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e-Democracy update - 30/8/06 - Australia gets mixed e-gov reviews, Japan's citizen journalism, and Syrian blogger arrested

30 August, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

Australia falls on annual e-gov listing despite improvements

A global study on e-governance has dropped Australia four places in their annual list but rated services slightly better than last year.

Brown University's Center for Public Policy Global e-Government report for 2006 dropped Australia from 8th to 12th on their global e-government listings.

However, the quality of e-governance improved, scoring a rating of 39.9 per cent this year, up from 35.1 per cent last.

South Korea earned the top spot, making a significant jump from 86th place to 1st and scoring 60.3 per cent, up from 26.2 percent the last year.

Taiwan (49.8 per cent), Singapore (47.5 per cent), United States (47.4 per cent) and Canada (43.5) follow.

Brown University Professor Darrell M. West conducted the 6th annual survey of online government websites from 198 countries around the globe.

His research team evaluated the websites using two dozen criteria such as disability access, the existence of publications and databases, the presence of privacy policies, security policies, contact information, and the number of online services.

Read the report here.

Online "citizen journalism" spreads to Japan

A South Korean "citizen journalism" news site has launched a sister site in Japan.

User-generated news website OhmyNews received US$10 million (AUS$13.1 million) of funding for the affiliate site from Japanese media corporation Softbank last February.

The new site is based in Tokyo and employs 20 full-time journalists and over a thousand "citizen reporters".

Citizen reporters will receive ¥300 (AUS$3.35) to ¥2,000 (AUS$22.50) per article if their work is used.

OymyNews founder and chief executive Oh Yeon Ho started the site in 2000 and now employs 40,000 amateur journalists.

OhmyNews Japan chief editor Shuntaro Torigoe says he wants the project to change the culture of anonymity in Japanese society.

"If you say your real thoughts showing your face and your name, then it can be taken as hostility, so people tend to say their real thoughts anonymously, and honest debate is hard to establish," said Mr Torigoe.

Visit the new OhmyNews Japan site here.

Visit the main OhmyNews site here.

Blogger arrested in Syria

Amnesty is reporting a crackdown of online free speech in Syria after the arrest of a blogger by the country's security forces.

English teacher Ali Sayed al-Shihabi was summoned to a meeting with security agents in Damascus on 10 August and has not been seen since.

Reports indicate his detainment might be linked to articles he has written on a political website.

Amnesty International is urging members to write to Syrian authorities so that Shihabi, 50, isn’t maltreated.

"We know Syrian military intelligence has held internet dissidents in secret locations in the past and we know they are then at risk of torture," Amnesty UK campaigns director Tim Hancock says.

Amnesy has a petition against the censorship of online free speech and you can sign it here.

Online campaigning increases in US

A new study has found political consultants will increase their percentage of planned funding for online advertisements in the lead up to the 2008 presidential election.

The study surveyed 155 political consultants and found that 32 percent intend to spend more than 20 per cent of their campaign budgets online in 2008.

By comparison, only 12 per cent of consultants are spending more than 20 per cent of their advertisement dollars online this year.

The study also shows many consultants feel television spending is still the best way to reach voters.

When asked to choose the three best ways for candidates to win campaigns, 80 per cent of consultants chose TV and cable. Websites (32 per cent) followed along with radio (32 per cent), newspapers (12 per cent) and online ads (8 per cent).

The study also showed 60 per cent of consultants saying e-mail newsletters were among the most effective ways to reach members of a candidate's constituency.

The study was sponsored by online advertising group PointRoll.

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