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Democratic process and electronic platforms: concerns of an engineer

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Digital technology and computer science are more and more widespread, and they are set to become a major player in the democratic process. Some valuable tools that allow for such decision process to happen already exist. However, several concerns typical of the engineering process remain apparently uncovered. For instance, in a classic software engineering process, one or more artifacts are produced in the analysis phase that represent a formal, possibly machine understandable, model of the domain. Looking at the most common e-democracy platforms, this step is seemingly missing, along with others that concur at building a solid engineering process. This talk arise questions (and provide no answers) about the current status of the e-democracy under a software engineering point of view: how can a democratic process get formally modeled? Is the democratic process shaping the tools we have, or viceversa? Is there a trade-off between transparency and security? And if so, how to determine which level of observability should the system allow?

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Democratic process and electronic platforms: concerns of an engineer

  1. 1. images/logo Democratic process and electronic platforms: concerns of an engineer Danilo Pianini danilo.pianini@unibo.it Alma Mater Studiorum—Universit`a di Bologna The future of democracy November 3rd, 2016 - Bologna, Italy Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 1 / 23
  2. 2. images/logo Outline 1 Introduction 2 Minimal background on software engineering 3 E-democracy and software engineering 4 Conclusion Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 2 / 23
  3. 3. images/logo Introduction Outline 1 Introduction 2 Minimal background on software engineering 3 E-democracy and software engineering 4 Conclusion Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 2 / 23
  4. 4. images/logo Introduction Disclaimer My core work is on aggregate computations and simulation of complex socio-technical systems I’m not an expert in democracy processes and tools This talk will raise questions, I won’t (can’t) provide answers But maybe others here do :) Main observation There are multiple models of democracy Different models provide different outcomes It’s not a matter or picking the “right” one Main question What’s the relationship between a model of democracy and its (possibly digital) enabling platform? Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 3 / 23
  5. 5. images/logo Minimal background on software engineering Outline 1 Introduction 2 Minimal background on software engineering 3 E-democracy and software engineering 4 Conclusion Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 3 / 23
  6. 6. images/logo Minimal background on software engineering Classic (waterfall) software engineering process Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 4 / 23
  7. 7. images/logo Minimal background on software engineering Software engineering Each phase outputs some artifacts Possibly formalized (machine understandable) Changes in a phase require a revision on all the subsequent phases Changes at the requirement level impact on analysis If the analysis changes, it could impact the whole software design (and its implementation, as a consequence) The stabler the initial phases, the better Notes: This is a very simplified schema Verification, deployment, maintenance are completely omitted for simplicity Not the only existing development model... There are normally loops (spiral, incremental) Lots of approaches on how to actually design a solution for a problem Still, analysing the problem is a necessary phase ...but a good starting point Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 5 / 23
  8. 8. images/logo Minimal background on software engineering Requirements definition Analysis Architectural design Detailed design Implementation Output A document stating what it is expected out of the software Possibly formal There must be agreement on terminology Two categories of requirements Functional: what the software should provide, its specific behaviours Non functional: further requirements that specifies criteria of quality Performance constrains Security Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 6 / 23
  9. 9. images/logo Minimal background on software engineering Requirements definition Analysis Architectural design Detailed design Implementation Output A formal model of the problem (domain model) Including at least the entities composing the problem and their relationships Very important phase: its outcome impacts dramatically on the subsequent phases In developing a software for democratic processes, this phase is where “what a democratic process is” is described Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 7 / 23
  10. 10. images/logo Minimal background on software engineering Requirements definition Analysis Architectural design Detailed design Implementation Output The software After all the phases Intermediate steps have their artifacts too, but that’s not our main concern here We can assume that, if we performed a good analysis, and decided what we want out of our system, then we have a rather solid collection of techniques to deliver the final product [ABR09] Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 8 / 23
  11. 11. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Outline 1 Introduction 2 Minimal background on software engineering 3 E-democracy and software engineering 4 Conclusion Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 8 / 23
  12. 12. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Motivation I Why do we need to follow software engineering principles when designing E-democracy systems? Focus on the model Existing democracy models often fail at capturing many relevant aspects [Gr3] Good engineering focuses attention on improving the analysis, rather than immediately moving forward Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 9 / 23
  13. 13. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Motivation II Tools must follow a democratic model, not dictate it The model of democracy should be studied before its implementation Doing the opposite exposes to the risk that the feature set of the available tools directs the democratic process Advanced technology whose scope is not completely grasped by citizens may become unused [CFP+10] Separation between tool and process There is no evidence or guarantee that the E-democracy tool really implements the democracy model we want What’s worse, we may be unaware of this fact Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 10 / 23
  14. 14. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Requirements and E-democracy I Not just a matter of “implementing the math” The democratic process is composed of multiple phases, that go beyond the math required for interpreting the outcome of an election Who can make new proposals? Who can amend them? How to decide wether an amendment or a proposal is acceptable? How does conflict resolution works? Picking a mathematical model and “coding” it does not provide a proper tool for E-democracy Requirements must be provided Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 11 / 23
