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e-Democracy update - 8/3/06

08 March, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

Report shows enhanced social connections with computer networks

A new report shows enhanced social connections through the use of a community-based computer network project.

The Swinburne Institute for Social Research's Wired High Rise report examines the electronic Atherton Community Enterprise (e-ACE) over the period between 1999 and 2004.

The report shows an enhanced social connection between nearly 2,000 residents of Atherton Gardens, a high-rise public housing estate in Fitzroy, Melbourne.

The report states: "While there is no single community on the Atherton Gardens estate, there are very active community-based groups and a complex pattern of associational life which pre-existed the establishment of the e-ACE network. However, e-ACE should be seen as one of a number of neighbourhood renewal initiatives taking place over the last three to four years. The cumulative effects of these appear to have been very positive."

The survey also shows high rates of access to government services or to communicate with service agencies.

Over a quarter had used their computer to type a letter to a government service, nearly one in five had contacted a government office by email, and nearly a third had used the Internet to find information about a government service.

Pakistan bans Blogspot

Pakistan’s telecommunication authority has blocked citizens from accessing Blogspot during a ban on websites with cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Pakistani bloggers were first aware of the ban on February 28, 2006 when they were unable to access hosting site Blogspott.

Blogspot hosted one of the blocked sites, which led to authorities blocking all web journals on the site, even ones not connected to the cartoons.

A spokesperson for press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders says it is unacceptable that the order to block a site should go through the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA).

"While apparently aiming at one blog hosted by blogger.com, [it] led to the filtering of all websites sharing the same domain name,” the spokesperson says.

Reporters Without Borders have recommended their online Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents to circumvent the filtering.

Pakistani bloggers have also started a campaign against the censorship.

China starts blogs for lawmakers

China's government has established a blog for members of parliament to boost public interest and confidence.

The Strong Country Blog is run by the People's Daily, the newspaper of the ruling Communist Party.

So far, eight members of China's 5,000-member legislature have joined the blog.

New e-reminder project for voter registration

A British firm has released a new product to remind young voters to register for upcoming UK elections.

e-Democracy development group Delib released their Election Alarm Clock last week.

The service, co-developed with the UK Electoral Commission, allows people to sign-up for e-mail or SMS reminders on upcoming elections.

"Using SMS and email reminders is a really simple yet effective way of getting messages out to young people in a targeted way," Delib Director Chris Quigley says.

Delib reported over 3 million people in the UK were unregistered for their last election.

You can view the project here.

US campaign contributors increasing online

A new study shows more people are contributing donations to political campaigns through online methods, especially small donors.

The Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet (IPDI) released their report Small Donors and Online Giving this week, which provides a study of donors to the 2004 Presidential Campaigns.

The number of online donors equalled almost four times the number in the 2000 Presidential Campaigns

IPDI research director Joe Graf says the report dispels the notion that small donors are angrier and more partisan than big donors.

"They’re not. Small donors in the 2004 presidential election were good for American democracy,” Mr Graf says.

The report also found 40 per cent of the 1,500 participants gave donations without parties approaching them.

Big rises predicted for sharing info

Several speakers at a recent media conference predict big rises for sharing information across online communities.

Microsoft Europe president Neil Holloway says, at the Financial Times Digital Media Conference, more people want to connect to information and their friends.

"The focus will be on highly personalised experiences," he says.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales echoes these comments and says the collaborative usage of the Internet is rising.

"This is a social innovation, and not just a technological innovation," he says.

For more information on the conference, see this page.

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