technologies-and-citizens

Democracy Technologies And Citizen Participation

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This sub-section talks about the political dimension of democracy technologies.

A major part of this sub-section covers the citizen´s perspective on democratic technology projects, risks linked to using democratic technologies, and the security concerns involved in the process.

The modern era of democratic technologies and citizen participation has evolved political aspects among citizens. It helps them to associate with political leaders, engage in political activism, and express their ideas on political issues. Platforms on social media are also being used by electoral campaigns to appeal to voters. Due to technical advancements, democratization has become more accessible and convenient.

  • ONLINE PORTALS AND STATE OFFICIALS:

State officials may use Online services as a low-cost way to communicate with voters, and it gets the job done well enough for younger voters who get most of their data or information online. Electoral authorities can acquire various technology options online (Miller & Vaccari, 2020) as the modern era ensures that technological advancements are easily accessible to everyone. E-voting has significant importance in Europe as it reduces the mere or many possibilities of false vote counts, corruption in voting, favoritism, dishonesty, and manipulation.

Electronic voting is advancing democratic technologies and citizen participation in politicians and the state’s affairs. It gives them a sense of freedom and democracy with the help of online sites and e-voting panels; other than that. Citizens can now more easily interact and get to know the policies of every politician ruling their country or the nominees in the electoral process. In several countries, democratic systems are being interrupted. The sphere of political parties and elections may be where the greatest gulf exists between the public and institutions. (Bennett et al., 2018) Amid this upheaval, it is perplexing that the populist right parties have performed better in elections than the left. The core claim of the argument is that citizens on the left and the right have increasingly different preferences for how to set up the electoral connection between society and the state. A few new political entities and communication patterns that have emerged in the current economic and political instability may develop into new political institutions at the democratic interface. The statistics from European democracies, nevertheless, show a left-right disparity of citizen interest that supports political parties on the extreme right against this backdrop of change.

technologies-and-citizens

  • ENLARGEMENT OF E-VOTING:

As per the UN’s e-participation index (UN, 2016), e-participation is expanding worldwide. E-participation has advanced despite not just technology. Many European residents are encouraged to get more involved in their community today, notably by their state municipalities. Due to the financial crisis, budget cuts, civil service reform, and devolution of government operations, citizens are now expected to be more independent, taking up tasks that previously belonged to the government. At the same time, people want to get more active themselves. According to the UN report (2016), “civic activity of individuals desiring to have greater control over their lives are driving more of today’s improvements in e-participation.” Surveys show that most European citizens wish to be more involved in political decision-making, such as the European Value Studies (2008), which supports this. (Biegelbauer & Hansen, 2011)

One drawback that brings to my attention is that democratic technologies can only benefit if and only if a person understands technical complexities and is familiar with the usage of online sites.  (Factory, 2022)

  • CITIZENS’ VIEWS AND ENGAGEMENT IN DEMOCRACY TECHNOLOGIES:

Many citizens were interviewed in a recent survey to get their opinion about the impact of technological advancements in democracy and citizen participation in electoral campaigns, activities, e-voting, and choosing the right candidate to serve their country. Keeping in mind the pros of democratic technologies and the security threats and risks that come in parallel with it, most of the citizens provided their opinion in favor of the advanced technologies in the field of democracy as they are far more reliable and trustworthy than the conventional methods.

Citizens suggested that through blockchain technologies, a secure platform could be designed to serve as a single source of information for all citizens. There should be one application that could serve as a centralized platform having all the required and needed data. It can be made secure using SMS verification or 2 step authentications to make the data more secure.

According to the citizens, the people who show up while the expectations are high are the ones who have stronger feelings than the ones who do not. Despite a lot of skepticism in the politics regarding e-voting, Scytl, or even Assembly Voting, a secure one is possible.

Moreover, they think Blockchain tech must be integrated into the voting procedure along with all-in-one applications where the citizens can search for all the related data and personal files, etc. however, you must have your ID card to log in to the portal where you must validate offline.

  • RISKS FOR DEMOCRACY:

As per research, humans’ use of tech might distort democracy until 2030 because of the scope of reality distortion, surveillance capitalism’s effect, and mass media’s decline. However, some expect technology to strengthen democracy as the reformers search for methods for fighting against chaos and info-warriors.

According to 40 percent of the respondents, technology might weaken the core aspects of democratic representation within the next 10 years. However, 33 percent say otherwise, as they think technology will most probably enhance the core aspects of democratic representation. The remaining 18 percent think there might be no change within the next 10 years.

