Archive for February, 2009

We care of your opinion

27. February 2009 – 13:59 by ASAEL

In the Autonomous Community of Valencia, Spain, the General Board of Citizenship and Integration – Regional Ministry of Immigration & Citizenship, a new form of communication among citizens and municipalities has been implemented. The utility of this method is getting through the preliminary round. The Community of Valencia carries out the project in order to prove it and chooses 3 pilot-cities, one for each province: Alcoy, Benicarlo, Paterna.

The main aim of the project is to improve every aspect of citizens’ daily life since municipalities act in order to guarantee services, help, and answers for citizens. This is the project’s mission.

The project is known as the Buzón Ciudadano. Be involved in the Buzón Ciudadano is as easy as clicking and filling in a form. Once the form has been sent, citizens will get an email in order to activate their accounts. Once the account has been activated, they will be able to take part automatically in public administration processes. Each citizen will be entitled to ask for questions, queries, petitions and make suggestions to be debated in the town halls. That gives town halls the opportunity to mediate whenever citizens make their interventions.

The use of specific tools related to the promotion of innovation, such as blog elaboration or emails’ service facilitates to keep the contacts since everybody feels free to say what they want and if it’s really possible to implement that, the municipality is in charge to do it. For example this is the case of Bibliobus, one citizen needs a bibliobus which circulates around the city. The municipal cabinet studies the proposal and then gives an answer as fast as possible. This is the way the municipality answers to the citizens either if it’s affirmative or negative.

The regional board has subscribed a chart of best practices about active citizenship in the local and autonomic administration; this is the first document to be signed between the autonomic and local administration in the autonomous community in order to facilitate and increase the active citizenship in the public management.

Municipalities will be able to act almost directly and there will be no need for citizens to wait until next election’s round for having their suggestions to be taken into consideration. Other town-halls in the community have already applied for this project and if this experience is successful, it will be spread all around the Community.

Something Sick At The Heart Of E-Democracy?

25. February 2009 – 14:21 by Dan Jellinek

OK, so it might have been like tossing a canary into a cat’s home – with clipped wings, and a fish in its beak - but there was something about the deluge of abuse that former UK Home Secretary David Blunkett received in a Guardian newspaper ‘Comment is Free (CiF) – Liberty Central’ posting a day or two ago seemed to summarise something sick at the heart of ‘internet democracy’.

Blunkett’s article was relatively unexceptional – an attempt to set out why he had acted as he had as Home Secretary in certain policy cases; and to explain why he positions himself on a certain point in the line of balance between security and civil liberties, while others may place themselves elsewhere. He also asserted some of his political values, and suggested that those who claim Britain is a ‘big brother state’ are in danger of crying wolf.

Six pages of comment were duly generated, around 300 comments: a large response, but not that unusual for CiF.

What did they say?

The first comment was from ‘AutoReply’, and says: “Point being missed is that as long it is Labour ‘Protecting liberty’ then it is ok.” That’s a fair comment, short but sweet, and there is a very good point buried in there, if only ‘AutoReply’ had been able to tease it out a bit. The next comment, is from ‘Mswoman’. She repeats back the quote from Mr Blunkett (who she simply calls ‘Blunkett’) when he said “We need principles” and responds: “Never a truer word spoken. So when’s NuLab going to get some then David?” Again, there is a genuine point being made here, though it’s not really followed through, and the language is beginning to become more discourteous, though really this is still Teletubbies.

Next up: ‘sneeboy’, who opines: “Breathtaking…Children vote the way their parents do. I am educating mine to the evils of your party. If others do the same we can make sure your party never sees office again. I’d be insulting hypocrites if I called you one.”
If there is a point here, it is deeply buried. But the tone is clearly changing – if someone spoke to someone else like in a pub say, we would have a fairly tense situation on our hands.

Next comes ‘MJTValfather’, who quotes back Mr Blunkett’s line that: “As home secretary, I gained a reputation for being “tough”" and begins his response: “Mr Blunkett, as far as I am concerned, you gained a reputation for being an idiot, a liar and morally corrupt.”

And so on - six pages of free comment, most along these lines, and much presumably even fruitier, as it had been removed by moderators.

One contributor, ‘Justabloke’, bucked the trend by suggesting wearily: “Very good article, but no chance of being greeted as such here. Political correctness on CiF demands that Security=NuLab=Stalinism, which is probably what 90% of the posters will rant on about. Predictions: Thread will be very long; Thread will be very boring; Nothing of value will emerge.” All safe predictions, though one or two freedom-lovers attacked ‘Justabloke’ for making them.

So why am I writing this? And, for the love of Pete, why am I blogging it?

As someone who has observed, written about, engaged in and managed online forums for debate, I think it is a great pity that a medium that is ostensibly something that democratises – and that surely does have the power to do so – should ever descend into a bear-pit.

This has nothing to do with my political beliefs, which I keep to myself. In any case, I have never been a party political person: I always try to listen to intelligent arguments on both sides of an issue, and make up my own mind.

