Archive for July, 2009

UK local authority goes Google

31. July 2009 – 08:34 by Dan Jellinek

One UK local authority did something very interesting with its website recently: it went Google.

Westminster City Councilin central London serves one of the UK’s busiest and richest areas, packed with tourists, businesses, government departments and residents (from MPs to the Queen), and has long been an innovator with technology. It has been a pioneer of mobile technology in public services, for example, with aspirations to become a ‘wireless city’.

Now it has implemented a radical redesign of its website which has seen its home page focus on a single feature: a whacking great search box.

Such a move has been spoken of in the local government web community for some time: public service websites in a democracy have to be as usable as possible, usable by all and accessible by all, and Google has long been held up as the pinnacle of usability.

The Google website, by and large, does one thing, and one thing only: and does it very well. This is what makes it so powerful, and easy to use. Local government websites, on the other hand, have tended, particularly on their home pages, to try to do 1,000 things, and so it is usually almost impossible to find what you want quickly and easily. The search box has often been the best way in – so why not make the whole site focus on the search facility? This should mean that whatever citizens want to do, they can do it quickly without having to think about how to locate it. Just type it in the box.

This has been Westminster’s thought process. Its redesigned site uses actual Google technology – Google supplies the search technology, and mapping technology – combining it with an open source content management system called Symphony CMS to create a site which is intended to be as simple as possible to use.

There is a bit more to it than the search, in fact – a system of tabs allows users to choose whether they want to search on the maps, or search for something to apply for, or various other sub-sections. There is also a graphical map interface sitting below the search box on the home page, and various other more traditional navigational features too, though one has to know these are there and scroll down.

There are a few other quibbles too, as our recent story in E-Government Bulletin has reported.

Overall though, is this the future of public service websites? Is this the first of a new wave of usable sites that will cut bureaucracy, and strike a blow for usability, participation and democracy? What do people think?

363 days to go until the 4th International Conference on E-Voting,

23. July 2009 – 15:19 by E-Voting.CC

The fourth International Conference on Electronic Voting is coming up. There’s still one year to go, nevertheless our first call for papers folder is out now! Please click on the image to download the folder as a PDF.

For the fourth time since 2004 our exclusive conference with hundred key experts and deciders from all five continents will be held from the 21th until the 24th of July 2010. The venue will be, as in previous years, the beautiful Castle Hofen, which is situated in Lochau in the vicinity of Bregenz and Lake Constance.

The conference will focus on all aspects of electronic voting, such as legal, technical, social, political questions as well as reports on implementations and practical experiences throughout Europe and the world. There will also be workshops on different topics held by designated experts in the field. The regular Conference Fee will be 300EUR (incl. VAT). The event is limited to 110 visitors only.

Social activities such as the legendary dinner event “Käsestraße” or a visit of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Aida” at the floating stage in Bregenz are the highlights after the work has been done. We will also host a Pep-Net meeting in the fore field of the conference.

The time line for submission of the papers is as follows:

Submission of the full paper: February, 12th 2010
Review deadline: March, 12th 2010
Notification of acceptance: April, 5th 2010
Receipt of the final paper: May, 14th 2010

If you are interested in submitting you paper or in attending the conference, send us an email with your inquiry to: 2010 [at]

by Daniel Botz - E-Voting.CC

Google Wave – What is that again?

23. July 2009 – 11:14 by Bengt Feil

In May 2009 Google presented the Wave project to the public simply calling it “a personal communication and collaboration tool” at the Google I/O conference. The presentation of the project was 80 minutes long which hints at the fact that Google Wave may be more complex than what it is referred to in the short explanation. Given Googles announcement that Wave will be opened up to a public beta in September and the major buzz this project gets on the internet I will try to sum up what it is about and what the implications may be. If you want to get an in depth overview of Wave please watch the Google I/O presentation embedded below.

