has introduced legislation to stop US-based internet companies from revealing personal details to repressive governments.

New Jersey Republican Representitive Chris Smith drafted the Global Online Freedom Act to stop internet companies co-operating with regimes that restrict free speech and use personal information to track pro-democracy activists.

"China has forced US companies operating in China, specifically Yahoo!, to hand over personally identifiable user information used to convict and imprison democratic activists on trumped-up charges," He says.

"Authoritarian regimes including Belarus, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, North Korea, Tunisia and Vietnam as well as China all block, restrict and monitor the free flow of information on the internet.

"Websites that provide uncensored news and information, such as the websites of the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, are routinely blocked in such countries."

However, China's Information Office director Cai Wu says they intend to increase their controls on blogs and search engines.

"As more and more illegal and unhealthy information spreads through blogs and search engines, we will take effective measures to put BBS [bulletin board system], blogs and search engines under control," he says.

International e-Participation and Local Democracy Symposium

Senior government officials from various levels and leading experts will come together to discuss eParticipation in symposiums held in Budapest, Hungary and Baltimore, Maryland USA.

The event will include guest speakers who will discuss topics outside the conventional conference agenda to critically re-examine the impact of technology on citizen-centric government.

E-Democracy group 21c Consultancy Ltd will host the Budpest Symposium at the Hotel Intercontinental during 26-28 July and the Baltimore Symposium at the Inner Harbor Sheraton Hotel on 3 August.

Visit the symposium website here.

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