Democratic online participation with secure authentication
Societal participation in democratic decision-making processes in the digital era is accompanied by many challenges for organisations in all areas. It is against this background that the eParticipation project was initiated with the objective of making it easier for citizens to participate in societal and political decision-making processes by way of a flexible, client-compatible and user-friendly eParticipation platform.
Two years of intensive research were initiated by the Federal Ministry for Traffic, Innovation and Technology and funded through the Austrian security research funding programme, KIRAS. The project consortium was made up of AIT Austrian Institute of Technology (project lead), RUBICON, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Centre for eGovernance at Danube University Krems, the Austrian State Printing Office and the University of Vienna’s Centre for Computers and Law.
Implementation required taking not only a wide variety of application scenarios into consideration, but also numerous multifaceted legal and technical conditions.
The eParticipation platform enables many different forms of interaction with citizens
During the information phase the platform grants access to information provided by the organiser in relation to the participation process. Participants can view the information at any time, whereby authentication is not a requirement.
During the consultation phase, suggestions in the form of text contributions or images can be published for evaluation or commenting by citizens. Different authentication and security settings are possible in this phase – from login via Facebook to citizen’s pass to smartphone signature. The Authentication Hub offers flexible extension options and can be used both as a component of the participation process and in connection with other software solutions.
Participants can create collective texts, templates or manifests here.
The platform provides tools for voting on concrete issues and decisions. The organiser defines the question and answer options and can also decide which kind of decision is required (e.g. simple majority, ¾ majority, etc.). The results of the vote can be viewed on completion of the process.
Modular structure and open interfaces enable high flexibility
eParticipation makes it possible to arbitrarily arrange or combine the different phases of a citizen participation process depending on the case in hand. In addition, the platform’s design and technology are also easily and quickly adaptable to customer specifications.
Simple operating concept and data protection
A simple operating concept was a key aspect of the eParticipation design. The operating concept is based on proven operating controls of modern web-based applications to ensure quick and easy user familiarisation and next to no demand for support. Fundamental aspects of security, privacy and data protection are also granted due consideration. Secure authentication in conjunction with the use of existing user accounts and the option of anonymous participation were important aspects of the project aimed at strengthening user confidence in online participation processes. An additional challenge facing the project was to provide open and interoperable interfaces to various platforms; these interfaces are essential with regard to flexibility of use, but they also demand a great deal of expertise in the field of security and data protection standards.
The Austrian funding programme for security research supports national projects whose results contribute towards increasing security for all members of society in the form of a sustainably assured, high quality of livelihood and development options.
Overall responsibility for the KIRAS programme lies with the Federal Ministry for Traffic, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT). The BMVIT has appointed the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) to manage the KIRAS programme and its organisation.www.kiras.at