  15. 15. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Requirements and E-democracy II Functional requirements over non functional Very much attention is paid to non functional requirements of E-democracy For good reasons: security for instance is a primary concern So much attention that little is left for functional requirements, that are arguably more important They are arguably more important They should receive (at least) as much attention as security does How to raise awareness about the importance of functional requisites? Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 12 / 23
  16. 16. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Requirements and E-democracy III Completeness of requirements Requirements should be as deep and complete as possible Which methodologies should be applied to acquire requirements? Metrics of quality are required to understand how deep and complete requirements are Which metrics are adequate? Which methodologies should be applied to measure them correctly? Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 13 / 23
  17. 17. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Requirements and E-democracy IV Formal requirements and disambiguation Without any formal and reproducible requirement collection, there may be ambiguities Ambiguities should be dissipated with proper formalisms Which formalisms are adequate at capturing the complexity and contemporarily prevent ambiguities? Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 14 / 23
  18. 18. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Analysis and E-democracy I Completeness How to make sure that all the relevant aspects of the democratic process under modelling are taken in account? Which measures would quantify our success? [Fra07] Which methodologies would guarantee completeness? Reproducibility The approach should be systematic and reproducible There is need for a methodological approach [YL10, Gr3] Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 15 / 23
  19. 19. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Analysis and E-democracy II Measurability How to measure participation, involvement, opinion formation? Which metrics can be compared across different models? Comparability The lack of methodical, quantifiable methods drives to non-comparable experience Which methods and measures could provide comparability between different models of democracy? Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 16 / 23
  20. 20. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Analysis and E-democracy III Extensibility Several aspects of the democratic process are not completely clear yet Which are the requirements for being candidate to some role? What does it mean to abstain at a referendum? Is quorum a good mechanism? ... Analysis should take no stance, but provide a formal model flexible enough to embrace all possible choices Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 17 / 23
  21. 21. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Analysis and E-democracy IV Observability Who can supervise the democratic process? Which elements are observable, and by who? Who, if any, can see how somebody voted? Are there roles? Which ones? Is there a trade off between observability and security? Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 18 / 23
  22. 22. images/logo E-democracy and software engineering Analysis and E-democracy V Artifacts Which artifacts should analysis output? Formal Quantifiable Extensible Complete Observable e-government can be a source of inspiration [CPPR10, LL01, PGPA11] But a a focused effort is required for e-democracy, as e-government is not preparatory per se [KS11] Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 19 / 23
  23. 23. images/logo Conclusion Outline 1 Introduction 2 Minimal background on software engineering 3 E-democracy and software engineering 4 Conclusion Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 19 / 23
  24. 24. images/logo Conclusion Wrap up I’d like to see more emphasis on requirements and analysis when discussing E-democracy platforms We are lacking good metrics and methodologies The efforts on requirements are disproportionally oriented to the non functional subset The analysis phase is hard, and many parts are unclear We are at risk of letting E-democracy platforms shape the democratic process, rather than vice-versa Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 20 / 23
  25. 25. images/logo Conclusion A research line? I Considerations Many insights about how a democratic process should be shaped to be adequate for an Internet-enabled society won’t be clear for a while Research is required Existing tools will contribute with experience and practice Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 21 / 23
  26. 26. images/logo Conclusion A research line? II Proposal A meta-E-democracy tool, where the specific democratic process could be plugged in Basically, abstract away most of the analysis by performing a meta-analysis instead Consistent engineering challenge Multidisciplinary effort required to define which elements are part of the process Multidisciplinary effort required to define how such elements are shaped Ideally, the democratic process could be (at least partially) built from well formalized requirements Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 22 / 23
  27. 27. images/logo References References I Flavio Corradini, Damiano Falcioni, Andrea Polini, Alberto Polzonetti, and Barbara Re. Designing Quality Business Processes for E-Government Digital Services, pages 424–435. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2010. Flavio Corradini, Andrea Polini, Alberto Polzonetti, and Barbara Re. Business processes verification for e-government service delivery. Information Systems Management, 27(4):293–308, 2010. Amoretti Francesco. Benchmarking Electronic Democracy. 2007. ˚Ake Gr¨onlund. e-democracy: in search of tools and methods for effective participation. Journal of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis, 12(2-3):93–100, 2003. Ahmad A. Kardan and Ayoob Sadeghiani. Is e-government a way to e-democracy?: A longitudinal study of the iranian situation. Government Information Quarterly, 28(4):466 – 473, 2011. Karen Layne and Jungwoo Lee. Developing fully functional e-government: A four stage model. Government Information Quarterly, 18(2):122 – 136, 2001. Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 22 / 23
  28. 28. images/logo References References II Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos, George Gionis, John Psarras, and Dimitris Askounis. Supporting public decision making in policy deliberations: an ontological approach. Operational Research, 11(3):281–298, 2011. Lihua Yang and G. Zhiyong Lan. Internet’s impact on expert–citizen interactions in public policymaking—a meta analysis. Government Information Quarterly, 27(4):431 – 441, 2010. Special Issue: Open/Transparent Government. ¨Omer Faruk Aydinli, Sjaak Brinkkemper, and Pascal Ravesteyn. Business process improvement in organizational design of e-government services. Electronic Journal of e-Government, 7:123–134, 2009. Danilo Pianini (UniBo) Engineering and democracy 2016-11-03 FoT 23 / 23

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