E-democracy: what political scientists and computer scientists can do   no comments

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The increasing presence of the Web in society has put forward the possibility of new models of democracy that can overcome certain pitfalls of the existing ones. These imperfections range from a lack of engagement of the population to a lack of popular power of decision. Using ICTs for an electronic voting system could become an inexpensive and effective way of enacting a more representative democracy in which a wider range of the population can take part in the political life of a state. Therefore, a thorough analysis of the feasibility of this alternative should be conducted from both socio-political and technological perspectives.

Some limitations of this alternative such as cyber-security issues that could facilitate electoral fraud or issues of competence of the population in certain ‘sensitive’ decisions have been put forward in several debates on this topic.

This essay will attempt to explain how the collaboration of two different academic disciplines, namely Political Sciences and Electronic and Computer Sciences can address two issues on which the essay will be focused. One is an alleged ‘digital divide’ that could leave apart certain sectors of the population that cannot access a connected computer or do not have the skills to vote electronically. The other one has to do with the above-mentioned technical problems related with security that can arise from the use of this voting system.

To do this, I will start looking at how political scientists analyse public participation in democratic systems by reading a textbook on democracy and a report for an independent enquiry institution.

The book is titled Models of Democracy, written by David Held (2006). It is a suggested reading for a unit in the Politics and International Relations degree in this university, called Democracy and the Modern State. I expect find there what methods of enquiry are the most commonly used in this discipline.

I am also reading a report for the Power Enquiry by Graham Smith, the title of which is Beyond the Ballot: 57 Democratic Innovations from Around the World (2005), where I also expect to find out how this discipline analyses current political phenomena and tackles the questions raised in the assignment.

The ‘technological side’ of the issue will be looked at a few weeks later.

The intention in the assignment is not to ‘answer the questions’, but to show how these two disciplines can work together towards it. Therefore, special emphasis will be put on the research methods that both of them use in order to find solutions to the problems they encounter.

Written by Manuel Leon Urrutia on October 14th, 2012

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