7th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (XI). e-Government and e-Democracy

Notes from the 7th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Net Neutrality and other challenges for the future of the Internet, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 11-12 July 2011. More notes on this event: idp2011.

Track on e-government and e-democracy
Chairs: Ismael Peña-López, Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC)

Lorenzo Cotino Hueso
The European electronic citizen initiative

The new European normative makes it possible that with the addition of 1,000,000 signatures, the political debate on a certain topic can be initiated in the European Parliament. And one of the good things about this new normative is that it has been designed for the XXIst century, as online participation (i.e. signing) is considered in equal terms as offline participation.

The procedure is the usual one, where an initiative is registered and then signatures are collected within the member states. Once the European Commission validates the firms (the person signing is a European citizen, has not signed more than one time, etc.), then a new legislative process can begin.

Another asset is that the European Commission must provide free software platforms for the collection of signatures in any website. These platforms will work with digital signature, whatever its kind: certificates, tokens, smartphones, etc.

The initiative can be started at any member state and, once the platform is validated, the process of gathering support can begin.

The regulation is written as if it was about data protection, as that is the major issue when providing a (electronic) vote supplying personal data, but the regulation to be applied will be the one of any member state.

Daniel Guagnin; Carla Ilten
Self-Governed Socio-technical Infrastructures. Autonomy and Cooperation through Free Software and Community Wireless Networks

Net Neutrality is the freedom to use a communication infrastructure in all possible ways without constrains. And free software is a matter of liberty, not price, it is about free as in free speech (not as in free beer).

Technology is society made durable: social “programmes” are inscribed in any technology. In expert systems rules are disembedded from the realm of use, and defined by experts. Free software opens up the experitse to laypeople, why proprietary software stays opaque.

Copyleft is a general method for making a program or other work freely available and with the compulsory condition that any other work based on it will also be available in the same way.

Community Wireless Networks are based on free software and DIY hardware. They use wireless peer-to-peer mesh network architecture and have collectively organized and owned communication infrastructures.

An example can be the Chicago Wireless Community Networks [in Spain we have the very interesting initiative Guifi.net.]. Chicago Wireless Community Networks is a non-profit project to serve disadvantaged neighborhoods, in cooperation with CUWIN open source programmers. It’s community building through network set-up and maintenance. The Pico Peering Agreement acts as a constitution for peer networking.

That is certainly a new approach to Net Neutrality, as Net Neutrality is, all in all, a battle about the control over infrastructures.

Mayo Fuster Morell
An introductory historical contextualization of online creation communities for the building of digital commons: The emergence of a free culture movement

Online creation communities (OCCs) are a set of individuals that communicate and collaborate mainly via a platform hosted on the Internet with the purpose to create a final outcome of the joint work.

These communities are deeply rooted in the movements of the 1950s like hacking culture, hippies contraculture, action-participation methodologies and popular education, etc.

If the free software projects imply the appearance of OCCs, there is a shift from free software to free culture with the change of millennium with movements like the Creative Commons, the Wikipedia, alternative news media (e.g. Indymedia), peer-to-peer file sharing, open access of scientific research, etc. The explosion of the web 2.0 is greatly powered and fostering at the same time the concept of OCCs.

Infrasctructure conditions:

  • Level of freedom and autonomy of the content generators in regard to the infrastructure.
  • Level representation of the interests of the community of creators in the infrastructure provision decision-making and provision transparency.

Two main types:

  • Autonomy + open = commons logic; they reinforce more collaborative communities.
  • Close + dependency = corporate logic. Tend to generate larger communities.

The free culture and digital rights movement has 4 main goals: preserve the digital commons, to make important information available to the public, promote creators, remove barriers to distribution of knowledge and goods.

Lately, the movement has been shifting from free culture to meta-politics. This can be seen in the Change Congress initiative in the US (2008) or the #nolesvotes and #15M movements in Spain.

Georgia Foteinou
Institutional Trust and e-Government Adoption in the EU: a Cross-National Analysis

Why citizens that are used to e-commerce appear sceptic when it comes to using e-government websites? Normally, it is attributed to the poor quality of services, few available services, insufficient infrastructure… but evidence shows that is none of the above, at least not as a strong determinant not to be using those services. In fact, e-government usage is higher than e-commerce in most European countries, even if it has a decline of -4.5% (of all Internet users) over the period 2005-2010. On the other hand, in aggregate, e-government is growing at 30% (accesses) while e-commerce is growing at 75%.

It seems that the digitally reluctant could not be trusting the government, but not of a specific agent, but in government as a whole. This is what data seem to be telling at statistically significant levels.

Jorge Luis Salcedo
Conflicts about the regulation of intellectual property in Internet: comparing the issue networks in UK and Spain

In the issue of the conflicts about the regulation of intellectual property, how is media visibility distributed between the stakeholders in this conflict? What actors have more visibility? This is crucially relevant in mass-mediated democracies.

A first hypothesis is that the regulation supporters (Copyrights coalition and governments) will achieve a greater visibility level on the news channel.

A second hypothesis is that the Digital Rights Activists (DRA) will have a higher visibility on non traditional media (blogs, websites) than the CRC.

3r hypothesis: DRA will have a higher visibility in specific web channels, but not on the entire web.

4th hypothesis: The most visible agents on the news channels are going to get the most visibility as a whole, especially in search engines.

It is very interesting to see how in Spain, DRA have huge coverage in online platforms, in the UK they are even with CRC and both of them having less visibility than the government’s official position. In search engines, though, both UK and Spanish DRA seem to be having the same impact.

The differences may come from different resources from the different stakeholders, a more lax regulation in the UK in downloading matters, the worst reputation that the coalition has in Spain in comparison to the UK’s, including the dynamics of politics in the different countries.


7th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2011)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2011) “7th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (XI). e-Government and e-Democracy” In ICTlogy, #94, July 2011. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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