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Important Lessons for Vendors of e-Voting Systems

Vienna.
The next session at EDEM 2009 starts with Alexander Leiningen-Westerburg from Siemens, who consequently shifts our attention to the vendors of e-voting services. He notes the very delicate questions around e-voting, and suggests that success or failure of individual implementations affects every vendor in the market. But how much of a market is there, anyway - what are the advantages of e-voting? One promise is an increase in the voter participation, but so far there is little evidence for this. Another is that more expatriots are likely to participate in e-voting (especially in major emigration countries, such as those of eastern Europe), but again, the evidence so far is limited.

From e-Goverment to i-Government?

Vienna.
The third speaker in this opening session at EDEM 2009 is Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, whose theme is the demise of electronic government (hmm, that didn't take long...). He suggests that e-government as a concept has come to the end of its lifespan; the promises of higher public sector efficiency, and of resulting economic growth and greater trust in government, and of deeper citizen participation in public matters have not been fulfilled. The reality of electronic government is far less promising; the economic gains remain unclear, and have yet to be measured accurately - there are no robust frameworks for such measurement at this point. We measure not what we should, but what we can measure: avoidance. That's not helpful.

Electronic Voting in the German Social Insurance Elections

Vienna.
The next speaker at EDEM 2009 is Hans-Eberhard Urbaniak, the federal commissioner for the social insurance elections in Germany (and yes, I hope he explains to us what this may mean). In Germany, some 46 million are eligible to vote in the social insurance elections (including especially health and pensions insurance), and if I understand this right, the delegates elected through this process shape the social insurance services provided to the public; this is a matter of self-determination for the voters, and through the process, the overall range of social insurance services is determined. The overall budget for social insurance is some €420 billion, incidentally.

Challenges Ahead for e-Governance

Vienna.
From Transforming Audiences in London I've now made my way to a surprisingly sunny Vienna, where the 2009 Conference on e-Democracy (EDEM) is about to begin. We begin with an opening speech by Roland Traunmüller, outlining the challenges ahead for e-Governance, and he notes that IT and governance concepts have changed substantially over the past few decades. There has been some academic interest in e-governance of some form or another for the past three decades or so, ever since computer technology became more mainstream, ad the International Federaton of Computer Societies has been examining the opportunities since 1990.

From Social Media to Democratic Participation?

London.
The first day at Transforming Audiences finishes with a keynote by Natalie Fenton and Nick Couldry. Natalie points to creativity, knowledge, and participation as the three central themes of this conference - in that context, what does it mean to be political in the new media age? What are the principles for the way we conceived of and carry out our citizenship? How do we engage in political life?

There are multiple conflicting views on the impact of social media on political participation, of course - a sense that social media break down public/private barriers and lead to new forms of participation, and those who characterise such participation as an incessant meaningless conversation which never leads anywhere. Taken by themselves, both are likely to be wrong - so what is the real story here?

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