politik-digital.de: How do you use the internet privately?
Wolfgang Schäuble: Once in a while I take a look at ard.de [one of the two main public TV stations] or SpiegelOnline.de. Besides, I use modern communication technology. I don’t use email a lot myself, but sometimes together with my children. Apart from that, my office is helping me. I conduct my banking activities online. I also file my tax return on the internet… What else? I try not to spend too much of my time only with the modern communication technologies.
How do you use the internet for the election campaign?
Schäuble: Of course, for political communication, we need to use those ways of publicity that are being used today. And modern communication technology is constantly becoming more important. We also use modern information technology a lot for administration purposes. As the Minister of Interior I am responsible for that. For this reason, I was at the CeBIT last week, where we always have a section for Civil Service. We have advanced a lot of things, like the standardized telephone number for Civil Service. We are working on a citizen’s portal, De-Mail – safe email. By the way, the much criticized law „Safety in information technology“ is also an element. As the state, it is our role, and my responsibility, to guarantee the safety of the web, that also means the reliability of communication. Nowadays, when you want to send a contract by email, you still have to send it also by paper mail. With De-Mail you won’t have to do that any longer. So we deal a lot with this. At the same time we also have to see to that communication is safe, especially with issues that are sensitive in terms of safety policy.
How much „e“ can democracy bear?
Schäuble: We will see. It will be sorted out in one way or another. At the moment I also hope that the new media will result in more people participating in democratic discussions and in democratic decision-making. In America, this seems to have been the case during the presidential election campaigns. But also in France, when Nicolas Sarkozy won against Ségolène Royal, this played an important role. I wish something similar will happen in Germany as well. However, every progress entails risks and opportunities. We have just seen this with innovative financial products. Similarly, modern information technology is not without risks, as we have seen with the issue of the increasing tendency to violence at the other end or at the beginning of our debate.
Do you feel hit by the allegation: Schäuble = Stasi [former GDR secret police] 2.0
Schäuble: Well, I took it rather ironically. You have to bear some jokes at your own expense. What I’d find bothering is, if more and more young people are misled to believe that our Order of Freedom has a similarity with the system of injustice that the Stasi represented. That is not funny anymore. And look, when the same people who now, after the massacre of Winnenden, say we should hand over all our guns to the police, or we should have entrance control in schools – when those people are saying at the same time we’d be living in a surveillance society, this is such a contradiction, that I hope that modern information technology will not lead to the loss of all sanity/rationality, but that we can keep a certain degree of temperance when we level criticism.
A new web-survey – labeled with the telling name „tellBarroso.eu“ – invites all EU-citizens to post their opinion about the EU policy areas. The survey suggests that the messages go all the way up to José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission. It seems odd though that the institution behind the survey is a party-affiliated think tank.
The distance to Brussels has never been shorter: The website tellbarroso.eu suggests the direct interaction between you, the EU-cititzen, and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Barroso invites you to post your opinion about the policy areas of the European Union and how it can “improve your“ life. And he promises, that tellBarroso.eu is a „simple, non-partisan web poll“.
It is indeed simple. In a first step, you have to tick some social indicators, most likely for statistical reasons. In a second step, the user is invited to name a policy area and post his/her opinion about it. The third step constitutes a nice clickable feature, which is a sort of opinion-dartboard. By drag-and-drop the user arranges a random selection of statements around the bullseye. The distance to the centre of the board thereby indicates the importance of the particular statement.
However, the non-partisan bit of the poll is quite questionable. The institution behind this service is the Centre of European Studies, a think tank affiliated with the European People’s Party EPP, which constitutes the largest faction in the European Parliament. It is not so much a disturbing fact that Barroso, an EPP member himself, offers his image and his name for an interactive process which generates EU-citizens’ opinion about the EU and its work. Yet it becomes an issue if such poll is marked as non-partisan whereas the party-links appear that obvious.
15. September 2008 – 10:11 by christophdowe-politik-digital.de
AmericaSpeaks organizes large-scale town-meetings on political issues and wants to get people engaged in the decission-making process. To widen the public outreach and to foster a diverse and representative participation, online methods play a more and more important role.
Susanna Haas Lyons from AmericaSpeaks visited the BerlinInJuly conference on eDemocracy, organized by politik-digital.de, MySociety.org, e-politik/e-Demokratie.org and hosted by the British Council. We asked her to explain, why it is important to engage people online.
21. July 2008 – 15:56 by christophdowe-politik-digital.de
On July 17th and 18th, the BerlinInJuly un-conference on eDemocracy concregated 35 eDemocracy professionals from about a dozen countries to communicate about their field of acticity. Organized by politik-digital.de, Tom Steinberg of mysociety.com, and Christian Heise of e-demokratie.org / e-politik.de the conference took place in the premises of one of its partners, namely the British Council Berlin.
