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e-Democracy update - 26/7/06 - e-Voting in federal elections, Political social networking, and Westminster not ready for new media

26 July, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

Proposed e-Voting test for next federal election

A proposed trial of e-voting systems for the visually impaired could lead to the same systems being used in the next federal election.

A report from the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters recommends a trial of electronic voting systems for use by the visually impaired.

This proposal follows recent reports that Victoria will use electronic voting systems for the visually impaired in their November state election.

Vision Australia public policy manager Michael Simpson says the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has discussed with disability groups representatives the possibility of testing electronic voting systems for the next federal election.

Mr Simpsons says the system would not be used to tally votes but instead print ballots and return them to the ballot box.

"They are gathering the votes electronically, but they are not counting them electronically," he said.

Essembly: Political Social Networking

A new social networking site, similar to MySpace and Facebook, will focus on political and social discussions.

Essembly.com allows people to register for free, interact with others and allow user-created polls on particular issues.

Users can create their own "resolves" (opinion polls) for other people to register their votes.

The Israel-Lebanon conflict has gained a lot of interest with three of the top five topics relating to the conflict. The current top five topics are "Israel" (31 resolves), "Arab-Israeli conflict" (31 resolves), Essembly (22 resolves), "George W. Bush" (21 resolves) and "Lebanon" (19 resolves).

Essembly creator Joe Green says there is a limit to what other social networking sites can do.

"There's a limited spectrum of what a community can do," he says.

"MySpace and Facebook are about movies, music, that sort of stuff - not politics. I don't think MySpace can be all things to all people."

He also says Essembly attracts various political beliefs, unlike most blogs.

"If you ask members on the left, they'll probably say the site leans right-wing… and if you ask members on the right, they'll probably say the opposite."

Visit Essembly here.

Westminster ready for participatory media? No!

A recent e-democracy conference has shown Britain's political community is not ready for the age of participatory media, according to experts attending the conference.

The Hansard Society held their Parliament 2.0 conference last week, which attracted more than 70 experts, including members of parliament, peers, academics, journalists, parliamentary staff and civil servants.

The attending experts addressed the question "Is Westminster ready for the age of participatory media?" and resulted with a unanimous "no" from all votes.

Several guests spoke about the difficulties in implementing e-democracy initiatives and the need for politicians to further embrace such technological advances.

BBC head of interactive news Pete Clifton said there was difficulty in getting the tone and level of information right for a wide audience with varying levels of knowledge.

Mysociety.org founder Tom Steinberg said MPs and Parliament had a long way to go to get "in any way up to speed" with new technology.

Visit the Hansard Society.

Bahrain e-voting campaign started

The middle-eastern island nation of Bahrain has started a major education program about e-voting systems for the forthcoming municipal and parliamentary elections.

A recent workshop at the InterContinental Hotel hosted more than 50 representatives of various political societies and non-governmental organisations to learn about e-voting.

The workshop follows the Bahrain e-voting Forum, which was organised by the Bahrain Information Technology Society (BITS) earlier this year.

Central Informatics Organisation (CIO) IT director general Mohammed Al Qaed, who addressed the workshop, says Bahrain is already sharing its e-voting expertise with other countries in the region and internationally.

"This position reflects the overall political, social and economic direction of our country, namely one of openness, transparency, and private-public sectors partnership," he added.

New resource available: Human Rights Tools

We have a new resource linked at Australian e-Democracy. The Human Rights Tools website is full of resources for human rights groups and professionals.

The site also features an RSS newsfeed and e-mail subscription newsletter so you can keep up to date.

See the Human Rights Tools entry in our Resources section.

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