Some think the trust environment and information might worsen by 2030. They have fear due to the downward spiral to despair and disbelief tied to the protracted struggle of having issues with independent journalism. However, many of these people worry about the future of democracy due to the power these major tech agencies hold and the role they play in democratic discourse by exploiting the information they gain regarding the users.

Moreover, one of the experts feels that technology will weaken the core aspect of democracy because of the misuse of social media by spreading disinformation in a coordinated and strategic way to abuse people’s trust by convincing them to believe in whatever is not true (manipulation).

  • HOW E-VOTING IS NOT A PROBLEM:

Moving towards online voting, citizens believed that e-voting is no hassle at all. Instead, they think of voting machines, ballot papers, and physical elections as turmoil. The issue of voter confidence in the election is significant. In my opinion, you cannot confirm that your vote is included in the final count and is duly counted regardless if you use a voting machine or paper ballot. It seems to be a major issue.

Upon asking, the citizens made it clear that it is not only reliable online voting, but they believe that the entire system should be verified. Each voter should be able to comprehend and verify that their ballot has been correctly counted using a verifiable voting mechanism. This can take place online, at voting machines, or on paper.

Since many advancements are made in democracy and citizens’ involvement using technologies, people are now more comfortable with voting online, as a citizen said that him/her nobody wants to vote on paper in their opinion. They believe that people will be content to use voting machines. There are a few factors that relate to online voting. There is a tremendous chance to make it much more secure thanks to modern technologies.

  • HOW THE ONLINE PORTALS CAN BE MADE MORE SECURE:

The problem discussed by a citizen regarding how to make the system secure and desirable is the cost and inducement. The incentive is a facet of the situation that hasn’t been fully resolved up to this point, or even now, with the bulk of available solutions on the market. No corporate will find the need to make significant investments in the election voting process since they do not see the incentive in it; as per them, the investment in this regard will not make them anywhere near to the market leaders even in the next five years. The development of this safety system, which is based on cryptography and will be verifiable, open-source work in the community, extensively documented, and well-tested, will cost tens of millions of dollars. Online voting requires modifications to the laws because they govern elections. However, there are some areas of public voting and citizen decision-making where no modifications to the legislation are necessary. There must be referendums.

Apart from this, the companies playing a negative role must be taken control over. The ones who are optimistic expect to implement positive solutions to these issues and expect people to adapt those ways and use the tech positively to combat the issues that democracy might face.

  • SECURITY CONCERNS AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM:

As far as the security issues are concerned, the one way to overcome them is to use barriers as well as filters; two-step methods of verification should be used but accept low barriers to make them more accessible. To clarify, when we talk about security issues, we know that spam usage on the platforms and the influx of trolls and spam users are the security threat. Many platforms, in my opinion, are going through that. Without a reliable authentication system, you run the danger of getting spam. A stronger authentication method will result in a much greater barrier to participation. Accepting a lower bar and investing in moderation are two ways to get around this. That is one approach to dealing with the security concerns that come with democratic technologies to enhance citizens’ participation. Finding a good balance between verification and barriers is the way to move forward. It is no rocket science to achieve as many countries already do what we intend to seek and implement. The spam usage needs to be filtered out and blocked.

The majority of governments worldwide are currently shifting to the digital era, and for us, the next step will be online voting. The procedures are in place. We currently have robust measures in place to ensure that your vote won’t be compromised. Agencies must adopt this protocol and security status to make their applications safe. Then sooner or later, I think, we can go towards online elections for a government official.

  • ELECTOBOX; THE END-TO-END ENCRYPTED APPLICATION:

Another citizen gave their opinion regarding the security issues by bringing attention to an application named electobox. As far as their opinion is concerned, they emphasized the importance of a trustworthy and end-to-end encrypted connection. A reliable platform is one of the gaps. To authenticate the accuracy of a vote, an online voting platform must be able to demonstrate the voting process from the time a vote is cast until it is counted. Electobox performs that precise function. It is an application that is both end-to-end encrypted and end-to-end verified. This is only possible if you have a robust cryptographic system capable of doing it. Not all applications offer this level of protection, which is a significant gap in the market at the current moment.

Blockchain technology is more public even if the information is encrypted, so it is not being used properly now. It is a national issue; a technical person is needed to get the job done.

