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<nettime> UK Government's Major E-Democracy Push - Articles, Releases, K
Steven Clift on Sat, 27 Oct 2001 03:12:03 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> UK Government's Major E-Democracy Push - Articles, Releases, Key Speech (A BIG DEAL)



I am on the look out for other government-led "e-democracy" efforts (at
any level) similiar to the recent UK announcements (see below).  If you
are interested in this issue, join my 2200 person Democracies Online
Newswire e-mail annoucement list <http://www.e-democracy.org/do> for
updates on this new e-government trend.

Thanks,
Steven Clift
Democeracies Online Newswire



*** Democracies Online Newswire - http://www.e-democracy.org/do ***

The "e-democracy" shot heard around the world.

The UK government has just announced a major e-democracy policy. Yes, a
government-led e-democracy agenda.

In my opinion, e-government will succeed only if it stands on two equal
legs - service and democracy.  I expect that many leading governments
around the world will take up the UK's call and launch their own
e-democracy initiatives to build a more balanced and successful approach
to e-government.

This is a completely new phase in the evolution of thought about
government's democratic role in the information age - that of an initiator
and actor and not simply a reactor to political and civic uses of the
Internet that wash over their old forms of decision- making while elected
and appointed officials feel helpless without the online tools required to
be better representatives.

Think of this new movement as "Representative E-Government," where the
two-way Internet is integrated into the governance and representation
process on par with the provision of online transaction services.  The
alternative is a services first approach that automates the government
services that people no longer want in a way the increases the power of
administration over elective representatives and citizens.  What the UK
government has done is break through the narrow notion that e-democracy is
about outsiders pushing for online voting about everything.  Instead,
building e-democracy is a fundamental responsibility of a legitimate
democratic nation in the information age.

Hooray.

Below are links to some news coverage, a press release from the UK Prime
Minister's office, the major speech given by Douglas Alexander the
Minister for E-commerce and Competitiveness, and another more detailed
press release from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Steven Clift
Democracies Online
http://www.e-democracy.org/do


Press coverage about the e-democracy policies announced by the UK
government:

E-democracy moves up the agenda
  http://www.ukauthority.com/articles/story378.asp
UK Govt calls for e-democracy
  http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/22477.html

Some semi-related coverage:

Blair 'big bang' theory to delay freedom act (Not all rosey)
 http://politics.guardian.co.uk/whitehall/story/0,9061,581045,00.html
Labour MP calls for e-mail democracy (Oct 22, related)
  http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-2001364829,00.html


>From the UK Prime Minister:
http://www.number-10.gov.uk/news.asp?NewsId=2840&SectionId=30

Opportunities for democracy in the information age

The Government has called on the technology and internet community to work
alongside it to open up new ways to encourage participation in the
democratic process.

E-commerce minister, Douglas Alexander said they could play a leading role
in opening up new democratic channels, including:

- New online voting, making the voting process more convenient and
accessible;

- electronic public participation, providing enhanced opportunities to
participate in the democratic process between elections.

Mr. Alexander also outlined the next phase of the UK online campaign that
aims to enable everyone to make the most of the internet and make the UK a
leader in the knowledge economy. The next phase of the campaign is
designed to raise awareness and understanding of UK online, and will
involve a national TV advertising campaign and provide an integrated
contact centre.


The second phase of UK online campaign will include:

- An integrated consumer focused publicity campaign, involving TV
advertising beginning in November;
- A core UK online campaign run alongside a UK online for business
campaign;
- An integrated contact centre providing a service to answer any UK
online enquiry directing people to their nearest UK online centre or
People's Network Library;
- A new campaign website.

In a speech to the Democracy in the Information Age Conference Mr.
Alexander said:

"Getting people back into the democratic process is a huge challenge. New
technology will help to empower people, encouraging them into and,
strengthening the democratic process. I believe it is time to put
e-democracy on the information age agenda and, for governments to set out
what they mean by e-democracy and how they intend to use the power of
technology to strengthen democracy."


The Full Speech From:
http://www.dti.gov.uk/ministers/speeches/alexander251001.html

Douglas Alexander MP
Conference on Democracy in the Information Age


Thursday, October 25, 2001


Can I thank Wilton Park, the British Council and the Hansard Society for
the opportunity to address this conference on Democracy in the Information
Age.

