Information technology and e-governance for trust!
Bojidar Bozhanov is a software engineer for 28 years from Sofia. He is one of those young IT specialists who harness their skills in solving social problems. He is part of the community of “Society.bg” and since this year he is an e-government advisor in the office of Deputy Prime Minister Bachvarova. Author of the Blogger Blogger .
We invited Bozho to consult the Election Reform Handbook on IT applications in the election system. We also took this interview with him:
You are known in the IT community. You have the glory of “creator of public ideas” and “guru of open data”, tell us something about yourself.
I’m not a guru, but yes – my programming is both a profession and a hobby. I do it not only in working hours, but also in non-working hours on all topics, including socially useful ones. I deal with other things, including mathematical linguistics. As a student I went to Olympiads, now I am a member of the jury in Bulgaria and around the world, I also deal with software engineering, architecture.
Part of this group, which is influential in Bulgarian society in the field of IT and open data. WHAT is the situation with IT technologies in the management?
It also follows the trends. There are not so brilliant examples of using electronic technology in the world. Yes, there are many attempts at places, there are electronic services and management in many countries, but almost everywhere, except in Estonia and a couple of other countries, it is not such a level in which citizens and the state are entirely digital.
You advocate the use of information technology in public life, including electoral procedures. How can we implement e-services to improve democracy in our country?
E-services, specifically e-government, do not directly support democracy. They make citizens’ communication with the state easier or eliminate the unnecessary one, but whether they can contribute to improving democracy, I think, directly – not. Indirectly, through open data, opening up the administration to citizens, higher transparency may have such an indirect effect, people just a little to say we are not “we”; “Citizen-administration”, but we live in a common space in which we communicate openly.
So IT can improve this component of democracy, representing civil control over management?
Yes. And trust in the institutions.
Next month, Parliament is due to vote on a referendum resolution and the electronic voting issue that was put to it. Tell us a little more about the pros and cons of this technology? Are you an advocate for her?
Personally, I am an advocate. The question is quite long and can not be said exhaustively, there are many details that need to be addressed. But I think the technological problems that exist before the electronic voting are real. We have a technological challenge. The task is more complicated than making an e-banking or online shopping site. It is scientifically more complex, and for some problems in the scientific world there is no consensus on how to be resolved. However, this does not mean that we are far from solving them. I think it is quite realistic for us to have technology that is good enough in a few years. Of course, we can not have 100% safe, flawless technology, but the paper is not that. As we can see, the process of paper voting generates many mistakes, many random results, and even many deliberate mistakes. With the electronic one, although there are risks for larger manipulations, they can be prevented by the right technology. The question is what we adopt as legislation and then as a realization to predispose to using the right technologies. Ie. it will be a very technical discussion about how to do it, how to learn from the experience of others so that we address the fears of people. Of course, we can make the perfect technology, three times better than the Estonian and five times better than the Swiss one, but if people do not trust it, then it makes no sense. The process is two-sided. In Estonia, technology has some problems, theoretical, but people trust it and that’s enough.
These are the minuses and the fears. And what are the undisputed benefits of this technology?
First, people outside of Bulgaria will be able to vote without queuing without going to the nearest city of 200 km, for them it is an easy decision to vote. For the rest, we are seeing a general decline in citizen participation, including in the electoral process, although this is not necessarily backed up by data, as only one country has introduced electronic voting, but perhaps such a vote would increase voter turnout especially among young people. Those who would not go to the polling station do not know what a polling station, newsletters, election commissions, putting envelopes in urns, etc. This is not a process that comes to them from within. They come from inside to sit on the tablet, laptop and vote. In this sense, this is the long-term solution. The generation that is currently growing is not educated in this way of communication, including the one with the state, and in this sense it is mandatory in the long run to allow them to exercise their right to vote in a way that is inherent in them.
Are you optimistic that Parliament would have a positive say on electronic voting and what are the dangers of such a ruling?
Whether I am an optimist I do not know, given what has happened with the vote on the judicial reform, I can not speculate on what I expect from Parliament. I hope to take into account the role of the citizens in the referendum, where the majority said they wanted an electronic vote. Of course, the referendum did not say how to implement this electronic vote, it was not that. The question was whether people wanted in principle or rather – whether they would have trusted an electronic vote, and people said “yes”. It is our role as citizens to monitor how the vote will be implemented if Parliament says yes, because there are many ways in which it can be misplaced and do more harm than good.
You get acquainted with the Electoral Reform Manual and even provide us with advice on IT suggestions in it. What do you think about the Handbook?
It is one tool that would make people think. Now I will make a summary, but the Bulgarians have the confidence that we understand things. And, accordingly, we have some extreme opinions on topics where we did not necessarily look at all the countries. My favorite example is with the majority voting. Many people support it without realizing that it would cemented the big parties, because everywhere the majority candidates would be from big parties. We see this happening in the UK. There are 2-3 parties that go into parliament, and that is. There was a very striking example in the last election, in which case the majority vote helped because the nationalist party had about 13% support and scored 1 or 2 MPs. But generally, it is not good to have such a percentage of support and have 1 out of 600 MPs. In this regard, the Handbook gives people reason to think that perhaps their opinion is not necessarily based on the realities of the world and in our country.
What updates did we make to the “Election Reform Handbook” , according to the advice and recommendations of Bozh Bozhanov, expect to learn on Monday at www.movebg.com and on the facebook handbook page .