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e-Democracy update - 5/10/05

05 October, 2005
By Daniel Macpherson

Australian governments should use XML, says think-tank

An information and technology think-tank says all federal, state and local governments in Australia should adopt the XML file format for document storage.

Open Source Victoria spokesperson Donna Benjamin says adopting the XML format will greatly increase the likelihood that documents can be read and used in decades to come.

"It also guarantees there will be multiple sources for tools which read and write this format," Ms Benjamin says.

"OpenDocument is an agreed standard developed and supported by a global consortium. They have committed to a transparent specification that maximises accessibility now and into the future. As such, OpenDocument is the only open standard XML document format available."

Ms Benjamin says governments will avoid proprietary or legally encumbered formats when using the OpenDocument format.

"Whilst Microsoft's document formats remain popular, there is no guarantee they will be accessible into the future," she says.

"Users already experience serious compatibility issues when sharing documents between versions of Microsoft Office. This will get worse with time."

See the Open Source Victoria website for more details.

China shuts down protest forum

The Chinese government has shut down a popular protest forum for reporting on a recent village uprising.

The Chinese-language Yannan forum announced the closure of its website on September 30, 2005 and said it "will be undergoing a complete clean-up and rectification, and its relaunch will be notified at a later date".

Beijing-based rights activist Hou Wenzhuo says the closure of Yannan – popular among academics, journalists, and rights activists – is a major blow.

"It really was one of the last resources left to us… One of the last bastions of justice and social conscience for academics and rights activists alike," Hou said.

"A forum like that is really very rare in China. This really is a very big attack by the government on rights campaigners."

The site carried extensive coverage of an uprising in the village of Taishi in the southern province of Guangdong. Taishi residents tried to oust a village chief suspected of embezzling funds from a land sale.

The site had later removed all Taishi-related news reports and discussions from public view prior to its closure.

Last week, the Chinese Government revised legislation on Internet reporting and news content, including a ban on all non-government-controlled commentary pieces.

New Orleans undertakes e-voting for 2006 election

New Orleans' local government will launch an Internet-based program to allow displaced citizens to vote in February's mayoral election, according to a city official.

New Orleans Chief Information Officer Greg Meffert says the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction has created the opportunity for the city government to do "true government reorganization initiatives" through IT projects.

"So, out of this tragedy you're getting an opportunity to do a lot of common-sense things - and without that pushback, people saying, 'Hey, look, the old system works.' Well, no, it doesn't… It's gone," Meffert says.

Meffert says New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the city's registrar of voters have approved the Internet voting proposal for the up-coming election.

"The model that we're looking to the most is the airport check-in kiosks," he says.

US Democrat voters more likely to use broadband

A new study shows a higher broadband penetration rate for US states that voted for presidential candidate John Kerry in the last US election.

The Center for Media Research's (CMR) study showed overall penetration in states that voted for Kerry was 33 per cent compared to a 25.1 per cent rate for states that voted for President George W. Bush.

Eight states had a penetration rate over 35 per cent and all voted for Kerry. 11 states had a penetration rate less than 20 per cent and all voted for Bush.

The overall penetration rate for broadband access in the US was 28.6 per cent.

Upcoming e-Democracy conference in London

London will host the UK's largest e-Democracy conference in November 2005.

eDemocracy '05 will be held on November 9, 2005 and will have around 200 delegates in attendance, including politicians, private companies, and organizations.

Topics covered include:

Headstar, VoxPolitics and the Hansard Society will host the conference. For more information, visit the eDemocracy ’05 website.

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