The attacks of September 11 are a reminder that we cannot take democracy
for granted. It is fitting that over the next few days we will discuss how
we can harness the power of technology for good - to strengthen our
democratic systems.

It is an indication of the importance of this subject that, even during
these difficult days, so many people have travelled here from all over the
world to take part in this conference. I welcome you all as fellow
democrats.

New technologies are already having an effect on our democracies; there is
no doubt about that. From experiments in remote electronic voting in the
Netherlands and on-line consultations in Sweden and the UK to Stephen
Clift's Democracies Online Newswire in the US, a defining feature of the
Internet is its interactivity. As such it has the capacity to greatly
increase our capacity to participate at all levels in democratic
processes.

Turning now to the part new technologies may play in democratic life, I
would like to begin by placing the discussion in the broader context of
the role of the Internet in modern representative democracy. I'll seek to
clearly identify some specific underpinning principles that must be
satisfied before we can claim the Internet as a truly democratic tool.

Firstly then, a little context for this morning's discussion. Needless to
say we are only at a very early stage of understanding the full impact of
the internet on our democracies, and so it is only appropriate that I
begin by paying tribute to the e-Democracy Programme of the Hansard
Society, which has begun to probe many of the issues involved. I am
delighted that Stephen Coleman is working closely with my officials in the
Office of the e-Envoy to develop policies in this area.

I am also pleased to be able to announce at this conference the second
phase of the Government's UK Online campaign.

Started in October 2000, UK online is the national campaign to enable
everyone to make the most of the Internet.

Beginning in November, the objective for this second phase of UK online is
to create a bedrock of awareness and understanding of UK online, what it
is about and how individuals may use it to interact more directly with
government. With an integrated contact centre providing a service to cover
any UK online enquiry. The main UK online campaign in November will run
concurrently with a DTI campaign for UK online for business.

UK Online is both a vital part of our drive to become a leading knowledge
economy and also a new democratic channel.

As someone who played a central role in the recent General Election
Campaign I am acutely aware that the UK is facing a challenge along with
other countries within the European Union and the OECD is the decline in
participation in the democratic process.

High voluntary participation in elections is crucial for a healthy
democracy. Voting is a core democratic right and, by exercising it, people
choose their representatives and hold the government to account. The more
people who vote, the stronger the legitimacy of the decisions taken by the
elected representatives. The voluntary nature of the vote adds further
legitimacy. In the UK, the turnout of voters at local, national and
European elections is low, and seems to be falling.

The 2001 UK general election gave us the lowest turnout since universal
suffrage - only 59% of the electorate were sufficiently engaged in the
democratic process to take a stake in choosing their government. However,
delve below these headline figures and the warning is even more stark. The
detail of the demographics reveal that in the 18-25 age group over 60% did
not vote. This group represents the democrats of the future and, if
unaddressed, this level of disengagement would pose a threat to the
long-term health of our democratic institutions.

While a healthy representative democracy is dependent on people
voluntarily participating in elections, participation goes beyond voting.

The decline in formal participation could bring with it the risk of
reinforcing the exclusion of disadvantaged groups from the decision making
process and the potential to undermine proper democratic decision-making
procedures.

Addressing this democratic deficit represents a huge challenge. In the UK,
we have already embarked on an ambitious programme of democratic renewal -
from reinvigorating local democracy with directly elected mayors to the
new parliament in Scotland and new assemblies in Wales and Northern
Ireland - we have sought to move government closer to the people. Yet we
must go further, as Tony Blair wrote in his essay The Third Way

The democratic impulse needs to be strengthened by finding new ways to
enable citizens to share in the decision making that affects them...in a
mature society representatives will make better decisions if they take
full account of popular opinion and encourage public debate on the big
decisions affecting people's lives."

We must open up new democratic channels, through which government and
representatives can relate to citizens. We must make citizens feel
democratically empowered beyond their few seconds in the polling booth. We
have already taken some steps to make e-democracy a reality in the UK.

It is now possible to participate in government consultations online.
Citizen Space on ukonline.gov.uk has a central register of all government
consultations and provides opportunities both to search the listings and
also to register to receive an email when consultations take place on
specific subjects.

