Blogging has been around for several years now and even with major advocates and early adopters, as for example Jason Calacanis, supposedly giving it up it still growing strong. With the rise of blogging a few years ago the Technorati “State of the Blogosphere Report” was established. In these more or less yearly reports Technorati rakes through all of the data they accumulated about the Blogosphere by offering their weblog registration and search engine service.
The importance of blogging and its integrated forms in social networks, like Facebook, and microblogging, like Twitter, for the fields of eDemocracy and eParticipation has been discussed many times and is well documented. In summary blogging and the related forms of communication do allow almost anybody to build up their own channel to take part in the political and social discourse in a way which in much easier than in the offline world. Therefore it makes sense to keep an eye on the general development of blogging.
Today the European Parliament has voted on the so-called Telecom Package (1,2) a series of amendments to the European telecommunications law. While the majority of the ca. 300 page long amendments are not disputed, some of them were fiercely contested.
Different interest groups tried to influence the wording of the law texts in the run-up to the final decision by the parliament. Supposedly harmless phrases such as “lawful” proposed by agents of the recording industry and other proponents of copyright enforcement have been suspected as Trojan horses by digital rights activists.
The trouble starts when Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have to determine “lawful” content.
The first significant fact was that an estimate of 250 representatives of mainly public bodies and councils took part in an event which was focus on what is still a niche topic. This shows that the interest in Participatory Budgeting in the UK is strong and that we can assume that there will be a number of new towns and quarters who start using PB in the next years. I had the opportunity to speak to some of the representatives of cities who already use PB and they were very clear in stating that they will keep up their efforts and that PB has to be a long term process which can not be done “right” at the first try.
Some time ago we stated that PEP-NET would support OneWebDay which is an annual distributed event celebrating the achievements and potentials of the web and trying to raise awareness for issues which need to be addressed.
For the OWD which will be on Monday the 22nd of September PEP-NET members prepared a number of videos to contribute to this year’s topic of “online participation in democracy”. We set ourselves the task to explain one common important issue connected to our activity in a 30 second video. To make it a little more interesting (and challenging) there are some twists which you will be able to see on this website on Monday.
Besides our own contributions we would like to see you to also do a short video of yourself explaining or just talking about one issue related to this year’s topic of OneWebDay. Whether you use your mobile phones camera or a DV-Cam and Final Cut the only rules to follow are:
We will post up all videos we find to PEP-NET.eu. The most interesting ones will also be shown at the eDemocracy 08 conference on November 11th in London. So get creative and show that democracy and the web go great together!
There are different types of support, national governments can provide for strengthening local democracy. The Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Development Authorities has decided, to start a programme, which is based on the member countries effort to utilize local democratic events during an action week - taking place in October.
“ELDW is a new annual European event where national and local events are organized concurrently by participating local authorities in all member States in order to foster the knowledge of local democracy and promote the idea of democratic participation at a local level.”
The resons for organizing local events are quite clearly stated on the supporting website, which is offering the basic information and supporting materials in various languages. However, for direct inquiries, they offer translation as well of the marketing materials (posters, logo etc).
The sad thing is that participating in this event is not obligatory for local governments, municipalities. They have the freedom to run any type of event or not - but the website is offering various great examples on possible activities on the how to “open the door” for citizens. According to project dissemination, as the decision to run an event is in the hands of local authorities, the promotion is in the hand of correspondants - which creates an atmosphere of local diversity.
Beside the official programme of “pilot cities” - Madrid, Varna, Odessa, Brussels Capital region - Ukraine, England and Wales are offering the widest rage of local participatory programmes.
Would it be a good idea to support the COE by the community of PEP-NET to develop e- programmes for the next year? Or maybe to run a brainstorming session for this year?
Partly it was the word – there is a type of geek-techie who just loves to use a new word that no-one has ever heard of, just as everyone gets used to the old word – intranet, blog, web 2.0, whatever – as a way of singling themselves out as knowledgeable insiders. In the early days, that’s what blog seemed to be – something to talk about – to say ‘you need a blog’ to people and sit back knowing full well they wouldn’t have the faintest idea what you were talking about.
