Saturday, September 18, 2004

Canadian e-democracy

E-democracy and E-government: how will these affect libraries? - The Case of Canada from 68th IFLA Council and General Conference 2002

Meanwhile, at the federal level, Members of Parliament have yet to decide on electronic voting.
One of them, Reg Alcock, believes certain criteria will have to be met before MPs can accept the introduction of electronic voting at the federal level. In an editorial published earlier this year, Mr. Alcock stated:

There must be a means of authenticating identity and there must be a secure channel for the transmission of the information. Once these conditions are met two important trends are enabled. First the ability to vote online will dramatically reduce the cost of voting. This in turn will allow more frequent use of referenda and will shift the balance of control from Parliament to citizens. Rather than voting once every four years, citizens will be able to express opinions more frequently. The impact will be greater accountability. Second…MPs will no longer have to be present to vote. This in turn will enhance the importance of their individual vote while reducing the importance of the place. The impact will be greater participation. (Canadian Parliamentary Review, Spring 2002, p. 2)

Following the most recent election, Reg Alcock maintains his position as President of the Treasury Board.

The guest editorial cited above was Parliament and Democracy in the 21st Century: The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies from Volume 25 no. 1, 2002.

Mr. Alcock is a big fan of technology. Here he is in the Canadian Parliamentary Review in 1994:

At the federal level one a number of projects and studies are underway but as one MP, Reg Alcock, stated, "At the present time, the "hill" does not have a node [on the Internet]. There is a proposal to establish one and I expect that we will be hooked up soon. I don't think it will change much in the near future. At the present time, as far as I can discern, I am the only member who makes use of the Internet; I have a lot of constituents on the Internet as I represent a university in my riding."

(Volume 17, No. 3 Autumn 1994, "E-Mail and Two Way Communication")
Close Reg, but you're way off, you're missing the need for secure data storage; guaranteed voter anonymity; a system that allows for a paper record of each transaction for use in the case where a recount is required, or where results cannot be sent electronically;...the list goes on.

The biggest problem is that politicians are lacking any real knowledge and are simply banking on acceptance due to increased access and convenience, and trumpeting its cost effectiveness, which I'm nowhere near to being convinced about. Any electronic voting system will require high levels of assurance in their ability to provide confidentiality, integrity, and availability; and that will not come cheap. And any system that I've seen that even comes close to meeting these requirements have still been terminal based and require voters to travel to a voting station...that's a requirement that will not be overcome, phone and internet voting are just not going to be acceptably secure.

And yet they are already being used...
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