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e-Voting: the First Step Towards e-Governance

As we talk of citizens in the digital era, lets explore technologies such as an e-voting system become the next platform for citizen-government engagement Mangesh Desai

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ith Government IT spend being approximately at Rs.10000 Cr for the last fiscal year and now that it is ready to clear a budget for close to Rs.20000 Cr, delights us as credible IT players in e-Governance space. However, as citizens when we explore and find that India ranks 141 / 169 as per the country vote to registration ratio, [Parliamentary Elections (1945-2001)], we wonder did we take a wrong start? If we are to believe that IT companies deliver as per schedule and the IT Vision of the Government to get realized, how far are we from declaring India as an e-democracy redefined.

e-Voting system as a right or duty It is time that we the citizens of India start

potholes’. Lastly training the eligible citizen to cast his ballot would have entailed the e-Voting system to conform to usability or accessibility standards, cultural constraints and literacy independencies. The e-Voting system responsibility from the ‘duty’ perspective would have meant making it incumbent upon every registered user to use the system when called for. This would have entailed accessibility to the e-Voting system from anywhere through different communication devices, viz. Personal Computer, Kiosk, Mobile or Telephone using the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. However, this would have also pushed us to have a relook at our existing policies and Government Resolutions (GRs). Whether to make voting compulsory as in Australia which can today boast of an incredible 95% voter turnout, or continue to believe that we can make this happen voluntarily in India. Educating the eligible citizens about the Government structure, departments and their responsibilities, official procedures and rules and regulations would have been an inevitable phase to enable them to cast their e-Vote. The e-Voting system would have to also make it possible for the user to express his apathy if any for not selecting any eligible candidates as an option.

Step towards e-democracy

viewing our voting right as a ’log in’ to e-Governance or still better e-Democracy. In the said light, let us deliberate whether e-Voting could have been the first step towards e-Governance and its role in democracy. Voting is a ‘right’ that every eligible citizen must possess; exercising this right when called for is the ‘duty’ of every eligible citizen. The e-Voting system responsibility from the ‘right’ perspective would have meant bringing in every eligible citizen into the net of voter registration. This would have entailed auto enrolments, checked enrolments and facilitated enrolments. After enrolment, the next important step would have been giving away a complete seamless infrastructure constituting of power, connectivity, hardware and support. This would have entailed not only understanding the ‘digital divide’ but also the ‘information

If we were to encapsulate the aforesaid system requirements for the e-Voting system we will realize that they make it imperative for us to address various facets of e-Governance that are generic for successful roll outs. With growing awareness and opinion of citizens on the democratic processes, e-voting can be a powerful technology tool to take the path-breaking initiative of electronic voting machines EVMs to the next level of citizen engagement. An ambitious step towards e-Voting could act as a pre-cursor to e-Governance so as to instil the sense of right in those who are receiving and the sense of duty in those who are giving these services and make sure we log-in to e-Democracy in the times ahead!

the author is Head-Government Solutions and Presales, Mastek Limited

March 2012 / www.egovonline.net / egov

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eGov-March-2012-[51]-e-Voting-the First Step Towards eGovernance