After that, the word became fairly common, but I was still unsure… after all, blogs barely exist. What is a blog? A content management system, essentially, and these already existed. It’s not necessarily an online diary – you don’t need to use it like that. It is a tool which allows you to post content onto a website, and let people post comments – if you enable that functionality. And that’s it.
Then there were the window-dressing ‘blogs’ – ministerial blogs that weren’t written by the minister but by lackeys, or BBC journalist blogs that were essentially just online columns with a few comments from people with whom I usually violently disagreed.
I also objected to the type of blog that was supposed to be the news that the mainstream media did not dare to print – in my experience, this was simply ranting from non-journalists that the mainstream media would certainly not print, but just because it was not good enough to print.
But now blogs are commonplace, and everybody with a pulse has one, I think there are some interesting uses emerging, and one is for local politicians. In the UK Mary Reid, former Mayor of Kingston, and many others have pioneered their use as a tool to connect with and keep in touch with their local constituents in a way that makes much more sense than with national politicians. They can go to local meetings, and give out their blog addresses: this gives people a follow-up, to look at photographs of the meeting they were act, and to join in a real dialogue with their local politicians and other local citizens. This is valuable for the politician, and valuable for the citizen. And it works.
So why am I blogging about blogs?
Because there is an interesting new project encouraging and helping civic leaders to blog: ‘Civic Surf’ Its driving force Shane McCracken of Gallomanor wrote an article on the project in this week’s E-Government Bulletin (email me if you want to see a copy, add ‘dan’ to ‘@headstar.com’), and the website is worth a look. It is at:
There is a pack you can obtain too, with a DVD – find out more also by emailing me.
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.
eVoting lies in the heart of eParticipation initiatives as it is related to the citizen’s most fundamental right, the right to vote.
Although significant eVoting initiatives have taken place in several countries (e.g. national elections in Estonia, Switzerland, etc.), eVoting is far from being fully accepted. It is still a highly controversial issue in the minds of politicians and citizens, raising a lot of critique, while several incidents of misconduct (e.g. in USA or in UK) further harm citizens’ trust and increase wariness.
On the other hand, other critical eGovernment applications (such as tax payment applications or financial transactions) seem to be well established and accepted by the public, despite the fact that they also involve sensitive personal data and that they are supported by similar underlying technologies.
Further research on this diverse degree of acceptance of the two electronic services could provide valuable insight on the factors that affect eVoting acceptance and could reveal new approaches towards successful initiatives. This research would be multidisciplinary, involving areas of technology, political sciences, sociology, psychology, etc. Some thoughts are presented here as a starting point for further discussion.
eGovernment applications cover everyday needs of citizens, returning immediate and tangible benefits (time saving, ease of use). As a result, citizens are highly motivated to use them, even putting aside their potential reluctance. On the other hand, in the case of eVoting, the benefits are mostly for the government (cost saving) or the society in general (increased participation), thus only indirectly affecting the citizen.
What is more, eGovernment applications are longer established, more mature, and people are more familiar with them.
Cautiousness against voting (and hence eVoting) procedures is further increased when considering their global impact, affecting the society as a whole and not only individuals.
Another influential factor is that voting procedures occur less frequently and attract huge attention (by people, politicians, media). Cases of misconduct are also highly publicized. On the contrary, eGovernment transactions occur on a daily basis and are smaller-scale by nature.
After all, maybe in the minds of citizens, their vote is more critical and sensitive than financial data.
Bearing these considerations in mind, some approaches towards increasing eVoting acceptance could involve:
Wide promotion and dissemination of the proven technological excellence of a system as well as the organizational procedure foreseen, in order to convince the public for the sound operation and running of the whole voting procedure.
Emphasis on specific aspects of an e-service that seem to affect the users’ trust, for example clear presentation of privacy protection policy or possibility of direct contact with person responsible.
Awareness raising, with a two-fold aim:
Familiarization with the concepts of participation in common matters.
Familiarization with existing tools and technologies but also existing risks and ways of protection. A first step could involve familiarization with the plethora of eVoting or e-participation tools that are available online.
To conclude, one of the major challenges of successful eVoting initiatives, apart from working on technological solutions to meet voting requirements, is to increase public trust and acceptance. To this end, a gradual and multi-faceted approach should be followed.
by Anastasia Panagiotaki, eGov Sector, Computer Technology Institute