Communications-Related Headlines for November 4, 2003

Aussies Do It Right: E-Voting
City Seeks Help Coloring the Howard St. Bridge

AT&T May Face Fine for Telemarketing

Connecting Research with Policy and Practice
Federal E-Government Initiatives in the US
International Perspectives on Achieving E-Government for All

Note: During the two weeks of the E-Government for All conference (November
3-14), the Headlines team will include highlights from the ongoing
conference sessions, along with our usual headlines. We hope you find the
additional summaries useful. For more information on the conference, please



The United States could take a lesson from Australia when it comes to
electronic voting machines. The Aussies addressed security concerns by
making e-voting software completely open to public scrutiny. Though designed
by a private company, the system was based on specifications set by
independent election officials, who posted the code on the Internet for the
public to review. The reaction was positive, and a few people wrote in to
report bugs. Additionally, the electoral commission hired an independent
verification and validation company to audit the code. Australia's
Electronic Voting and Counting System (eVACS) runs on Linux, the popular
open-source operating system available on the Internet. In order to keep
expenses down, eVACS does not provide a voter-verifiable receipt. However,
Matt Quinn, lead engineer on the project, thinks that all e-voting systems
should offer a receipt. The issues of voter-verifiable receipts and secret
voting systems could be resolved in the United States by a bill introduced
in the House of Representatives last May. The bill would force
voting-machine makers nationwide to provide receipts and make the source
code for voting machines open to the public.
SOURCE: Wired; AUTHOR: Kim Zetter,1294,61045,00.html

Through a poll on the Baltimore, Maryland city government website, Mayor
Martin O'Malley is asking citizens to settle an artistic dispute. At issue
is the color that the city will paint the 1,000-foot long Howard Street
Bridge, one of Baltimore's most visible structures. The bridge is the last
to be painted as part of the "Gateway of Color to Baltimore" project, whose
color scheme was devised by artist Stan Edmister. Mayor O'Malley does not
like was he calls the "God-awful" color scheme of rust brown, green and blue
with a splash of yellow. He prefers a Kelly green arch. Fred Lazarus IV,
president of the Maryland Institute and an authority on urban landscapes,
said, "Stan understands how all the colors hold up and the relationships
among the bridges. The mayor doesn't really understand how the color palette
relates to structure and function." O'Malley will abide by the results of
the Internet poll, located at
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun; AUTHOR: Jamie Stiehm,1,6275429.story


Yesterday, the FCC proposed to fine AT&T $780,000 for breaching the recently
enacted legislation mandating that companies cannot telephone consumers that
have registered with the federal "do-not-call" list. Officials say the FCC
found that AT&T made calls to 29 consumers on 78 occasions after those
consumers had asked company solicitors not to call them again. The agency
proposed a $10,000 fine for each call. This would be the first action taken
against telemarketers for making calls to homes against consumer's wishes,
and more actions are to come, say government and industry officials. "We're
actively working on several potential matters, and if we find violations,
you can expect serious and swift enforcement actions," said David H.
Solomon, head of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. Consumers have filed 56,000
complaints with the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission since October 1.
SOURCE: Washington Post; AUTHOR: Caroline E. Mayer


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Invited Speakers:
Darrell West, Taubman Center for Public Policy, Brown University
John B. Horrigan, Senior Research Specialist, Pew Internet & American Life

Darrell West kicked off the discussion by summarizing the findings from his
recent report, E-Government and Accessibility: Highlights from a National
Survey. "[D]espite the extensive progress made in upgrading government
offerings, several pressing policy issues remain for government officials,"
he said. "For example, not all Americans are sharing in the fruits of
technology. In addition, individuals who are visually or hearing impaired or
face other physical challenges do not have the same access to online content
as the non-disabled. This limits the utility of digital government and
denies the advantages of e-government to large populations of American

John Horrigan presented survey results on how Americans are using
e-government services. "About 56% of all Americans ... contacted government
in the past year," he said. "80% of those with a college education did this,
compared with 44% of high school graduates. And whites were more likely to
say they contacted government than non-Whites (by a 58% to 48% margin). As
for which Internet users use e-government, those who have more online
experience are the heavy e-gov users. 78% of online users with 6 or more
years of online experience visited a government Web site in the past year,
compared with 42% of new internet users (those online for a year or less).
Online experience tends to be associated with education and income."