Do I think politicians are above criticism? Hardly. I know some.

Do I think some people’s views are less valid than others? Definitely not.

The problem is, it often seems to be hard to engender a proper discussion of political views, separate from a slanging match. It also seems to be the case that the larger and more open the forum, the less valuable the debate. This is not democratic. Tolerance and freedom of expression are at the heart of a functioning democracy. An environment where the one who shouts loudest, or is the rudest or most dismissive, wins out, is not democratic, it is more akin to the environment engendered by totalitarianism, the survival of the most violent.

Perhaps it is to be expected: the larger you net you cast, the most extreme (or extremely expressed) views will be out there, and they will then tend to dominate. Perhaps it is the anonymity of the internet that allows people to behave like this, in the same way that it’s easier to lose your rag in a car.

Maybe the answer is clever moderation methods: more peer ranking of the value of responses, perhaps, not just the crude tool of voting something rude off which does carry the danger of censorship. The point is that we need to find ways to encourage as many people as possible to at least try to make the debates they enter more constructive, to be part of an exchange of ideas, and not just to let off steam. Sometimes. If they can.

WTF? Am I ***ing nuts? Who is this loser?!!?

Second wave: European eParticipation deliverables are now available!

24. February 2009 – 13:43 by Danish Technological Institute

Moving a step closer to making the final recommendations for EU level actions the European eParticipation Study’s has just published its second wave of deliverables. The documents are available on (Publication/Public Deliverables section).

The second wave of project deliverables consists of the following eight documents:

• Major factors shaping the development of eParticipation (D1.1b)

• Key actors in the EU in the field of eParticipation (D1.2b)

• Main benefits of the eParticipation developments in the EU (D1.3b)

• Mapping the state of play in eParticipation in the EU (D1.4b)

• Second post-workshop report (D3.2b)

• Framework for eParticipation good practice (D4.1b)

• eParticipation good practice cases (D4.2b)

• eParticipation recommendations second and third version (D5.1c)

The third and final wave is anticipated in May/June 2009 and will take into account comments by the European Commission, the project’s peer review group as well as further work conducted by the consortium partners in the intervening period.

Practicing what it is preaching, the European eParticipation Study, together with PEP-NET, will make use of the eParticipation issues unearth during the project in a joint online consultation 2-13 March 2009 (further information to follow).

Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, Danish Technological Institute

Recommendation on E-democracy - adopted by the COE

24. February 2009 – 12:15 by Madarász Csaba

It has been more than 3 years ago, when the project on “Good Governance in the Information Society” (2005-2008) has been started between the walls of the Council of Europe.

The project focuses on how new information and communication technologies (ICT) affect the practice of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Council of Europe member states.
In 2007, the Project had as its main task to compile and analyse examples of good practice on e-voting and e-participation via its experts network and to examine developments on e-democracy/e-participation at European and international level in order to advise the Committee of Ministers on e-democracy’s potential to facilitate democratic reform and practice.

The work is now over, the Parliamentary Assembly has adopted on the 18th of February.

It can be found here:

Read the rest of this entry »

WebSci’09: Society On-Line

24. February 2009 – 11:28 by CTI

Web science is emerging as a standalone, interdisciplinary field encompassing all different aspects related to the web, both social and technical.

Web Science Conference 2009 (, is the 1st international conference on Web Science and is dedicated to the presentation of research into society on the Web.

WebSci’09 will be held on March 18-20, 2009, in Athens, Greece.

During the WWW Forum, which is the opening event of the conference, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and top agenda setter will discuss with the public and famous scientists and politicians the following themes:

  • Web Science and Research
  • Web Technology and Practice
  • Web for Society

‘Miss Manners’ in the Era of Web 2.0

23. February 2009 – 18:58 by Julia Glidden

When I was growing up in New England my mother used to use Emily Post’s finishing school in Connecticutt as a barometer for ‘good manners.’  Think of what ‘Miss Manners’ would say - or some such refrain - would inevitably meet my teenage breach of New England social protocol.  Now all fully grown up (or at least nearly!) and living in England (or the ‘real thing’ as my mother would say), I have found myself thinking about Miss Manners more and more…. Not so much because I am intent to replay my adolescent battle with my mother, but because of the real angst I have seen Facebook cause.  I can still remember vividly the first time someone I have known for years ‘de-listed’ me as a friend.  The cold impersonality of the gesture.  The sense of powerlessness I felt in the situation.  Was it a mistake?  Did I do something wrong?  Should I follow up and check?  Would I be breaching ‘Miss Manners’ School of Internet Protocol if I did?   In the end, I cracked and asked the person.  Turns out this person was trying to ‘clean up’ and ‘cut back’ on online clutter and did not realise that ‘cleaning up’ up a Friend’s list  in this way could be taken in such a brutal light.  Many notes of apology were subsequently sent to similarly ‘de-listed’ friends…..  Following this encounter, I have since been with a few colleagues when they have likewise found themselves ‘de-listed’ and asking the same questions as me…..  So I ask you - what is the correct protocol. And how do we make sure we all know it…… Or are at least aware enough about it to not unwittingly hurt friends or shut off contacts via a medium that is meant to bring us all closer together?