Google Wave will try to combine all the online communication we know and use into one interface and to organize communication threads by context and topic as opposed to communication tool. The different tools for this new approach to online communication will be familiar (e.g. email, instant messaging, wikis, web chat, social networking, and project management) but the way the communication threads are organized are different. All communication activities related to one topic is called a Wave. As part of this Wave there can be endless amounts of communication activities (called Wavelets) using different tools with different groups of persons. Wavelets can be real time (e.g. instant messenger), asynchronous (e.g. email) or collaborative (e.g. wiki, shared document) and can include all kinds of media, links and even widgets (like small games etc.). The interesting innovation is that the Google Wave is able to recognize that all of these communication activities belong to a certain Wave which helps to overcome the fragmentation of online communication. made a great graphic to illustrate these concepts.

Read the rest of this entry » - Let’s monitor the italian parliament!

21. July 2009 – 01:23 by depp

Rome, July 2009

After promoting different projects on e-democracy and e-partecipation in Italy (,, the openpolis association, a spin off of the DEPP association, has officially presented to the public a new web application wholly dedicated to the monitoring of the italian Parliament:

This is the first of a series of three articles in which we describe some of the relevant features of the web application.

In this first article we describe the application, its vision and why, in our opinion, it can help build a base of informed citizenship and improve the democratic process.

The other two articles will focus on two particular instruments of the application, discussing various interesting aspects related to them that brought quite an array of reactions from the public. is a rather complex web application, where citizens can gather detailed informations on the proceedings of the acts presented by the elected officials at national level.

It allows one to follow an act in its path across the two perfectly symmetrical chambers (La Camera and Il Senato), from its presentation as a proposal, to its final approval.

It tracks all the votations, highlighting rebel voters. It tracks who presented an act, and wether as a first-signer or a co-signer. It also tracks speeches of officials on given acts.

Access to textual documents related to an act is easy and documents can be emended by users online, using an innovative shared comments system (eMend), that allows discussions on a particular act to take place.

Users can describe the acts, using their own words, in a wiki subsystem, acts are ratable and commentable, too.

All acts are tagged with consistent arguments by an editorial board, and that allows to know what’s going on and who’s doing what in relation to a subject.

An event-handling subsystem allows the generation of news. Whenever an act is presented, it moves towards approval or refusal, a votation takes place, someone gives a speech or anything worth noticing happens, news are generated. A dedicated web page and a customized daily e-mail, containing just the news related to those acts, politicians or arguments monitored by the user, allows him/her to follow almost in real time what’s going on.

Monitoring arguments is the most remarkable activity. Being time- and resources-consuming it is also not for free, though. A payment model is being discussed with the users during this free-demo phase, and we hope to come to reasonable commercial terms. sits on the shoulders of giants, those giants being TheyWorkForYou and OpenCongress.
The idea of materializing all the principles regarding the transparency of elected officials’ activities into a live web site was what we grabbed from those projects.
In Italy, public scrutiny is invoked as a distant and impossible principle. It is left to the official media and it is usually strongly biased, especially when it comes to the political arena.

We wanted to build a place on the web where citizens could inform themselves, controlling the activities of elected officials in the national parliament.
We asked ourselves: what if citizens could comment, rate and describe with their own words the acts presented by their representatives at La Camera and Il Senato? What if people could vote these acts so you can compare elected officials’ and citizens’ votes in the same context?

More than that, we wanted to give the public a tool that could help to understand a bit better what’s being done in the parliament and who’s doing what, and to possibly jump in the process, too. Uncensored.
That is one of the pillars of powerful lobbying: to know the real connections between the informations.
And that’s what we wanted the project to be: just a block of a series of tools that allowed for an improved relation between the represented and the representatives.

to be continued …

Trophy-Cup: PEP-NET goes conference

16. July 2009 – 16:16 by e.V /

Launched on initiative by individual PEP-NET members, a working group came up with a strategy for PEP-NET to be promoted on conferences in our field of expertise. The main results of the working group are as follows:

1)The aim of the initiative is to brand and promote the name and idea of PEP-NET as well as to acquire new members;
2)Starting in September, PEP-NET will become an integral component of conferences organized by members of PEP-NET;
3)Presentation and implementation of PEP-NET during the conferences should remain within the responsibility of the respective organizers. Though the working group agreed on four minimum features which should be common in all conferences:


