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e-Democracy update - 12/10/05

12 October, 2005
By Daniel Macpherson

New Zealand study highlights importance of e-democracy for communities

A recent study from New Zealand shows the Internet is quickly becoming an important tool for the community and voluntary sector.

IT and business consultant Andy Williamson has written the study as part of his PhD research into community-led electronic democracy.

His research shows individuals with Internet access use it innovatively to communicate, research, resource, engage and promote community outcomes.

Despite praise for the potential of e-democracy, Mr Williamson says e-democracy project managers must avoid elitism when facilitating their projects and need to keep close links with communities that such projects serve.

Visit Mr Williamson's website here.

Estonia set for web voting

Voters in the Baltic state of Estonia are on the verge of a world-first: Internet e-voting.

Estonians can now choose from their candidates in the October 16 municipal elections with just a click of a mouse-button. This marks the first time the Internet has been used for voting in an election

However, the process comes amidst reservations from Estonian President Arnold Ruutel, who says e-voting is incompatible with the principle of equality because e-voters, unlike traditional voters, could change their minds.

Ruutel refused to sign a law allowing the new use of e-voting in the upcoming election but a constitutional review court rejected his arguments and allowed the law to pass.

The judges in the review said the new technology was likely to bolster democracy by increasing participation in elections.

Specialists issue e-voting warning

Several technology and politics specialists in the US have voiced concerns over potential e-voting fraud in future elections.

Winters Express editor Debra LoGuercio says the US media needs to focus more attention on the problems of e-voting initiatives.

Her concerns come after reports of vulnerabilities from hackers in the Diebold voting system from the last US election.

"Will the federal government deal with this issue if our elected officials may have benefited from manipulating electronic votes? Fat chance the fox will cooperate after it's already in the henhouse," she says.

"It may be too late to do anything about what's behind us. We must focus on what's ahead - the next election."

She says officials in future elections must provide voting machines that produce paper ballots for citizens. Other industry specialists echo her suggestions.

University of Wisconsin professor Jo Ann Oravec says a paper trail may help in lending credibility to elections.

"Citizens need straightforward information about the potentials for e-voting fraud, as well as specific ways in which to be proactive about these issues," she says.

BBC predicts rise in civic journalism

News organisations are evolving into facilitators for citizen-generated journalism, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

At a recent broadcasting conference, BBC World Service director Richard Sambrook said there was an increasing use of user-generated news, such as the video, photo and e-mailed news material from the London bombings on July 7.

"We don't own the news any more… This is a fundamental realignment of the relationship between large media companies and the public," Mr Sambrook said.

Sambrook's spoke alongside other media industry heads as part of a conference on "citizen journalism" organised by US-based think tank The Media Center.

BBC Action Network wins top e-Democracy site

The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Action Network website has won a recent e-democracy conference award for being the number one world-changer of Internet and politics.

The site won as part of the 6th Worldwide Forum on Electronic Democracy's "Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics".

The site provides like-minded users with forums and information to incite changes in their neighbourhoods.

Action Network project leader Martin Vogel said it was exciting to be recognised among the leading e-democracy initiatives happening all over the world.

"It's a great endorsement of the aims of Action Network and everything we've done so far," Mr Vogel said.

Visit the 6th Worldwide Forum on Electronic Democracy’s awards webpage for more information.

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