Elizabeth Gorgue, e-Government "evangelist" for the County of Santa Clara,
California, jumped in the conversation to talk about what she called "huge
opportunities for online 'e-democracy.'" Citing the potential of federal
websites like the site, Gorgue suggested that government
portals could do a better job at highlighting documents most requested by
citizens, allow them to sign up for email alerts based on personal interest
and enable peer-to-peer comments on proposed legislation.

Invited Speaker:
David Kitzmiller, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Achieving access for all is a multi-dimensional challenge for all
e-government initiatives. Panelist David Kitzmiller, FCC webmaster,
described how the FCC focuses on five approaches to improve accessibility:
design, content, people (users), systems and interaction with the public.
Besides focusing on these key elements, the FCC also presents policies on
the website that address standards of customer service, website maintenance
& schedules, privacy, security notices, information quality guidelines,
freedom of information act notice for electronic records and information
about required plug-ins, players and readers. "Our challenge is to make our
web site readable, useful, useable, efficient, effective, interactive and
informative for all citizens," Kitzmiller said, "including traditionally
underserved communities such as people with disabilities, people in rural
and tribal areas, older adults, people with low-literacy, non-English
speakers and people from a variety of backgrounds and educational levels."

Andy Carvin, senior associate at the Benton Foundation and program chair of
the conference, asked Kitzmiller about the greatest barrier to website
accessibility."Is it mostly a technical challenge?" he asked. "Is it an
internal communications challenge (ie, getting all internal contributors to
the website to think about accessibility and readability issues)? Is it the
sheer size of the website?" Kitzmiller answered that the challenge is mostly
technical, but it's also related to the sheer size of the website. Carvin
then posed to local, state, and federal webmasters participating in the
conference if technical challenges or other issues are more of an obstacle.
Elizabeth Gorgue responded: "We take accessibility very seriously, and look
at it on 3 dimensions: i) accessibility for persons with disabilities; ii)
accessibility for residents lacking a home connection to the Internet; and
iii) accessibility for persons with limited English proficiency."

"In the beginning, the legal issue certainly got our attention, but from
what I have seen at the FCC and at agencies across the US Federal
Government, It's my belief that there really IS a broad understanding of the
importance of accessibility and readability," Kitzmiller continued.

Invited Speakers:
Pablo Bermudez Mogni, Executive Director, Information Society for the
Vikas Nath, United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
Judy Brewer, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative

Pablo Bermudez opened the session by summarizing the challenges and
opportunities presented by the information society. "Less favored sectors
like the rural populations, poor sectors, ethnic groups and people with
physical disabilities are not taken into account when these strategies are
designed and executed," he explained. He stated that governments have a
unique opportunity to improve customer service and the competitiveness of
their countries, to consolidate truly equitable and participative
democracies, and to produce intelligent, efficient and honest public

Vikas Nath of the United Nations Development Program then gave a brief
overview of digital governance. He promised to discuss several innovative
models of e-governance that have emerged and are evolving to change the way
information is distributed in society.

Next, Judy Brewer from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) invited
participants to visit some online slides that focused on WAI's work on
developing accessibility guidelines. Judy also provided some discussion
questions for thinking about the potential impact of standards harmonization
or fragmentation on the pace of making the Web accessible. "Can adoption of
the same set of Web accessibility guidelines across different countries,
states, and provinces actually accelerate the process of making the Web
accessible, by creating a unified market for Web authoring software
developers to respond to?" she asked.

In the discussion, Greg Benson of the New York State Forum asked for views
on whether e-government's focus on efficiency and cost cutting might eclipse
the considerations for making government websites fully accessible. Donald
Straus raised questions about the use of multiple languages on websites and
in email discussions: "Should multi-languages be accepted only in
international discussions? And if only a single language, how to choose it?"
Andy Carvin replied by extending the topic to its e-government implications,
particularly for a country such as India, where many languages are spoken.
"Perhaps the more important question is what multi-lingual content, if any,
is appropriate for your particular audience," he said. "The challenge, of
course, comes in communities with populations made up of many language
groups. In California, for example, it would be a worthwhile start to
provide information in English and Spanish. But what about the large
populations of Cambodians, Armenians, Iranians, Vietnamese, Hmong, etc that
also happen to live there? Is it realistic for a government to provide
content in _every_ major language group for a multi-lingual population?
Where do you draw the line?"