Tag Archives: Government

Government transparency and open source

Government transparency and open source

Estonia is, with a population of 1.3 million inhabitants, one of the smallest states of the European Union. It is a highly developed country with the highest per capita income of all the former Soviet republics, with a high and increasing score on the Human Development Index, and highly valued in terms of civil liberties, press freedom, economic freedom and education.

Moreover, it is one of the most wired countries considered in Europe and one of the leading world leaders in the development of open government and e -democracy. In the period 2000-2004, the Estonian government considered strategically invest in the development of network usage, and organized an adult education initiative funded by the private sector nationwide who managed to educate over a hundred thousand people, 10 % of the population, with rates of sustained internet use after the course of more than 70%. All Estonian schools are connected to the Internet, and students can view their grades, attendance, access content classes and homework, or final evaluations of teachers about their work.

Government transparency and open source

Since August 2000, the executive cabinet meetings take place in paperless sessions using a system of databases connected by the network, and can also be accessed in the Internet and in real time to a description of the costs incurred by the state. The electronic voting system based on electronic identity, the year of its inauguration in 2005, attracted 1.9% of the voters, was used in the last parliamentary elections in 2011 for 25% of the population.

The last step? Clear all possible doubt and help improve the system. And to that end, there’s nothing like opening the code. Two days ago, the entire server application used to manage e-voting code is available on GitHub (not the client side, to avoid giving too many facilities to the possibility of creating fake customers).

By posting the code, the Estonian government expected that any programmer can test it, find potential issues, vulnerabilities or security flaws, and above all, try the full transparency of the process (an auditing system will ensure that the software used in Election matches available in the repository).

A clear case of security through transparency, not of darkness. The opposite of what happened with Diebold machines used in the United States, precisely because it ended up being a secret development actors of all kinds of problems and controversies. No, it’s not the same managing elections in a country of 1.3 million inhabitants that over one hundred million, but clearly, the United States chose the wrong procedure.

Electronic voting systems are not at all simple. Your design should ensure that no one can falsify the result of the vote, they can only vote for that eligible citizens that their vote is counted only once, each voter can prove definitively that their vote has been placed correctly, a auditor to verify the integrity of the process, malicious participants can not disrupt or contaminate the results of the vote can be properly isolated and that nothing can link a voter with his vote, and that a voter can not prove to a third party which voted (to prevent vote selling).

Government transparency and open source

In the case of Estonia, a voter may vote as many times as you like during the period the vote is open – between the tenth and the fourth day before the election – and only count the last vote cast, even if it has been done in person. With this method it is put control in the hands of voters, making it difficult to be forced to vote for a particular option forced or sell their vote (as it would have a chance to change it later).

With the open sourcing, Estonia not only improves confidence in the system, it can be a reference for those countries seeking to build a similar system. In Spain, one of the pioneers in the deployment of electronic ID, there would be the possibility of developing technology. But obviously, not everything depends on technology: transparency is essentially a will, a desire to do things a certain way. In our country we are, sadly, to something else.