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Technology use in the 2009 South African elections

20. April 2009 – 13:44 by Danish Technological Institute

by Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, Danish Technological Institute

Much has been reported about the successful campaigning, fund raising and support canvassing by the 2008 Obama election campaign. Still the use of ICT to increase electoral participation, campaigning, consultation and voting is not a uniquely US phenomena. A multitude of eParticipation and eDemocracy initiatives exist. Ranging from eVoting in Estonia’s and Geneva’s national and regional elections, gender budgeting in Freiburg, consultation on local issues in Malmö to the political influence of bloggers in China or in the 2008 election crisis in Kenya. Information communication technology (ICT) in other words plays an increasingly important role in society.

As South Africans go to the polling stations on 22 April 2009, campaigning is being played out in traditional media (TV, radio, print), on the internet, on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, in text messages/sms’s with street banners and in rallies across the country.

A full 173 parties – 134 at national level plus 39 purely provincial parties – are officially registered for the 2009 elections. Of these the four main ones are (alphabetic order):

  • ANC - African National Congress and currently in power with the support, in a tripartite alliance, of the smaller South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
  • COPE – Congress of the People in 2008 by formed members of the ANC
  • DA – Democratic Alliance and currently the official opposition
  • IFP – Inkatha Freedom Party a mainly regional party centered on the province of KwaZulu-Natal

Each of the main parties makes use of ICT in some form and in variety of ways and degrees. The table below outlines the use of websites and social networks (or Web2.0 technologies). Read the rest of this entry »

Living Labs are truly alive

15. January 2009 – 11:38 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Participation supported by electronic tools is not just limited to political topics – this has been stated in relation to eParticipation in many discussions. Keeping this in mind the Living Lab approach which aims at involving users and stakeholders into research and development processes by using innovative often time’s electronic ways of organising cooperation is a close cousin of eParticipation. Yesterday I visited the Living Labs Information Day held by the European Commission in Brussels. This event gave me an overview of the LL activity in Europe and the possibilities arising from this trend for player from the eParticipation field.

The projects presented at this event ranged from research in wearable computing involving test sites in the Aerospace, Construction and Automobile industry (wearIT@work) to projects working on environmental friendly lighting in urban areas and different developers of ICT tools sets to making working in a Living Lab context easier. Almost all research and innovation field were present at the event and could make a convincing case that the LL approach is significantly helping them to produce innovation in their field. Besides the variety of participants the number of ca. 250 also spoke to the importance of this approach. In the European Network of Living Labs alone more than 100 LL are involved. The EC also supports this community using different programmes but the representatives where clear that the EC´s job is to support the cross border aspects and not the local or regional development.

The complexity of LL project is very high as dozens and more stakeholders have to be involved in a multi-step development process. The deep experience of the eParticipation community to organise complex communication processes and to work out conflicts in these processes could be of great help to the many different Living Labs active in Europe. It therefore is useful to build contacts into the LL community and try to find possibilities to gain advantages from each other. On concrete step in this direction could be to look for potential partners for future project proposals to the European Commission in that community.