Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Denmark ranks first in ICT and second in e-Government


Each year, the Digital Agenda commission of the European Union offers figures that let people gauge the advances and imbalances countries show regarding the performance of their Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). 

This year Denmark  ranked first in ICT use, according to the average global ranking of the Digital Economic and Society Index (DESI) published by the EU. 

The European Union started the Europe 2020 growth strategy, which has five targets for growth attainable by means of seven “flagship initiatives”. One of these is the Digital Agenda, which defines the route European nations must follow to meet their objectives for 2020.  The DESI gauges the advances in the digital domain. 

Denmark stands out on account of their Internet use, their integration of digital technology, and their use of public digital services (e-Government).

The country’s performance is especially strong in e-Government. It has been at the vanguard of digital public services for years; in 2015 it ranked first, and it slipped to second place this year.  
Despite this good performance, authorities do not seem to be completely satisfied, and in order to go back to number one, Denmark has designed a new electronic management strategy (2016-2020). Despite not being published yet, we know this strategy aims to strengthen their leadership in the Public Digitization Service, which from 2011 to 2015 was highly ambitious and successful. 

Estonia, which surpasses Denmark, developed in 2015 an Internet voting system that has allowed Estonians to vote remotely from any location.    

This electoral technology has given Estonia the capacity to implement digital solutions to empower their citizens, and they have become a worldwide reference when it comes to elections, turnout and digital governance. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

India looks at E-governance to improve education


In its bid to improve overall performance of learning institutions, the Indian government has outfitted 1,200 central schools in New Delhi with e-governance technology. 

Through this program, activities of both the students and the teachers will be monitored to increase productivity and achieve a more efficient administration. Officials of the schools are optimistic that the e-governance program can help improve performance of students, teachers, and school administrators.

Already, some educators are reporting such expected improvements. Suresh Singh, a principal in Kendriya Vidyalaya in South Delhi, has credited the adoption of the e-governance system with minimizing the drudgery of administration allowing him to teach more.

“Now I am more of a teacher,” Singh says, “less of an administrator”. Mathematics teacher Alka Sharma from Ahlcon International School in East Delhi shares the same optimism. Digital intervention lessens administrative burden on teaching staff, enabling them to focus more on educating than doing paper work.

E-governance has clearly brought an effective tool to teachers, who are also looking at leveraging technology to improve student engagement through customized tutorials, better pedagogy, which in turn, develops an ideal teaching-learning atmosphere.

The government tapped MGRM Net Ltd, an IT company to implement the project. MGRM’s senior vice-president Partha Mohanty said his company seeks to bring the e-governance program to private and government schools as both require an education system that observes “transparency, accountability, improved efficiency and universal access to information”.

For this specific purpose, the e-governance is the solution he believes will bring a remarkable difference. Numerous domestic and international studies have revealed quality issues with India’s education sector, making it the target of a reform initiative.

The Union Human Resource Development Ministry has also considered the same e-Government technology through its “shaala darpan” system, an ICT program that provides mobile access to parents of students of government and government-aided schools.

With this technology, parents can view updates on their child’s progress. Observers are optimistic that integrating “shaala darpan” with e-governance technology would bring about outstanding results in terms of student engagement, assessment and gap analysis, and even school infrastructure.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Argentina eyes election automation for 2017


The Argentine government is looking to overhaul the country's electoral system ahead of the 2017 elections.

Topping the proposed electoral reform agenda is poll automation, which many Argentines believe has become an imperative after manual voting failed in 2015. The proposed reforms, which have yet to reach Congress, also includes a wide array of issues such as campaign financing and a revamp of election calendars. 

This move by Mauricio Macri's government is seen by observers as an encouraging response to the problems encountered during the first round of the 2015 presidential elections when the manual system collapsed. The issues with the paper-based system were so widespread and serious that a comprehensive reform became a campaign platform for Macri. 

The lack of an efficient system to process votes has long beset Argentina leading provinces such as Salta and Cordoba to adopt their own technology solutions.

In 2015, the Province of Buenos Aires used a sort of ballot printing and scanning technology that had been used in Salta since 2009. Although the technology helped count the votes, many technology experts were wary of the system's security features.

An article published in La Nacion-a leading Argentine outlet-, provides detailed information on the different problems found in this particular system. Although authorities have downplayed the effects of the incidents, the technology continued to be under the scrutiny of IT experts.

During the recent ekoparty Security Conference, the system used in Salta also came under heavy fire from IT practitioners  Barrera Oro and Javier Smaldone who worried about the system's lack of transparency and insufficient security. 

According to the Buenos Aires Herald, the system that is being proposed in the draft bill resembles the system in question, which has led some stakeholders to call for more consultation.

The reform proposal faces months of intense debates in the Congress before it can be passed into a law. The proponents would also need to work closely with the academe and election technology experts to craft a solution tailored to the country's complex requirements. Yet many are optimistic that the proposal is a step in the right direction in achieving the country's long-time goal of having credible elections.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Estonia: More young people studying e-governance every day


Estonia is today a world reference when talking about digital democracy. The government offers a vast array of online services, which its citizens access through a digital ID card. It is also worth noting that the online voting technology they have developed has been used in several processes in different countries.   

To keep developing these platforms that have improved the quality of life of millions, several of the country’s public and private universities are offering top-of-the-line courses to young people interested in innovation and e-governance.  

One of these institutions is the Tallinn University of Technology  (TUT), which offers a MSc in technology and e-governance services to native and foreign students. This degree, driven by the public and private sectors, is a priority for the country, and the subject is openly promoted by president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a confessed lover of innovative technology. 
At TUT, students with ideas for first-level startups want to be ambassadors for Estonia’s electoral technology and make it known worldwide. One of them is Crystal LaGrone from Oklahoma, USA, who is halfway through the masters program and wants to bring e-voting technology back home.   

LaGrone came to Estonia as a visitor and quickly became interested in innovation. “I’ve discovered great advances in IT, particularly Internet voting”. 

This student, who had no previous IT experience, thinks that Internet voting could strengthen democracy and increase turnout in the United States. In her opinion, the masters program offers extensive knowledge on how to found a modern statethe transition to e-government, its development and management. 

Her objective is clear: returning to the United States to improve e-voting systems, a tool designed to strengthen democracy by preventing paper-based fraud.  “If we managed to take a man to the moon and bring him back, Internet voting couldn’t possibly be as hard”.