  1. 1.A PEP-NET workshop should be organized along a specific question; the question remains the same in all conferences, yet provokes hopefully very different results since the participants of the respective workshops have very different backgrounds (e.g. scientists, politicians, NGO-practitioners).
  1. 2.PEP-NET should always be presented in a short introduction, maybe also with the help of graphic displays (e.g. banner, stand-up displays, buttons).
  1. 3.The working group will design a leaflet, which contains information about upcoming conferences, a short whois and maybe contact details; the leaflet will be circulated among the PEP-NET members and should also be handed out to the participants of PEP-NET workshops.
  1. 4.Each PEP-NET workshop should start with the findings of the previous workshop and try to complement the views.

4) The results of PEP-NET workshops are thought to be summed up in a conference proceeding, which will be posted in a specific section on our web-log. A right-frame-teaser could possibly be created for the homepage.

The members of the working group are happy to receive your comments, feedback, ideas or support on this initiative. We encourage you also to communicate the new PEP-NET slots on conferences and to create awareness of our new initiative.

The Blogger Grillo announces his candidature to the primaries for leading the Italian Democratic Party

14. July 2009 – 15:56 by University Bergamo

The Blogger Grillo, one of the most popular on the Italian blogosphere and famous comedian, has just announced ( ) his will to participate as candidate to the direct election of the national Secretary of the PD, the main Italian party of the Center-left (
The context of the Grillo’s provocative announcement is done by the recent results of the experimentation of the direct election of the party leadership promoted by the PD, born in 2008 from DS ( and Margherita ( The elections have been open to citizens non-members of the party and labelled as ‘primaries’. This experimentation has led to an upheaval of the internal balance, based on the previous electoral consent, concentrated in the left-wing and based on a territorial party structure, which has loosen much of its functions along the last two decades. The experimented model of primaries de facto made possible to the internal center-wing component to climb the leadership positions in the party.

According to the first declarations of the leaders of the Democratic party (PD), Grillo hasn’t the requirements established by the party’s Statute for being candidate to the primaries and the initiative of the famous Blogger seems untimely and “not worrying”. Nevertheless, the move of Grillo arises an interesting point about the relationship between emerging forms of online politics and the institutional domain.

As well know, the political movement of Grillo represents the most successful example of political usage of Internet in Italy, promoted by civil society. It is based on a Blog (, a networks of Meetup (, integrated with groups of activists routed all over the country and even abroad.
Among the huge of Italian online political experiences promoted by the institutional political actors (governments and political parties) no one has had the same success in terms of online audience involved and capacity of citizens mobilization.
It is to be stressed that the Grillo movement hasn’t a only-virtual nature: the former ‘actor’ Grillo has promoted several campaigns of petitions, class actions and so on, mainly focused on freedom of information, moralization of economic ( and political life (, culminating in mass events, involving hundreds of thousand of Italian citizens and in the participation to the last electoral competition at local level (
The case of Grillo political movement is also exemplary of the persisting gap between online sphere and the offline and mainstream media system, which play little attention to his initiatives, even in case of wide mass mobilizations (For the main features, limits and strengths of the Grillo experience in the Italian e-participation context see for example - pp. 66-85).

The announcement of Grillo adopts the rhetoric of an act of strong criticism against the political class, which wouldn’t be open to the new emerging contents and forms of citizens participation – such environment, consumers and digital rights and information freedom – particularly intermediated by the Internet. On the other side, the reaction of the PD (who is facing an important phase of internal transformation after the last electoral defeats) doesn’t seem to give evidence to a more cautious consideration about what is happening on the Net, independently of the specific case of Grillo, although relevant.
What is clear is that the accusation of ‘anti-politics’ arisen against Grillo in the past, both by the national media system and political elite, requires to be reconsidered, unless it is explicitly acknowledged that anti-politics discourse has increasingly become a fundamental arrow of the arch of many contemporary political leaders.