In terms of e-voting, some limited pilots have already taken place and
ministers have recently asked for new bids from local authorities to run
more e-voting pilots at the next local election in 2002.

I believe that it is now time to set all this activity into a clear policy
framework and put e-democracy on the information age agenda. Government
should set out what it means by e-democracy and how it intends to use the
power of technology to strengthen democracy.

I would like to share with you our thinking in this area and explore with
you the role new technologies may play. Of course the act of voting is,
and will remain, ultimately a political act. So declining turnout at
elections challenges all political parties - here and across the Western
democracies. That challenge is quintessentially to engage the support of
citizens and so inspire them to participate in the democratic process by
exercising their right to vote. So whilst of course I do not believe that
new technologies can solve all the problems of declining participation, I
believe they should form one part of a multi-faceted approach to
democratic renewal.

Facilitate Broaden and Deepen

As I see it, new technologies can serve democracy in three ways.
Technology can

- facilitate participation: make it easier for citizens to exercise
their democratic rights to access public information, follow the
political process, discuss and form groups on specific issues,
scrutinise government and vote in elections.

The UK Parliament site, for example, already gives people lots of
information via the Internet, including:

- a full record of debates in the Commons and Lords;

- details of issues under investigation by select committees and
their reports; and

- all bills before parliament.

- broaden participation: open up new channels for democratic
communication, to encourage involvement by people who, in the past, may
have felt excluded from the democratic process or unable to participate.
People who would not consider using traditional democratic forums and
channels, such as town hall meetings and political parties, should have
opportunities to use new technologies to make their voices heard.

Both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have run online
consultations. The Scottish Parliament also accepts online petitions -
 a feature that has also very recently been made available by the Prime
Minister on the Number 10 web-site.

- deepen participation: strengthen the connection between citizens and all
levels of representative institutions, citizens and government and groups
of citizens. People should be able to have a dialogue with their elected
representatives and government between elections on issues that concern
them.

For example, in March last year the Hansard Society's e-democracy
programme provided a facility which allowed women survivors of domestic
violence to give evidence online to the All-Party Domestic Violence Group.

An Approach - Two Tracks

In considering how we should take these objectives forward and our
approach is to adopt two separate, but inter-dependent tracks

First, Electronic Public participation. The use of the new technologies to
give citizens enhanced opportunities to participate in the democratic
process between elections

And second, Electronic Voting. The use of the new technologies to
facilitate participation through elections.

This separation reflects fundamental differences between the issues being
tackled in the two tracks:

- Introducing electronic voting is mainly a question of offering a package
of electronic services (such as online voting, registration, postal vote
application) in line with other online service initiatives. Of course
there are policy questions to consider as well, such as authentication and
security, but in broad terms, the act of casting and counting a vote can
be considered the "service" element of the democratic process.

- Facilitating participation between elections is much more complex. It
depends upon establishing new relationships between government - in its
broadest sense - and citizens, and using technology imaginatively to open
up new democratic channels through which people can participate.

It is important not to see either of these tracks in isolation. It seems
likely to me that re-connecting people to their representatives and
government and thereby re-engaging them in the democratic process overall
holds the potential to, over time, have a positive effect on election
turnout.

Underpinning Principles

But it is not enough to simply announce that the Internet can be a new
democratic tool. Indeed I am reminded of the words of the Prime Minister
in another context that "The internet is either an opportunity or a
threat". To stay true to our democratic instincts while fully realising
this opportunity we have a responsibility to ensure that it is:

- a tool that is available to all,

- effective as a means of democratic expression, and

- accepted as such by all the participants in the democratic process.

This is no easy task. I would like to suggest six key principles that
should underpin e-democracy:

Inclusion - a voice for all

Inclusive access to the Internet is a fundamental e-democracy issue. If
the Internet is to become a new democratic tool, through which people can
participate in the democratic process and influence events, it is vital
that everyone who wants it - irrespective of age, gender, occupation,
income, or geographical location - has access to it and the skills and
confidence to use it.

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show that levels of
home access to the Internet depend strongly on income. In 2000-2001 levels
of household access were low in lower income groups, around 5 to 7 per
cent. For the middle income and above groups the levels increase rapidly
with income, to 71 per cent for households with the highest incomes.

