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e-Democracy update - 20/9/06 - UK and Germany's e-participation report, Europe's Million Person Petition, and US Government uses YouTube

20 September, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

New report on best practice models for e-Participation in UK and Germany

The British Council in Germany and German political communication group Politik-Digital have released a new report outlining the current status of e-democracy projects in the UK and Germany.

The report examines the participatory nature of e-democracy models in both countries.

Politik-Digital managing director Christoph Dowe says it is noticeable that British e-participation is more integrated into everyday political life than German e-participation.

'The Scottish and British parliaments provide extensive good practice on getting citizens and politicians talking to each other better," he says.

"British public service broadcasting has now come to see itself as also being an 'enabler', not only delivering information but also creating the infrastructure for citizens to become politically active themselves."

Download the English-language version of the report here.

Million people petition against monthly EU meetings

Over one million people have signed an online petition against the European Union's (EU) monthly meetings in Strasbourg, France.

Swedish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Cecilia Malmstrom launched the petition as part of her "Oneseat" internet campaign in June, 2006.

Ms Malmstrom says she and other MEPs feel the monthly meetings have disgraced the European Parliament for a long time.

"It gives hard working politicians a ridiculous image and it brings huge expenses to the taxpayers," she says.

The parliament, which is based in Brussels, Belgium, pays 200 million euros (AUS$337million) annually for the 700 MEPs to attend the monthly meetings.

A unanimous vote from the 25 EU member states is required to stop the meetings.

European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom has praised the petition.

"It is very important to show that we are welcoming an initiative involving so many citizens as this does and that we are happy to receive it," she says.

View and sign the petition here.

US government tackles teen drug use with YouTube

The US Government has uploaded a series of award-winning anti-drug advertisements for their first time using video sharing website YouTube.

Over the last week, the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) uploaded nine advertisements plus a three-part video report on the declining rates of teen drug use.

ONDCP spokesperson Rafael Lemaitre says this effort enables the office to reach more Americans online.

"The use of this video sharing technology will allow ONDCP to expand its ability to share accurate drug information and help more Americans understand how their government is working with communities to reduce drug use," Mr Lemaitre says.

Mr Lemaitre says ONDCP has implemented use of various "new media" technologies to promote successful anti-drug programs.

In February 2005, ONDCP launched the first official blog for a Cabinet-level agency.

ONDCP also posts podcasts of speeches, commentary from public health officials, and audio of anti-drug events.

View ONDCP's YouTube profile here.

US e-voting under fire

A US professor is warning people about vulnerabilities in e-voting after easily installing a virus on a touch-screen voting machine.

Princeton Computer Science and Public Affairs Professor Edward Felten conducted tests on a Diebold voting system with two graduate students.

The trio found it possible for malicious software to modify voting records and remain undetected.

His students say they could replace the machine's memory card with an infected one in less than a minute after picking the lock on the door covering the machine's memory.

Diebold director of marketing Mark Radke says Professor Felten’s test machine is more than two generations old and newer systems now require digitally signed memory cards.

However, Prof Felton says any determined, intelligent hacker can figure out ways to violate such equipment.

"Once you pull the curtain in the voting booth, anything's possible," he says.

Reports indicate 66.6 million voters are expected to use the e-voting equipment in the up-coming Senate and Congressional elections this year.

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