Jusletter IT

Digital Democracy

Dear Readers

Not only economy, administration and social cohabitation undergo changes due to digitalisation. Democracy diversifies, too. First of all, it creates transparency and, in doing so, potentially brings politics, administration and citizens closer together. Both transposing and receiving data from each other simplifies. By this, a more efficient and effective collaboration and greater democratic control are made possible.

One undesirable side-effect is that by dint of the new wealth of information, fundamental information can de facto be shrouded. Information being accessible for those who are not entitled to them – due to the fact that stealing huge amounts of information from digital data bases is simpler than taking it from paper-based archives – is another unwelcome side-effect. Unfortunately, we are just beginning to understand these phenomena of transparency. A prospectively huge benefit in terms of a policy that can act much more resolutely in public welfare than it has hitherto is in opposition to great risks of versatile shapes.

Analogically, the same applies for the digitalisation of the democracy’s processes – from e-voting via digitised policy-making up to digital citizenships and social self-organisation in the web. Major chains of inhibition of whose existence we were not aware previously, since we merely understood the world in an analogue way, are being removed. Thereby, new risks arise in turn.

In light of the huge complexity of the topic Digital Democracy – and considering the awareness of knowing more we don’t know on a daily basis – this issue tries to have its cake and eat it: both articles regarding the basic and philosophic aspects and very specific articles with regard to specialist topics are being published.

Dirk Helbing, for example, shows why we need a democracy 2.0 and, with this, a digital democracy. The time has come to respond to the emergence of a data-driven democracy. On the basis of examples, he tries to answer if feudalism 2.0, fascism 2.0, communism 2.0, socialism 2.0, democracy 2.0 or capitalism 2.0 is the solution.

After Eric Dubuis’ comments on form, current status and outlook of digital democracy with the aid of definitions, Rolf H. Weber gives his view on transparency and open data. He states: «Redounding to transparency are both the opening of governmental data pools and the assembling of a national data infrastructure. The challenges for open data occurring due to digitalisation have to be met with consequence and seen as a chance for transparent administrative actions in the future.»

On the other hand, Matthias Stürmer cautions about relevant challenges and possible (bogus) arguments against open data in governance and shows what needs to be taken into account when valuating potential data bases for logical reasons.

Using the example of Austria, Günther Schefbeck introduces us into the electronic system supporting the legislative process established there in 2004. Even though these systems have grown to be European standard in time and provide generally free and equal access to the laws in force to the majority of Austrian citizens, by this creating transparency, a demand for legal knowledge management to support the citizens in context-sensitively interpreting the laws exists nonetheless.

Alongside with the topic of transparency, participation also looms large in multiple articles.

Erich Schweighofer underlines that at European level – and international all the more – a popular government within the system of today’s international relations is unrealistic. He advocates the multistakeholder model with accountability. Since the chances of a fair participation of all relevant stakeholders – in global framework as well – can only be facilitated by determining policy development processes, sufficient information, creation of participation, ensuring of co-decision and verification of the process itself, this remains highly significant in both international and European decision-making processes.

In Switzerland, democratic attitudes have long tradition. Thus, Matthias Drilling contemplates new forms of citizen participation in urban development via social media in Switzerland. Whilst classical procedures like forums and meetings only reach a few and often call for a high intellectual level, e-participation targets both the involvement of the population and the support of collaborative opinion-forming and decision-making.

Taking the example of the Swiss municipality Grabs, Hans-Dieter Zimmermann discusses e-participation for children and adolescents in the political activities of communities.

With a political science article, Andreas Ladner paves the way to the discussion of online election assistances. Which influence do smartvote and connatural websites have on our voting behaviour? According to which parameters do those election assistances work? How can users learn to handle the particular election recommendation?

Robert Krimmer and Dirk-Hinnerk Fischer manifest themselves on the basics of the election system. They deliberate the model of a negative voting system as an enhancement of the current voting system. The proposed system can be rendered possible and curtailed in a way that the stability of democracy is not touched only by technological innovation.

In a scientific essay, I myself am analysing which practical questions the already carried out digitalisation creates, why conventional approaches to open the policy cycles originating from science fail regularly and how contradictory the pretensions and trends are. Based on this, I am illuminating up-and-coming future prospects resting upon global digitalisation trends.

Two articles treating state-relevant e-government subjects are ranging in the boundary area of the key topic Digital Democracy:

The German taxation procedure, which is reaching a point where paradigms are shifting, is being drafted by Nadja Braun Binder. By means of legislative change, the basis for «exclusively automation-supported» issued tax assessment notices is to be provided and should come into force on 1 January 2017.

Balthasar Glättli eventually presents a draft on security policy in the era of information, the state’s role, the right strategies and the resulting adequate reactions on a feasible cyber war.

In addition to the respective articles, this issue contains – in form of podcasts – presentations given at the event eGov Fokus 2/2015 of 6 November 2015 focussing on «E-Democracy – New Forms of Participation» of the Bern University of Applied Sciences’ E-Government Institute:

  • Erich Schweighofer, Accountability in internationalen und europäischen Entscheidungsprozessen (Podcast)
  • Andreas Ladner, E-Voting – mögliche Vor- und Nachteile aus politikwissenschaftlicher Perspektive (Podcast)
  • Reinhard Riedl, Partizipative oder simulative Demokratie? (Podcast)
  • Johannes W. Pichler, Partizipatorische Demokratie in der Realverfassung der EU – unterentwickelt und unvollendet (Podcast)
  • Rolf Hänni, Verifizierbare Internetwahlen – Technische Lösungen und Grenzen (Podcast)
  • Uwe Serdült, Warum es nicht vorwärts geht mit der E-Partizipation (Podcast)

Supplementary, we gladly point to the Jusletter IT Flash being released on 16 June 2016. In line with the topic, podcasts regarding e-government as well as e-democracy will be published there (presentations hold at the annual IRIS in Salzburg). As a Jusletter IT subscriber, you have full access to the contents issued in the category Flash. At irregular intervals and between the regular Jusletter IT issues, articles, podcasts and important information are going to be published there.

We wish you a fascinating reading, hearing and watching!

Bern, in May 2016 

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Riedl
Berner Fachhochschule
Editorial Staff Jusletter IT