Estonia ahead of the Netherlands and Venezuela
In a previous blog article I reported about Estonia being small but innovating, especially with Internet Technology.
Although the Netherlands (she says with proud) were the very first with electronic voting, Estonia is taking it a step further.
"There have been several e-voting projects around the world, but I don't think there have ever been parliamentary elections where everyone nationwide could vote online," Arne Koitma of the Estonian electoral commission told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. According to a system introduced for municipal elections in 2005, any Estonian voters can exercise their democratic rights online, as long as they hold a valid ID card with a computer-readable chip. Election officials say that almost all registered voters - over 940,000 people - now hold such cards. And that, experts believe, makes Estonia's forthcoming election the world's most comprehensive experiment yet in internet-based democracy.
"The Netherlands have had electronic voting in polling stations for a number of years, and Venezuela recently held an electronic referendum, but I'm not aware of any other internet-accessible general election," said Dr Lewis Baston, director of research at the UK-based Electoral Reform Society. "Estonia has been ahead of the curve in lots of ways in terms of election technology," he added.
It is not just elections: in recent years, Estonia has made a name for itself in the innovative application of communications technology. It is famed as the birthplace of internet-telephony company Skype, sold to eBay for 2.6 billion dollars in 2005. But it has also been one of the world's pioneers in mobile-phone payment for services such as bus tickets and parking metres, and of wireless internet access in public spaces from cafes to parks.
"Estonia is smaller (population 1.35 million) than traditional high-tech innovators such as Japan and Finland, and it's always easier to try things out in a small society," explained Andres Kasekamp, professor of Baltic politics at Tartu University. "Politicians have also pursued a liberal policy regarding innovation - they've been keen to reduce the footprint of government generally, and this seems to be part of that ideology," he added. Estonia's online voting certainly looks likely to reduce the burden of bureaucracy.
To cast ballots, voters simply accesses the electoral website in the three-day advance-voting period, swipe their chip-card through a card reader attached to the computer, punch in their pin number and make their choice. Card readers are widely available in public libraries, internet points, and even in private hands. They can cost as little as 100 kroons (6.39 euro), Koitma said.
To avoid the risk of fraud or coercion, any voter can cancel a vote registered to their card by voting again online, or by casting a paper ballot on election day, March 4. The effectiveness of this security system was so convincingly proven in municipal elections in 2005 that the e-voting system is barely being discussed in Estonia this year, experts say. "Nobody's questioning e-voting any more: there's no debate on whether it can make life easier," said Raivo Vetik, head of the Institute of International and Social Studies at Tallinn University.
While official figures show that under 2 per cent of eligible votes were cast online during the 2005 local elections, observers predict that online turnout could reach 5 per cent this year. But with Estonia making a name for itself as a test-bed for the application of existing technologies, some are hoping that the next step will be for it to begin producing high-tech wonders of its own.
"Estonians developed Skype, but Scandinavian entrepreneurs made it a successful company. The Estonians didn't have the experience or financial strength - but they're learning," Kasekamp said. Whatever the outcome of the election for Estonia's 11 registered political parties, its voters will be hoping that the online experience will hit the right button with the next generation of high-tech entrepreneurs. (Source: Playfuls)
Come on Holland!! You can’t stay behind…………