Electronic Democracy: the challenge ahead (TCGOV 2005)
The TCGOV 2005 international conference on e-Government was held from 2 – 4 March 2005 in Bozen-Bolzano, Italy. The conference was initiated by the working group, ‘Towards Electronic Democracy’ (TED) of the European Science Foundation and was jointly organised by the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, the Municipality of Bozen-Bolzano, the TED Working Group, and the IFIP Working Group 8.5 – Information Systems in Public Administration.
Approximately 100 participants from more than 20 different countries including Australia, South Africa, USA, and Brazil attended the TCGOV 2005 conference that was hosted by the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano in the new Aula Magna. The conference addressed a large spectrum of issues that are relevant and have to be investigated for a successful transition from the traditional form of government to a new form known as e-Government. The organiser was particularly interested to stress on the technical aspects of e-Govern-ment and the need for contributions from the field of computer science for e-Government. This orientation was also reflected in the composition of the Programme Committee.
A total of 92 scientific papers from 26 different countries were submitted to TCGOV 2005. Each submission was evaluated by at least two reviewers, mainly members of the Programme Committee. The reviewing process was very selective, and only 28 contributions were accepted as full papers for presentation at the conference, and publication in the conference proceedings. Springer published the conference proceedings in the Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) series.
The main focus was on the following topics:
• Improving citizen participation and policy making
• Government application integration
• Semantic web technologies for e-Govern-ment
• Security aspects for e-Government services
Two sessions were dedicated to the issue of ‘improving citizen participation and policy making’, an emerging area within e-Government that seeks to enhance democratic processes and provide increased opportunities for individuals and communities to be involved in governmental decisions. One session covered more technical investigations and results. Macintosh et al. discussed the use of weblogs to support democracy at the local community level. Berntzen et al. examined policy evaluation from a local politician’s view, i.e., what web-based tools are useful for policy evaluation, and what kind of information do these tools provide? Steinmann et al. investigated whether and how GIS applications could improve citizen’s involvement and participation in decision-making processes. The second session covered different e-Democracy experiences from Switzerland, Germany, and China. The paper by Chappelet et al. provided a classification of interactive tools for e-Democracy and discussed the use of such tools in Switzerland. Roeder et al. presented a case study from the German city Esslingen, where an Internet-based tool for e-Participation has been used in the public budget dialogue. Lan discussed China’s experience in the transition from e-Government to e-Democracy where fiscal transparency played a crucial role.
Two sessions were on ‘government application integration’, which is an extremely important technical aspect on the agenda of e-Government research. The well-known one-stop-shop paradigm requires the integration and orchestration of back-office services within and among different public administrations. The paper by Gortmaker et al. analysed the requirements for a reference model for process orchestration. Two papers proposed different architectures for service integration, one following a peer-to-peer approach (Contenti et al.) and the other one adopting a marketplace metaphor (Mugellini et al.). Two case studies concluded this topic. Li et al. presented a paper on building an e-Government solution in Shanghai that is based on grid technology. The case study by Meneklis et al. showed the use of the ISO RM-ODP Standard for the development of open distributed systems in the context of the IST eMayor project.
The fourth main topic was about ‘security aspects for e-Government services’ that is equally important for e-Democracy. The proceedings included three contributions that presented new approaches to deal with security issues in the context of e-Polling, e-Voting, and inter-organisational workflows, respectively. The paper by Dimitriou et al. presented a methodology that could be applied in electronic voting and provided more complex ballot options than current systems. Bruschi et al. presented a simple protocol for an accurate and anonymous e-Polling system. The last paper in this session by Breu et al. proposed a new approach for a model-driven software development process of security-critical inter-organisational workflows in the context of web services.
The programme was complete with contributions on decision support system on the web, managerial and financial aspects of e-Government projects, political and societal implications, and e-Procurement.
Apart from the full papers, 17 contributions were selected and accepted as poster presentations at the conference and for publication in the poster proceedings, published by Trauner Verlag, Austria. The selected poster papers addressed various aspects of e-Government and e-Democracy, ranging from more fundamental research work to practical applications and best practice experiences. The papers posters were grouped under the following six areas:
• Improving citizen participation and policy making,
• Political and societal implications,
• Knowledge management and intelligent systems,
• Cross-border services and inter-organisational services,
• Access control to information and services, and
• Best practice experiences and case studies.
The technical programme included three keynote presentations, given by leading researchers and experts from the field: Prof. Roland Traunmüller from the University of Linz, Prof. David Basin from the ETH Zurich, and Dr. Thanassis
e-Government has become a very active research area in the last few years and promises to revolutionise government and its interaction with customers. Yet there is a long way to go, and the community is still only at the beginning of a consolidation phase.
Chrissafis from the European Commission, DG Information Society, Unit e-Government.
The main conference was accompanied by two parallel events:
• The 2nd eBZ Workshop on e-Govern-ment organised by the Free University and the Municipality of Bozen-Bolzano on 3 March 2005.
The objective of this workshop was to bring together people mainly from different local government organisations and technology providers and to discuss concrete e-Government problems, strategies, and solutions from a more practical perspective. Two presentations gave an overview about strategies and future plans in the field of e-Government of the Municipality of Bozen-Bolzano and the provincial government, respectively. The next three presentations were dedicated to best practice experiences from different cities: on-line transactions and services in South Tyrol, personalised e-Government and virtual consulting in the City of Villach (Austria), and the interconnected City of Siena (Italy). The workshop concluded with a presentation of PEOPLE, one of the largest national e-Government projects, followed by a retrospective analysis of ‘eBZ – Digital City’, a strategic e-Government initiative between the Free University and the Municipality of Bozen-Bolzano.
• A European Union clustering event about Secure Information Processing in the Public Sector for small and medium sized government organisations organised by the 6FP project eMayor on 4 March 2005.
The objective of the event was to bring together the knowledge and experience gained from other 6FP projects, to explore potential synergies and to identify interest from the European research
The conference addressed a large spectrum of issues that are relevant and have to be investigated for a successful transition from the traditional form of government to a new form known as e-Government.
community in the technological aspects of secure e-Government services. The event addressed a number of specific problems and questions that have to be investigated for secure e-Government services including – organisational goals and problems, legal issues, policies, standards, technical problems, and proposed research issues. Representatives from eight different European Union research projects covering various security aspects attended the clustering event and brought their individual and project experience and knowledge into the discussion.
e-Government has become a very active research area in the last few years and promises to revolutionise government and its interaction with customers. Yet there is a long way to go, and the community is still only at the beginning of a consolidation phase. TCGOV 2005 was a valuable contribution in this direction to help shape and form a more informed e-Government community and to advance research in this field. Quite literally this was, according to this writer, one of the very few instances in conference attendances where an ‘electronic badge’ was used – aimed as a hint to stress the importance of smart cards for the implementation of e-Government solutions. The badge served as authentication to access computers, and could be used to pay in the University Cafè for the duration of the conference!
This writer appreciates the initiative and mentorship taken by the TED Working Group – in particular Wolfgang Polasek – for the TCGOV 2005 conference. It is extremely important that similar activities are organised in the future in order to advance research and practice in the challenging and important fields of e-Government and e-Democracy.