Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Estonia continues e-voting growth

Computers and technology play an integral role in just about every aspect of modern life. Smartphones allow people to connect with one another from all around the world through social networks. Computerized point of sale machines allow companies not only to track the transactions coming through the cash register, but also have real-time inventory information at their fingertips. However, for any number of reasons, many elections around the globe are still conducted in an analog format with paper ballots counted by hand. Modern democracies need to be precisely that: modern.

One democratic system that has been leading the charge for electronic voting technology for a number of years already is the one found in the democratic parliamentary republic of Estonia in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. The Estonian i-voting system has been heralded as a shining example of how e-voting can be best adopted, adapted and implemented in a modern democracy. Fantastic checks and balances are in place to verify and authenticate the identity of voters, security is top-notch and performance has been exceptional.

This isn't to say that the early experiences of e-voting in Estonia were completely and utterly problem-free and this isn't to say that many Estonians didn't voice their concerns over how e-voting would work and how it would impact their democracy. Since then, e-voting has continued to grow and Estonia's model is a great example of what a digitized democracy can and should look like.

Given this, it should be of little surprise that the adoption rates for e-voting in Estonia are also continuing to grow. According to some of the most recent reports and statistics on the matter, e-voting grew some twenty-five percent in the recent Estonia parliamentary election. A total of 176,328 voters used the online voting system in the Estonian election, offering a positive trend against the parliamentary elections of 2011. More and more people are using the online e-voting system and this trend is projected to continue for the next election too.

E-voting offers “clear benefits to voters, in terms of convenience, accessibility and ease of use.” The e-voting platform in Estonia is based on “tried and true” technologies that have withstood the test of time and survived tremendous scrutiny. This isn't to say that the electoral officials of Estonia are simply sitting on their laurels either, as they continue to innovate with new modalities, even opening up the i-voting source code to the public in late 2013 to encourage further development and innovation for not only Estonia, but also for other elections around the globe.

Indeed, the Centre of Excellence for Internet Voting was established in Estonia in 2014 by Smartmatic and Cybernetica. It works with the Estonian government to continue advancing Internet voting in the European nation and to export these advances and developments to international democracies too. “Estonia is one of the most digitised countries in the world,” said Smartmatic Internet Voting Director Michael Summers. “And [it] boasts an impressive culture of e-government [with the] backing of the political parties.”

A democracy needs to be truly accessible and transparent, while maintaining a high degree of security and confidentiality. Estonia's growth in e-voting and i-voting is a testament to what a clear vision and dedication to its advancement can create.