  • DEBATE CONCERNING E-VOTING FOR GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS:

Whenever we mention online voting for public office, there is always controversy about whether it is safe and secure. In reality, it is safe, and we must put our trust in whatever technology we use. High protocols and secure network connections are used in the electronic voting system, and citizens trust it. To make it more reliable, we must use online voting applications in our daily routines to find out what happens in such applications and how they perform our voting system safely.

To be précised, the interviewer asked plenty of questions regarding security concerns, threats, fraudulent vote count, user security, citizens’ participation and satisfaction regarding personal data and information being fetched or leaked through such online voting platforms, and how the concerned person’s application is going to help citizens and make e-voting more reliable. The answers were satisfactory, and the doubts regarding the mentioned factors were clear e-voting will take over physical voting if the right investors are ready to invest. The public’s opinion is in favor of it.

Another statement that cleared confusion regarding sign-in and how to know if your vote is cast: is that you’ll also get an email or a text message throughout the voting process, and you’ll need to use those three credentials to log in. It is the most popular method. They use single sign-on for institutions of higher learning and other highly coordinated industries. You already log into your university’s site as a voter to perform other tasks, which means that this method is safe and secure.

ID verification, two-factor authorization, face verification through ID, and name checks all ensure that no one else can pretend to be you. Other than that, many other security factors discussed in the interview make it easier for citizens to clear their security threats; it gives them a better understanding of how these applications work and how they can be more reliable than physical voting. These democratic technologies can surely encourage more citizens to participate in electoral activities because electronic voting makes the voting process hassle-free.

E-voting technologies appear to be on track to (Rodrigues-Filho et al., 2006) expand in confidentiality and dependability over the coming years, and many nations will likely embrace them.

In the risk society, it is argued that models of democratic decision-making should accept that new “interactive” policy-making practices come in various forms. Further research and conceptualization are needed to understand these activities’ interactions better. (Hajer & Kesselring, 1999)

  • HOW TECHNOLOGY HAS EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS:

Few could have imagined in the 1960s what an inadequate academic network of four mainframe computers spread across various universities, and research institutions would do to the development of communications. This was the forerunner to the modern internet, which has about 1.4 billion users globally. Broadband connections, or high-speed internet connections, are now seen as essential goods in the global village market and are used as important economic indicators. Information systems (IS) and technical advancements have assumed a crucial role in storing, process, and delivering reliable information when needed. The demand for technological advancements and information systems is influencing the global economy, which puts pressure on the knowledge curve to keep up with connecting with their population through cutting-edge technologies; nations and states worldwide are exploring new territories at the start of the third millennium. Exploring ways to boost participation in democracy and sovereign institutions has become more important in light of technological development since electronic participation channels offer a bi-directional communication channel between the “people” and their elected representatives. Electronic governments now exist everywhere thanks to several information rules and tools developed over the past several years. Electronic government services have steadily improved since they were first introduced, expanding in accessibility and sophistication. From an “initial online presence, through a small number of individual governmental pages,” to a “fully integrated presence, which has the potential to span departments and layers,” e-governments have been progressing. (Zissis & Lekkas, 2011)

THE MOTIVE BEHIND THE RESEARCH:

This research uses a goal-driven methodology to achieve the main goals outlined in the EU’09 initiative and pertinent regulations, such as improving collaboration (Garnett & James, 2020) in e-Government by boosting business interoperability and citizen participation while achieving the goals of openness, flexibility, and sustainability. This essay’s first half discusses cloud computing as a novel technology and operational model for information systems (IS). It systematically examines the advantages associated with its use in e-Government. The following section introduces electronic voting as a crucial component for enhancing citizen collaboration by boosting public involvement in decision-making. The concept of security is examined in this context because it has been determined that security is the greatest obstacle to the widespread use of electronic voting IS. Election technology use is not necessarily a recent development. There has been a slow advancement in the use of technology in election management, starting with the introduction of radio and television for campaign advertising and ending with the use of computer-based technologies in local election offices. But it seems like technology in elections has expanded in recent years. When we think of new technology in elections, electronic voting and Internet voting frequently come to mind first. However, a range of diverse players has utilized technologies at various levels of the management and contestation of elections. This article’s usage of the electoral cycle concept highlights that elections are one-day occurrences. As the election season approaches, new technologies, particularly the Internet and social media, have introduced new kinds of campaigning and difficulties. Political parties, candidates, or outside interest groups may be able to directly target and advertise to voters based on their internet preferences and activity. In today’s elections, campaigns pay companies to gather data on voters’ internet behaviors and preferences to create tailored adverts (Persily 2017). Election day and the days that follow are the last phases of the electoral cycle. In this case, we are interested in how votes are cast and counted and whether the outcomes are upheld. It is crucial to remember that voting often occurs over days, either because of rolling election dates (like in India’s elections) or because of chances for early voting by mail or in person. However, the use of technology in the casting and tallying ballots is likely one of the oldest lines of research involving the use of technology in elections, regardless of whether voting occurs on a single day, over several days, online, or in person. Here, we often distinguish between e-voting, which involves using technology at the polls, such as DREs (direct-recording electronic voting), where a computerized device is used for both the casting and the counting of the ballot, or optical scanning machines, where the vote is cast on paper but counted with the aid of technology; and I-voting, which involves using personal technology away from any polling station, as in the case of online voting (MIT El). Regarding their potential to support (or undermine) safe, accurate, accessible, and trusted elections, each technological alternative for voting and counting votes has drawn some attention.