However, access through a PC in the home is not the only way to get
online. Already we have over 1500 UK online centres currently open around
the country, in high street shops, village halls, schools and libraries,
even mobile centres. In addition Digital TVs, which are rapidly becoming
capable of computer-like interactivity are more common in people's homes
and may eventually turn out to be the method of choice for getting online.
I am confident that we will succeed in our goal of ensuring that everyone
who wants it will have access to the Internet.

Security and privacy - a trusted space

Secure online communications are crucial if citizens are to accept them as
a means of democratic participation. Of course this is vital when we
consider electronic voting and before any electronic voting system can be
established, we must ensure that the it meets security standards at least
as high as current manual systems.

Responsiveness - listening to the people

In order to attract people to get involved in online consultations and
discussions, it is vital that government and representatives demonstrate
their commitment to listening to and learning from the contributions that
are made and to respond to them in a timely and transparent way. As
millions of people log on and speak out the challenge to elected
representatives is clear. There are vital issues to consider here; not
least of which will be the resources that will be required to handle
increased participation.

Deliberation - making the most of people's ideas

We must provide a trusted online environment that allows everyone to have
his or her say. As well as technical security, it will require skilled
moderation based upon agreed rules to ensure that contributors are treated
fairly by each other and that important contributions are noticed. I do
not mean that people's personal styles of expression should be curtailed
or debates confined to the traditional language of politics. Letting
citizens tell their own stories and make their own contributions in their
own way is as much a part of e-democracy as creating links between
citizens and democratic institutions.

Openness - the provision of public information

Certainly, in the UK The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives all people
a general right to access information held by public authorities. The
Internet has already destroyed geographic and other boundaries that
previously constrained newspaper readership. From my PC it is as easy to
access the New York Times or the Jerusalem Post as it is to access the
Guardian. Yet at the same time as these developments our main Public
Service Broadcaster the BBC is sufficiently concerned about the public's
response to the coverage of the recent General Election that it has
initiated a major review of its political coverage. So we need to consider
how to ensure not just access but also accessibility - ensuring that the
public is empowered to access the information they need to form and
express their views.

E-Democracy Charter - informing people of their rights and
responsibilities

Crucial for trust and willingness to participate is that clear information
is provided,in advance, of what citizens can expect when participating in
government online consultations, discussions and electronic voting
arrangements.

The Role for Representatives

Beside the practical questions raised by these underpinning principles,
there is a broader and related question of what role the Internet will
play in representative democracy. Just as the Internet has not, as some
suggested, rewritten every rule of economics, neither will it rewrite
every rule of politics, but undoubtedly significant change will occur in
the years to come.

To some, such as the erstwhile Clinton electoral strategist, Dick Morris,
the Internet heralds a new era of Jeffersonian direct democracy.200 years
on from the town meetings of the early republic, according to Morris, the
Internet has the capacity to re-connect elected representatives to their
electorates.

In so many other areas of our economy and society, the Internet is rapidly
removing intermediaries. Whether through e-commerce, the provision of
legal advice, stock trading, the Internet threatens the role of groups who
have historically drawn power from their privileged access to knowledge
and, in general, this is something to be welcomed.

However, in terms of e-democracy in the UK context we need to understand
that it is not our purpose to use technology to circumvent elected
representatives. By improving and increasing opportunities for
participation by the widest range of people we must seek to strengthen the
role of elected representatives and help them better represent the people
who elected them. As the Select Committee on Public Administration
commented in it sixth report

"the health of representative and participative democracy are intertwined"

We are only starting to understand how the internet can contribute to the
health and strength of representative democracy.

At a personal level, I am one of the Members of Parliament with a web-
site so I would like to close by offering a few thoughts on the role of
political web sites.

Many MPs are at a stage where the web-site is essentially a brochure
publicising their work to their constituents. In future, the possibilities
for interaction online will mean that constituents will be able to
eliminate the traditionally higher cost and longer time frames to contact
Members of Parliament and harness the capacity for dialogue the Internet
provides.

Some campaigners and organisations such as Jubilee 2000 have already
developed this capability whereby electronic postcards are sent directly
to Members of Parliament. In the years to come we can anticipate that as
major votes beckon constituents will use the opportunity provided by the
internet to contact their Member of Parliament to express their views and
in turn expect a response from the MP explaining their conduct.