Royality Web 2.0

20. February 2009 – 16:17 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

crestEarlier this month, Queen Elizabeth II witnessed the third re-launch of the British Monarchy Website ( The Queen is apparently keen to keep the younger generation tuned-in to the monarchy, hence the web site facelift.

The first incarnation was launched back in 1997. The site was visited over 100 million times in its first year, and recorded an astounding 35 million hits in the week after Princess Diana’s death.

eParticipation is not a particularly new interest, however. Royals have often been the first of the masses to use new technology; The Queen became the first Monarch to send an email during a visit to an army base in 1976. In 2002 3,521 journalists from over 60 countries are accredited via an Internet-based virtual press office to cover events to mark The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. In 2006 the ‘Christmas Broadcast’ or ‘Queen’s speech’ was podcast for the first time. In 2008 the Queen even uploaded a YouTube video while visiting Google offices in central London.

The new website has a more user-friendly and accessible design and utilises a number of new technological features, such as Google maps integration with the Royal Diary of Engagements. Users will also be able to follow the Royals’ movements on a daily basis on Google Maps, with icons to show where they are in the country on any given day.

There is also integration with the Royal Channel on YouTube (launched 2007), a password protected Media Centre, a new Personnel module to allow job applicants to apply on-line, and a new search function. The site will make greater use of video and has a number of ‘virtual room’ tours (using flash technology).

While the Queen has yet to start a blog, or tweet, it will be interesting to see if the extended royal family (particularly the younger members) make similar advances. I would be interested to hear national comparisons (the Dutch royal house perhaps?).

Brief presentation of new italian associate member

16. February 2009 – 11:58 by Sabrina Franceschini

The Emilia-Romagna Regional Government was accepted like new associate member in the network. Thank you to the coordinator and to the other members!

First of all I give you a brief presentation about our strategy and plan in the field of eGovernment and eParticipation.

The Emilia-Romagna always considered the development of the information society as one of the new and most important aspects to think about and shape the future. For these reason, the Regional Government consider strategic the development of the new information and communication technologies, as well as an advanced use of these from citizens, enterprises and public administration, who can exploit a lot of opportunities, both in their relations with citizens and during its everyday work. Most importantly, development of an information society is for the Regional Government not only a technological matter, but also, and first of all, growth of a new education and a digital culture for everybody, fighting against the “digital divide”. Read the rest of this entry »

Twitter for Beginners

11. February 2009 – 17:30 by Bengt Feil

Twitter and Microblogging in general is all the rage right now and there have been several examples of politicians and parties using this tool. Even though Microblogging is very simple (both in use and technology) its concepts have to be understood to know which values it is offering. The Online Journalism Blog posted a Slideshow which explains Twitter for the beginners:

By the way: Some PEP-NET People are also on Twitter, as for example:

Rolf Lührs

Bengt Feil

Eric Legale

For those I missed: Please put your Twitter address in the comments!

The conflict between transparency and privacy in an online world

11. February 2009 – 11:36 by Bengt Feil

On first glance both transparency of political processes and the privacy of the individual citizen are valuable goods and should be achieved alongside each other. The technologies of new media can help to advance both of these goals: Government data can be provided in a structured way to increase transparency and citizens can protest against oppressive regimes and reduce the danger of getting prosecuted by using online communication tools. But the advancements in one of the two fields can also drastically harm the other – increased transparency can diminish privacy and vice versa.

To illustrate this I would like to point out one example. The campaigns for and against the unfortunately passed Proposition 8, banning same sex marriage in the State of California, were fuelled by a large number of donors giving just a few to tens of thousands dollars to both campaigns. As a means to improve transparency of such processes the list of donors for and against the proposition are publicized in a machine readable way on a government website. With this data and the many open and free services available on the web it is easy to setup the website which shows all persons donating for the proposition and therefore against same sex marriage with their name, address, employer, position and the sum they contributed on which date. This could be seen as an attack on the privacy of those persons and not surprisingly many those, whose data is exposed on in such an accessible way, are not too happy about it.

At this point the question is what we can do if two of the most important concepts of a free and open society are in conflict with each other. One way of copping with the situation would be to follow David Brin who argues that we do not have to be too concerned about the loss of privacy as long as transparency goes in all directions and nobody is except from it. Even for the political sphere (let alone the commercial) this approach seems to be unrealistic - What would this perfect transparency be and why should all individuals be able to agree on favouring transparency over privacy in Brins “happy panopticon”? From my point of view we will have to find a balance between both goals – the right to privacy and the need for transparency in a democracy, but we also have to keep in mind that we participate in the political process as citizens who do not only bear rights but also responsibilities.