Boosting Austria’s “e-Governability”:!

25. June 2009 – 15:03 by E-Voting.CC

Earlier I have written about the Student Union elections of May 2009 which were Austria’s first use of a legally binding electronic voting system.

The E-Voting system required the students to authenticate themselves using a citizen card. In Austria this “citizen card function” is included in the social security card, which is called e-card. The e-card was launched in March 2005 in order to modernize the old fashioned system of legitimizing the citizen’s status in front of doctors via the paper version of the “Krankenschein”.

The e-card has since then been issued 8.5 million times according to the official website. 11.151 partners accept the e-card in doctor’s practices all over Austria and it has been used 405 million times for this purpose. But the e-card is much more than a tool for more efficient social security administration. It can be activated and hence provide citizen card function for its holder. The benefit of this is to ensure secure web access to online banking, to file one’s income tax statement online, to request a character reference and many more. You could buy a car using the activated e-card, a card reader and your PINs.

Although this system itself is quite well established, security is granted and the usability is good, the citizen card function wasn’t as distributed and commonly used as it could have been. One of the main reasons for this is, that the real killer application is still missing. The second reason could be the absence of proactive campaigns to distribute the cards and the necessary card reader and to communicate this benefit to the citizens.

In the fore field of the mentioned E-Voting project, a campaign, named, has been started. It was aiming at building up some of the necessary infrastructure. Especially the second objection of lacking campaigns has now been debilitated. The really arose awareness for E-Voting and the citizen card amongst the Austrian students. More than 11.500 citizen cards and free card readers have been distributed (before this campaign only about 15.000 citizen cards on the new version of the e-card have been activated throughout Austria).

How was this achieved?

The concept was simple but effective. The campaign focused on active students to ensure word of mouth to colleagues. For this reason countless info stands were arranged in the universities’ assemblies, the dates were printed on large posters. Student union functionaries were used as multipliers. The appearance focused on the time-saving aspect, social participation and being an early adopter. Scientific expertise has been provided to communicate credibility and trustworthiness. Another key strategy was to use the network of the involved players to further encourage the campaign. 30 Tutors were selected and trained with the ability to educate students so they could activate citizen cards by themselves for friends, colleagues or family members.

Communication for was facilitated by the website, a regular newsletter, banners on partner websites and press releases at predefined milestone events. A raffle was also organized giving away trendy i-pods to the lucky winners. Forum threads and “advertorials” on universities’ media rounded the concept.

Another lesson learned is the fact, that the numbers of activated e-cards were steadily increasing, but only by relatively and equally small amounts for the first five months of the campaign. From October 2008 until February 2009 “only” 4.800 citicen cards were activated. The rest of the 6.700 cards have been activated in the last three moonths, which is astonishing!
This was achieved by various factors. First of all by the tremendous effort of the engaged promotion partners, which would elsehow wouldn’t have been possible. Second by the medial awareness created and gained by the emotional discussion around E-Voting in Austria. And thirdly by the fact, that such campaigns seem to need some time to build up momentum. People take a while until they get interested, until they care for something new. Getting attention is hard in the beginning, but if you dive through the hard time, it really pays.

All in all the campaign is a real success story almost doubling the number activated citizen cards in Austria within months with manageable cost and reasonable effort. It truly boosted Austria’s “e-Governability”.

by Daniel Botz - E-Voting.CC

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