Of course this will offer a major challenge both to the organisation of
MPs office and their work more generally but few of us would doubt the
fact that the turnout at the most recent election challenges all of us to
seek a new means by which the elected representatives and the electorate
maintain contact and dialogue.

It will mean a significant challenge for politicians but I believe a
significant step forward as a new channel opens up between the
politicians, government and the people.

So I am grateful to have been granted the opportunity to address this
conference. Even amidst these difficult days it is important to take time
to glimpse the possibilities offered for participative and representative
democracy at the dawn of this new century. The challenge is great, but so
too is the opportunity. That is why your deliberations are of such
importance and why I wish you every success for the remainder of the
Conference.

Thank you very much.



Another Press Release From:
http://213.38.88.195/coi/coipress.nsf/7e4cd219f1e58adf802565250034fa39/eca70
dbb4d8645f380256af00037cba1?OpenDocument


P/2001/583

25 October 2001

ALEXANDER: OPPORTUNITIES FOR DEMOCRACY IN THE INFORMATION AGE

Alexander also announces next phase of UK online campaign

E-commerce minister, Douglas Alexander, called on the technology and
internet community to work with Government to open up new ways to
encourage participation in the democratic process.

He said they could play a leading role in opening up new democratic
channels, including:

- New online voting, making the voting process more convenient and
accessible; and

- electronic public participation, providing enhanced opportunities to
participate in the democratic process between elections.

Alexander also outlined the next phase of the UK online campaign that aims
to enable everyone to make the most of the internet and make the UK a
leader in the knowledge economy. The next phase of the campaign is
designed to raise awareness and understanding of UK online, and will
involve a national TV advertising campaign and provide an integrated
contact centre.

In a speech to the Democracy in the Information Age Conference Douglas
Alexander said:

"Getting people back into the democratic process is a huge challenge. In
the UK we have already embarked upon an ambitious programme to tackle
this. New technology will help to empower people, encouraging them into
and, strengthening the democratic process. I believe it is time to put
e-democracy on the information age agenda and, for governments to set out
what they mean by e-democracy and how they intend to use the power of
technology to strengthen democracy.

"We must open up new democratic channels, through which government and
representatives can relate to citizens. We must make citizens feel
democratically empowered beyond their few seconds in the polling booth.

"UK online is a vital part of our drive to become a leading knowledge
economy, and is a key part of the process of opening up new democratic
channels."

In order to make internet technology an effective tool for e-democracy,
available to all, Alexander laid out six basic principles for success:

- Information, to inform people of their rights and responsibilities;

- Inclusive access to the internet. Everyone who wants it has access and
the skills and confidence to use it;

- Security and Privacy. Secure online communication is essential if people
are to accept it a means of democratic participation;

- Listening to the people. Government and its representatives must respond
in a timely and transparent way to contributions;

- Making the most of people's ideas. The need to establish rules which
ensure that contributors are treated fairly by each other; and

- Openness. Access to public information is a cornerstone of democracy,
but this must include accessibility, ensuring that the public is empowered
to access the information they need to form and express their views.

The second phase of UK online campaign will include:

- An integrated consumer focused publicity campaign, involving TV
advertising beginning in November;

- A core UK online campaign run alongside a UK online for business
campaign;

- An integrated contact centre providing a service to answer any UK online
enquiry directing people to their nearest UK online centre or People's
Network Library; and

- A new campaign website.

Notes for Editors

1. Democracy in the Information Age - Wilton Park Conference is taking
place between 24-27 October. Wilton Park is an Executive Agency of the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the conference has been organised in
association with the British Council and Hansard Society.

2. The Office of the e-Envoy (OeE) and Department of Transport, Local
Government and the Regions (DTLR) take the lead in developing and
implementing e-democracy within central government. The OeE will also
provide guidelines, promote best practice, monitor progress and lead on
the development of internationally agreed technical standards required to
support e-voting. A number of central government departments are involved
in developing e-democracy, including the Department of Trade and Industry,
Cabinet Office, the Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales Offices,
Department for Education and Skills and the Improvement and Development
Agency.

Public Enquiries: 020 7215 5000 Textphone for those with hearing
impairments: 020 7215 6740 Internet: www.dti.gov.uk












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