Week 13: E-government and e-voting.

Reading Questions, by Zach Tomaszewski

for CIS 702, Fall 2004, taught by Dr. Martha Crosby

2.) Using the "Innovation zone" model (p.29) as your reference, if you were a government official and implementing e-government component in your division, how do you implement IT? Briefly describe the systems design.

The "Innovation Zone" model says to "Imagine, Design, Experiment, Assess, Scale." I think that most (though not all) good ideas will probably come from the front line workers or perhaps middle management. These are the people who see most of the problems on an individual level and might have some practical ideas about how to alleviate them.

However, front-line workers can only innovate if the higher levels are receptive. Innovation will likely bring change, and some people get very territorial about who gets credit or who gets to wield power. There should be honest encouragement from the organization to innovate, if that's what the organization really wants. Such encouragement could include departmental or individual merit bonuses, or simply providing the resources need to implement new ideas.

As the article suggests, small prototypes are cheaper and simpler to test. Though these bottom-up designs are quick and useful, any cohesive interface, especially one that spans agencies, will need to come from the top down. If multiple agencies have been innovating, it may be possible to periodically combine or integrate a number of the prototype-systems into a more complete, robust system.

3.) Do you think we can accurately measure "the will of the people" with today's voting systems?

Allowing for some small degree of error, yes, I think current voting systems can accurately measure "the will of the people." However, there seems to be a strong push to embrace modern technology in voting systems. If this must be done, it needs to be done carefully and deliberately.

I think any system will contain some level of error. Even paper ballots can be illegibly or ambiguously marked. However, if these errors occur randomly across all votes, I feel they are less of a concern than fraud or deception during voting.

To prevent fraud, a voting system needs to be transparent and auditable. That is, it needs to be clear for whom each vote was cast, and votes need to be recountable when questions arise. As they are now, most e-voting machines do not leave a paper trail, which makes recounts impossible. I do not think a paper trail is necessarily a requirement (though still probably a good idea) as long as the software itself is transparent--i.e., open source. Long-term security is rarely achieved through secrecy and obfuscation. Instead, I think voting system software should be publicly reviewable. If these software is determined to be viable, then during an audit, each voting machine's copy of the software can be compared to a central copy to detect tampering with individual machines.

A concern for any voting system is its interface. Is it clear what the choices are? Is it clear how to properly mark or select different choices? For those of us that use computers on a regular basis, touch screen voting seems like it should be very simple. However, if you have ever watched an adult (especially an older one) learn to use a mouse or "simple" software application or a new TV, we realize that computers may not be quite so "inherently obvious" after all. I think voter satisfaction would be improved if more than type of voting system were available--perhaps paper and electronic.

Chidurala, Murali, et al. "E-Government Best Practices: An Implementation Manual." Faculty Advisor: David Darcy. Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park. May 2001.

Communications of the ACM. 47:10. (2004). pp. 23-70. (Multiple articles.)