It is not immediately clear why trust should be of concern to democracy theorists, unless possibly as a typical feature of novel techniques for keeping an eye on and reining in those in authority, operating under the presumption (Warren, 1999) that, generally speaking, individuals in authority cannot or shouldn’t be trusted. First and foremost, democracy is about managing, dispersing, and restraining power. Furthermore, an unwelcome or inescapable byproduct of autocratic forms of rule and decision-making. After all, mistrust of rulers frequently catalyzes democratic growth. Innovations in democratic institutions democracy in this sense seem to be most required when people who claim to be trustworthy are revealed to have misused their position of trust. Undoubtedly, mistrust is necessary for democracy to advance and, we may speculate, for the healthy skepticism of authority that democracy’s existence depends upon. Although not all forms of trust are beneficial for democracy, it is becoming increasingly obvious that certain are essential to its stability, viability, and vibrancy, as the essays in this collection demonstrate. Therefore, the challenge for democratic theory is to imagine the kind of trust that is both desirable and essential for democracy and how democratic institutions may preserve, promote, or create these types of trust relationships that are desirable in and of themselves. I want to lay out a democratic philosophy of trust in this chapter. I’ll go in the following order. In the first section, I explain the strained and frequently antagonistic interactions between political and trust-based relationships.

REFERENCES:

Bennett, W. L., Segerberg, A., & Knüpfer, C. B. (2018). The democratic interface: Technology, political organization, and diverging patterns of electoral representation. Information, Communication & Society, 21(11), 1655–1680. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1348533

Biegelbauer, P., & Hansen, J. (2011). Democratic theory and citizen participation: Democracy models in the evaluation of public participation in science and technology. Science and Public Policy, 38(8), 589–597. https://doi.org/10.3152/030234211X13092649606404

Factory, P. (2022, November 28). 5 Reasons to Avoid Online-Only Participation. Democracy Technologies. https://democracy-technologies.org/getting-started/5-reasons-to-avoid-digital-only-participation/

Garnett, H. A., & James, T. S. (2020). Cyber Elections in the Digital Age: Threats and Opportunities of Technology for Electoral Integrity. Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy, 19(2), 111–126. https://doi.org/10.1089/elj.2020.0633

Hajer, M., & Kesselring, S. (1999). Democracy in the risk society? Learning from the new politics of mobility in Munich. Environmental Politics, 8(3), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644019908414477

Miller, M. L., & Vaccari, C. (2020). Digital Threats to Democracy: Comparative Lessons and Possible Remedies. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 25(3), 333–356. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161220922323

Rodrigues-Filho, J., Alexander, C. J., & Batista, L. C. (2006). E-voting in Brazil—The risks to democracy (R. Krimmer, Ed.; pp. 85–94). Bregenz. http://www.e-voting.cc/stories/2510688/

Warren, M. E. (1999, October). Democratic theory and trust. Democracy and Trust; Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511659959.011

Zissis, D., & Lekkas, D. (2011). Securing e-Government and e-Voting with an open cloud computing architecture. Government Information Quarterly, 28(2), 239–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2010.05.010

 

author

Bakhtawar S Usmani

I am an all-rounder in a world full of barbies! Keeper of multiple birds and cats. I may make punctuation mistakes, but they come up for turning into a crore or two extra. Thus, a well-placed crore seems a better choice for me.

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