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A Digital Citizens Bill of Rights

Westen, Tracy and Stern, Robert (2009) A Digital Citizens Bill of Rights. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece. (In Press)

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A DIGITAL CITIZENS BILL OF RIGHTS "[A] bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse." --Thomas Jefferson December 20, 1787 Introduction This paper presents a comprehensive framework for discussing proposed rights of digital citizens in the digital age. Over the past decade, as the Internet has grown in influence and scope, many have proposed individual or partial lists of rights that citizens should have, but none of them have been comprehensive or complete. We present here a comprehensive list of “rights” that citizens should expect governments in the digital age to protect and enhance. The paper proposes the notion of “digital citizens,” who interact with agencies of government through voting, receipt of government services and day-to-day interactions over important public policy issues. We explore briefly the history of the Internet in regards to government and democratic participation, explain the difference between e-Government and e-Democracy and then itemize and discuss a proposed new “Digital Citizens’ Bill of Rights.” We also illustrate many of the proposed “rights” with data from different countries to illustrate the developments that have been achieved over the last decade in e-Government and e-Democracy. 1. Right to Information --Right to identify the name, title, contact information and duties of each elected official directly responsible to each citizen (e.g., a citizen should be able to access an online government database, enter his/her address and identify their city councilmember, county supervisor, state assembly member, etc.) --Right to obtain elected officials’ voting records and positions on range of issues --Right to access full-texts of all government research online and, where feasible, through other media (TV, Video-on-Demand) --Right of access to online search engine to locate government research --Right of access to government information in multiple languages where appropriate (e.g., English & French in Canada) 2. Right to Transparency --Right to view online agendas of all upcoming governmental meetings --Right of notification (e.g., email, text message), upon request, of specific upcoming governmental decisions (e.g., citizens would indicate they are interested in specific issues, and city council would email them notification a week before issues are considered, so citizens can participate in public hearing or comment by email) --Right to access online streamed and/or archived video coverage of public government decisions (e.g., video coverage of city council, state legislature), via TV, the Web or Cable TV/DBS/Cellular Video-on-Demand retrieval systems 3. Right to Petition --Right to access software that will allow citizens to transmit their opinions on pending issues to government officials --Right to expect that information transmitted to elected officials electronically will not be ignored (officials will log comments, respond in timely manner, etc.) --Right to participate in periodic, online, non-binding government-initiated public opinion polls, to express opinions on major items pending before local, regional, state and national governments (e.g., government would conduct public opinion polls, post the results, and publicly respond through committee hearings, legislative resolutions, etc.) (alternative to binding ballot initiative) 4. Right to Vote --Right to vote online in manner that is private, secure and accurate --Right to sign online petitions to qualify citizen initiatives for the ballot, in jurisdictions which utilize the ballot initiative process --Right to receive voter information on all candidates for elected office and ballot measures in textual and/or video formats via the Web, Internet or Cable TV/DBS/Cellular Video-on-Demand retrieval systems 5. Right to Privacy --Right to inspect any information collected by government and to correct it for errors or omissions --Right to prevent government and private vendors from selling, disseminating or making public any private information collected by government, where that information personally identifies specific citizens 6. Right to Access --Right of universal access to government information and services via the Internet (e.g., free government supported public points of access through libraries, kiosks, etc.) --Right of access to government via electronic technologies (email, Internet) should exist irrespective of age, gender, race, income or disability (e.g., voice activation for blind, sub-captioning for deaf) --Right to receive free government-supplied email addresses and accounts --Right to explicit governmental policies designed to keep Internet access costs low (tariffs, antitrust enforcement policies against media monopolization, etc.) 7. Right to Assemble --Right to create or join online communities and forums without constraint --Right to privacy in online memberships 8. Right to Freedom of Expression --Right to free and uncensored personal communication without governmental intervention --Right to free and uncensored communication in un-moderated public forums or networks 9. Right to Online Services --Right to enter into government transactions (e.g., income tax filing) or obtain government services (e.g., auto registration) online --Right to obtain online answers to specific questions relating to government (e.g., hours of park operation, ways to obtain camping permits) Bills of rights have been articulated at crucial moments in political history, dating back to the Magna Carta, and these rights have provided the foundations for the formation of modern democracies. We believe the time is now right to begin articulating a comprehensive Digital Citizens’ Bill of Rights that will define basic rights and benefits of all citizens in the digital age, protecting citizens against electronic abuses of government power, and empowering them to participate more actively and effectively in the activities of democratic governance.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Uncontrolled Keywords:eDemocracy, eGovernment, citizen, rights, digital
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:211
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 16:50

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