In smart city space, where security has become the biggest concern for the government and citizens, digital services are giving a new profile to accessibility and efficiency. From booking a train ticket to paying domestic bills, digitalisation has opened up a new array of possibilities while adding convenience to daily life.
A similar kind of atmosphere is being observed within e-government services – in a few of the smart cities that are also focusing on a paperless economy. Apart from all the e-government services provided by urban governments, the e-voting system is expected to bring a sweeping change in the way elections are held and its direct impact on the outcomes. But on one side where a majority of the citizens appreciate the new change, some are concerned about the shortcomings.
We have explored diverse e-government initiatives and case studies across different smart cities which provide a clear picture for other cities to understand and move ahead strategically.
The Leading E-government In The World
Let us start the exploration with Moscow, which is crowned for being the leading e-government in the world.
This year in 2019, United Nations E-Government survey assessed digital services across 40 cities on the basis of 60 indicators. The city of Moscow in Russia topped the list by scoring 55 out of 60 indicators, mostly for content and citizen engagement.
Thanks to the e-government system in the city, the citizens have access to 222 public digital services provided by city authorities. 2017 witnessed a 31% increase in usage since 2016 as the citizens used the e-services more than 259 million times.
Moscow’s e-government has gone one step ahead in giving a new dimension to e-voting.
Non-political E-voting System
In 2014, Moscow introduced a non-political e-voting system called ‘Active Citizen’ (a mobile app) to let each citizen’s voice be heard on a wide range of city development matters, from new public transport routes to speed limits in the centre of the city. Until now, Active Citizen has received 100 million votes submitted over 3,600 polls by more than 2.1 million users. In order to enhance transparency, the government integrated blockchain technology into the platform, recently.
Another e-service called ‘Crowd’ a crowdsourcing platform enables the public to propose their ideas or suggestions on how Moscow’s city portal or city projects can be improved. As per sources, over 130,000 are using the platform, 84,000 ideas have been put forth and 2,700 have already been shortlisted to take it further for study.
Until now, several major city development projects have been accomplished as a result of these e-voting platforms.
The Political Side Of E-government Initiative In Vietnam
Recently, the government of Vietnam launched what is known as the ‘e-Cabinet’ system with the aim to enhance efficiency within the government authorities. According to sources, the new e-Cabinet system will decrease meeting times by 30% and abolish the use of paper by the end of 2019.
Viettel, the nation’s leading telecommunications company has provided a customised e-Cabinet platform that helps store, manage, and update documents for government meeting in a highly secure manner. In addition, the new system also offers electronic voting with digital signatures. It also plays the role of sending automated notifications and reminders to the officials.
For the first time, e-Cabinet was used during a government meeting hosted by Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the prime minister of Vietnam in Hanoi. During the meeting, online voting was also carried out wherein 27 cabinet members voted on a decree on electronic identification using electronic tablets. Four cabinet members who were not physically present in the meeting also participated in the voting.
As per Mai Tien, Minister-Chairman of the Government Office the system is promising in a way because it can also prevent corruption as all the data is recorded digitally. This will help remove obstacles for businesses and start-ups and in return, support the national economy.
Furthermore, Le Dang Dzung, acting chairman of Viettel Group said that the e-Cabinet system was completely tested before implementing it. The platform assures transfer and storage of sensitive data keeping safety and efficiency as key.
The telecommunication giant stated that this is the first step towards transforming Vietnam into a “smart” country.
The Case Study On Blockchain-based E-voting In Switzerland
Last summer, Zug, a city in Switzerland executed blockchain-based e-voting which proved to be successful. The residents who participated in the e-voting are now excited to embrace the new voting system more extensively after realising that the process is faster and easier than the traditional ballots, as per a new survey.
The city of Zug, Luxoft, a digital strategy designing company and Hochschule Luzern’s Blockchain Lab collaboratively issued a report on the results of the e-voting in Zug. The report recognised the benefits of decentralised voting, described the underlying design of the blockchain-based system and analysed the experience of residents who participated in the e-voting.
The study revealed that about eight out of ten participants are enthusiastic regarding the adoption of e-voting. However, 2% of them are against the digital system due to ecological and economic concerns.
Some participants were doubtful while 16% pointed concerns related to security. According to some participants, apart from the e-voting system, the residents of Zug should also have a choice to vote by mail.
The Conclusion On E-voting
The city of Stratford, in Ontario, Canada launched the e-voting system for 2010 municipal elections. 10% of the residents cast their vote through the traditional polling booths while the rest used the internet.
Thompson, a filmmaker and one of those from 10% believes that voting in person leads to a “community spirit”. On the other side, Joan Thomson, city clerk for Stratford said that e-voting allows residents to cast their vote from home or anywhere else, without having to go to a polling station. This is especially important for those with physical disabilities. It also helps municipalities have larger voting windows. In 2018, the city decided to run the e-voting for continuous 24 hours from October 12-22.
E-voting needs a smaller workforce compared to traditional ones, particularly when it is getting more challenging for municipalities to get to election workers.
However, according to some experts, e-voting has some drawbacks and risks as well. The Centre for e-Democracy survey showed that technology is convenient for those with greater digital literacy and higher levels of education.
Therefore, in 2018, Sarnia in Ontario decided to use e-voting for the first time by taking measures to include even those who doesn’t use the internet. The city is putting up help centres to assist voters on how to access the internet. The authorities also planned to take mobile devices to long-term-care facilities.
As per Dean Smith, president of Intelivote Systems Inc., a company working with the Ontario municipality to offer the online voting platform, e-voting does have certain risks. Each time an election is held, people try to manipulate the system. And it is not always the hackers. Even citizens try voting twice.
Hence, to ensure security against such frauds the company employs experts to develop preventative strategies after assessing hacking risks.
Even London dismissed the idea of e-voting just because of security concerns.
But, Nicole Goodman, director of the Centre for e-Democracy and professor of political science at Brock University, says that still, it is clear that “e-voting is the future”. The federal government should issue uniform guidelines for e-voting and voluntary standards just as some of the smart city in Europe.