The aim was to give the attendees a chance to do some networking or even start new projects. Topics such as project funding generated lively discussions about good and bad practice in eDemocracy. In this case, a special trick by abgeordnetenwatch.de attracted some interest: By clicking away the google ads, the user starts a clock telling him how much he/she is costing the site makers to make him/her donate a little money.
Another discussion topic was motivating people and politicians for eParticipation. Users can be attracted by small gimmicks such as flash games, as Ben Whitnall of Delib from the UK explained. With politicians it’s harder, but dutch Arend Zwaneveld of maildepolitiek.nl showed that it is possible by convincing them in rational ways.
While most of the attendees came from western europe and north america, Adrian Moraru from Romania and lebanese Ayman Mhanna could tell about some quite unfamiliar circumstances. In the end, everybody agreed about the necessity of networking for eDemocracy, planning to come back next year.
25. June 2008 – 10:27 by christophdowe-politik-digital.de
Think before you act! Before setting up online communication tools, you need an communication strategy first! Don´t use Blogs and Social Media as means without ends – if you want to reach people, who should have something to say!
This sounds like good old common sense to most eDemocracy advocators and long-time practioners. But this low-level approach might fit best to reach not so web-savvy politicians and people who are new on the field of online politics.
The free e-book “Online Politics 101: The Tools and Tactics of Online Advocacy” exactly aims at these people. Written by Colin Delayne, web-consultant, founder and editor of e.politics.com, the report introduces “candidates, advocacy organisations, corporate interests and everyday citizens” to online politics and advocacy tools, from the very basic as Websites and Search Engine Optimizing (SEO) to E-Mail-Lists, Blogs, and Social Media. The e-book has recently been updated and now contains sections about how to use tools as Facebook and Twitter for promoting candidates or shaping opinions.
Delayne explains all these tools in plain English, stressing that which tool to use and how to use it depends on your targetgroup as well as on what you want to achieve. Fine thing is, most of his tips apply international (although tools like Google ads or text messaging for political means are not broadly used in Germany).
29. May 2008 – 07:48 by christophdowe-politik-digital.de
Part of the Pep-Net project is to make good examples of projects more visible. e-participation.net is part of the new european network Pep-Net and collects data about participatory online projects. Is your best practice example included already? Do you know of more examples? To report new examples just fill in the box at the right column – we only need the URL! The data will be delivered to an editor at politik-digital.de where a short description of the website will be written. If you want, you can also send us more information.
The website, built by politik-digital.de and the British Council Germany about one year ago, already consists of a database of about 200 projects. Now its time to include some more examples from other countries! Before launch, the partners had published a short study (PDF) in 2006, comparing the state of the art of e-Democracy in Germany and the United Kingdom (“Facilitating active Citizenship. E-Participation in the United Kingdom and Germany”).
9. April 2008 – 09:50 by christophdowe-politik-digital.de
The association pol-di.net e.V. was established to push development of the european information society and alter civil participation by the means of the internet, as is stated in the articles of association. pol-di.net aims at achieving these goals by contibuting to the issue in varius ways in a non-partisan way. 1999 we gathered 30.000 signatures to influence EU-Spam-Legislation. In 2003 we launched the “Kand-o-Mat”, a website with pictures of politicans to vote at (idea similar to “hotornot”) to make politics interesting in an entertaining manner. In 2004 we launched a campaign to introduce an “freedom of information act” in
Germany. In 2005, we started the website ich-gehe-nicht-hin (the british website notapathetic.com in German) for non-voters. In 2006 we launched the website sie-schreiben-dir.de (british website theywritetoyou.com in German). In 2007 we launched the database-website “e-participation.net” where people can present participatory online-projects. In 2008 we launched the website wie-weit-wollen-wir-gen.de, an open blog for young people to discuss political issues. We regularly invite Politicians to live-Internet-Chats and host the information website www.politik-digital.de. Since 2001 we offer research services in the field eDemocracy and eGovernment to finance the association; projects include research for the German parliament, ministries or the British Council Berlin.
On politik-digital.de we publish articles about eDemocracy, eGovernment and eConsumerism. All articles are provided by a volunteer network of about 100 authors and the core team. Various offline events adress the same issues. politik-digital.de was awarded numerous awards. Next to others, we were awarded the „Europrix 2002“ in the category “Citizens, Democracy and eGovernment: Empowerment and Improvement” for the project “wahlthemen.de”, where we made the issues of the German parliamentary elections 2002 accessable for a broader audience. Also, we werelabeled as one of the„25 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics“ by Politics Online in 2001 and 2003.