Anna Carola Freschi

(University of Bergamo)

Public services 2.0 - open declaration

10. July 2009 – 13:00 by Hanss-Christian Lange

During the past month we could see that web 2.0 is THE important issue for the communication of the citizens in the nearest future. Not even citizens use the advantages of twitter or facebook. A lot of politicians put information on and let people participate and discuss different topics.

We see an important development in the communication between the different target groups. The communication is in a change from using e-mail (oneway) to blog, twitter and collaboration. The public sector has to face this fact and be a part of the development. For example people want to discuss issues whenever they want and when they are relavant for them - not only when there are elections or they are asked. When you have a close look at the social-networks you recognise an extraordinary transparency in the way people act and react.

On one hand this could be a chance in presenting E-Government-Services and E-Participation in a new kind of way and in a way “web citizens” want to act. On the other hand the public sector should to be driven by the society without loosing it`s reliability and seriousness. But the public sector also has to deliver as much value to the citizens as possible. Therefore it is important to put this topic in a wider context so we get as much people as possible to participate at the new developments. It is a matter of fact that beeing a founding member of the EU eparticipation network PEP-NET we take these developments serious and should put them on top of our agenda.

We should to take an interest in the discussion “Declaration on Public Services 2.0” to get an impression of whats the matter with this and what do involved parties think about this issue.

“Young people, citizenship and participative democracy”

10. July 2009 – 11:25 by Roberto Zarro

The Municipality of Reggio Emilia will hold, from the 18th till the 20th of November 2009, the 9th “Conferenza annuale dell’Osservatorio Internazionale di Democrazia Partecipativa (OIDP)” (Annual Conference of the International Observatory of Participative Democracy). The Conference will be dedicated this year to the topic “Young people, citizenship and participative democracy. Dialogue about policies and experiences who build citizenship starting from new generations”. Read the rest of this entry »

Social separation very real in the online realm

8. July 2009 – 10:31 by Bengt Feil

“Many of us believe that technologies can be these great equalizers”. This statement by Danah Boyd at the Personal Democracy Forum 2009 holds true. Many of us do believe that technology can be an equalizer but it seems that this believe may not be true for popular social networks such as Myspace and Facebook.

According to Ms. Boyd Myspace can be called the “ghetto of the digital landscape” while Facebook is frequented by the “white, educated and privileged”. Besides the fact that there are very different demographics on these two social networks it has also been found that the divide between these user groups is very hard to overcome. Ms. Boyd goes so far as to state that: “There’s a cultural wall between users” and “If there’s no way for people to communicate across the divide, you can never expect them to do so.” This shortened result is based on a four year dissertation study called “Taken Out of Context - American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics” and is summarized in her paper for the PDF “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online”. Read the rest of this entry »

España pide un mayor papel de la ONU en Gobernanza Económica Internacional

7. July 2009 – 14:47 by ASAEL

España se pronunció a favor de que Naciones Unidas tenga un mayor papel en la gobernanza económica internacional, según dijo hoy ante el organismo multilateral, dedicados a buscar una solución a la crisis económica global, su secretaria de Estado de Cooperación Internacional, Soraya Rodríguez.

Para lograrlo, las autoridades de Madrid pidieron reforzar el Consejo Económico y Social (ECOSOC), “para convertirlo así en el foro de referencia indiscutible en los debates sobre el desarrollo económico y social”, sin necesidad de crear nuevos organismos.

El Gobierno español, explicó, apuesta por un ECOSOC reforzado, con mayores recursos humanos, con un mandato ampliado y más claro, y que cuente con una verdadera red de expertos independientes de apoyo para proporcionar evidencia científica a sus decisiones.

También dijo que el papel de la ONU en la gobernanza económica internacional “no debe ser excluyente, sino al contrario, debe ser complementario” al de otros foros como el G-20 o al que realizan las instituciones financieras internacionales, en la gestión del sistema internacional en materias monetarias, financieras y comerciales.

Otros participantes en los debates, como el presidente de Ecuador, Rafael Correa, y otros representantes latinoamericanos abogaron porque sea exclusivamente la ONU la que centre los debates sobre las soluciones a la crisis económica global y su impacto en el mundo del desarrollo.