In the meantime, here's a quick update on some new publications I've been involved in - a number of my recent book chapters on a range of topics have now been published:
First, with a chapter on "News Blogs and Citizen Journalism" in e-Journalism: New Media and News Media I'm introducing my work on gatewatching and citizen journalism to an Indian readership - the book was edited by Kiran Prasad, who was my office mate at the University of Leeds while I was there in 2007 to do some research for the produsage book, and was published by B.R. Publishing in Delhi. I don't think the publisher actually has a Website - but there's a good overview of the collection at Cyberjournalist, and it also includes contact details for BR Publishing.
Still, that's not stopped us from developing some new ideas on how to further the 'government 2.0' push which aims to utilise Web 2.0 technologies, social media models, and produsage processes in order to create better engagement and participation between governments and citizens. This year, I'm building on my observations with Jason Wilson about top-down and bottom-up forms of engagement, presented at EDEM 2009, to suggest (in a paper co-authored with Adam Swift) that neither the common government-to-citizen (g2c) nor citizen-to-citizen (c2c) initiatives in the government 2.0 space quite manage to find the right balance, and that we may need to explore the possibility for new, hybrid models in between these poles: we outline what we've called a g4c2c model in which government provides explicit support for, and gets involved in, citizen-to-citizen activities.
For the final paper at EDEM 2009, we're on to Ursula Maier-Rabler, whose interest is in e-politics from administrative through to communicative democracy, and from individual citizens through to state institutions and parties. This creates a two-dimensional matrix: e-Government is administrative and driven by institutions, e-democracy communicative, but still driven by institutions; e-voting is administrative, but relies on the individual, and e-participation is individually driven and communicative.
e-Participation supports the empowerment of people oo integrate in bottom-up decision making, make informed decisions, and develop social and political responsibility - and to achieve this, it is necessary to start with young people in order to develop a participatory culture (which may be different in its specific shape from country to country). This ties into Web 2.0 and similar participatory platforms,and must be integrated also into general political education in order to create a new homo politicus in the online environment.
The next presenter at EDEM 2009 is Silke Weiß from the Austrian Ministry of Finance. Her focus is on the egosta (e-Government Stakeholder Involvement) platform, which aims to develop and test stakeholder involvement systems. For the project, e-participation is the participation of citizens and businesses in political decision making processes through ICTs; such participation strengthens mutual trust between stageholders and can result in more broadly based solutions.
However, so far participation is very unevenly distributed, and some citizens, enterprises, and NGOs are left out from the consultation, which can lead to distrust towards electronic forms of government processes. So, it is necessary to develop a standard method and tool for the instant and immediate involvement of stakeholders in the development of new e-government applications, using Web 2.0 technologies. This will hopefully optimise processes of knowledge transfer between all stakeholders (defined broadly as all groups who may be future users of IT applications or may be affected by outcomes).
It's the final session of EDEM 2009, and we begin with a paper by Edith Maier, whose focus is on trying to increase participation in e-participatory efforts. This is in the context of Austrian bottom-up e-participation efforts in relation to globalisation and global solidarity projects.
The barriers to participation include lack of motivation of participants, of traceability of contributions, of transparency with regard to roles of participants, of opinion-mining across all participants to identify shared interests, and of feedback and political support for outcomes. There is an overall lack of impact, then, leading to a disenchantment amongst participants, thus to a negative attitude to those in power, and thence finally to low levels of use of official e-participation sites.
The next speaker at EDEM 2009 is Mohammed Awad, who shifts our attention to e-voting the United States, where there have been some substantial problems with e-voting systems across a number of recent elections, of course, which were highlighted first in 2000 with the voting fiasco of the disputed elections in Florida. As a result, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed to push for a shift towards electronic voting machines to implement Direct Recording Electronics (DREs) by 2004; the speed with which this happened led to another problem in the 2004 elections, where there were substantial questions raised about the quality of the source code for the voting machines and several technical faults and miscounts were recorded. There were fewer problems in the 2008 elections, but largely also because the winning margins were greater, so small miscounts did not matter as much.
The next session at EDEM 2009 starts with Cornelia Wagner, examining the social acceptability of e-voting in the context of the recent student council elections in Austria. There is a continuing battle between promoters and sceptics in this context, citing the opportunities for better citizen consultation as well as the lack of trust in e-initiatives in support of their arguments, and Cornelia suggests that bottom-up approaches, trust in these systems, and early adoption are paramount for overcoming some of these problems.
The final speaker in this EDEM 2009 session is Vitaliy Lipen from the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, who shifts our interest to the remote verification of electronic voting. There has been a substantial amount of work done on systems for electronic voting in Belarus already,and such systems have been trialled in a number of countries (for example in Kazachstan, if less so in Belarus itself).
There is only moderate readiness for full e-voting implementation in Belarus and other countries of the former Soviet Union, due to the limited infrastructure, and this compares also with other nations with infrastructural deficits. Even so, Kazachstan showed a 30% patricipation rate for e-voting,which compares favourably with more ICT-developed nations such as Estonia (where 7% of the population voted electronically) or Germany (where the electronic vote trial in 2005 was annulled subsequently). Electors remain concerned about their privacy, and electronic elections tend to offer even less transparency than traditional paper ballots; however, the paper voting trail is difficult for voters to track, too.
The next speaker at EDEM 2009 is Lucie Langer, who presents a new protocol for secure online elections that emerged from the German Voteremote project (for non-parliamentary, non-political voting). Key requirements in this context are security, democracy, accuracy, fairness, and verifiability (for individual voters and at a universal level), of course; in addition, the system must be free of receipts which can be used by the voter to document how they voted (and thus could be used by them to sell their vote), and resistant to voter coercion. Further, of course, the system needs to be scalable, robust, and easy to use.
The next session at EDEM 2009 starts with Christoph Eckl and Robert Müller-Török, who begin by pointing out the difficulties involved in establishing an e-voting project. Such projects are complex because of the applicable legal frameworks, the software required (and the approval and certification processes surrounding it), the need to engage in PR exercises to promote public acceptance of e-voting, and the stringent project management requirements which such a project therefore entails.
There have been a number of unsuccessful e-voting processes in recent years (turning in some cases into re-voting where legal challenges were successful) - there was limited participation, there were legal and political attacks, and there were negative reports from election observers. As we've already heard in other presentations, at least one Supreme Court challenge against e-voting has been successful (in Germany), setting back progress towards e-voting substantially.