I’m blogging live from Silver Spring, MD subway minutes north out of the frenzy that is the epi-center of our federal government, Washington, DC. Today is the start of the Freedom To Connect conference, which is streaming live here today and tomorrow. We’re in a fabulous venue.
This afternoon the OSDV Foundation will be introduced to this audience of veterans responsible for much of what has become today the Internet. These "netheads" as they’re affectionately referred called, are forward thinking individuals who care as much for their freedome to vote as they do their freedom to connect.
Here then, is a loose transcript of my remarks to be delivered this afternoon. I hope this may be the clearest message yet about what we’re up to…
Hi, I’m Gregory Miller, with the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation.
Thanks to David for giving me 5 minutes to introduce this project; I’m aiming for ~3. So, I hope we can chat more about this at the reception.
We’re a new Silicon Valley-based non-profit. We launched about year ago, but were catalyzed by the Nov 06 mid-term elections, which, as you know, experienced troubles almost anywhere computers were involved.
I won’t bore you with what you already know: the state of voting machines almost compels a moratorium on using computers to vote. And the situation is draining voter confidence.
Yet, the 2002 HAVA legislation catalyzed the spread of computers. After-all, for cash-strapped states, the decision to accept matching funds to update their systems in exchange for making them more digital was a no-brainer.
What’s also a “no-brainer” is that so long as vendors’ business interests are put first, the public interest – in trustworthy technology – will probably not.
But creating trustworthy systems requires the greatest attention to integrity, reliability, and security. In other words, it requires putting the public interest first, regardless of the cost of innovation.
So, a group of us got together and decided it was time to stop complaining, and do something. Our founders come from the start-up world. Our jobs have been to find new ideas, develop new business models, and recommend investments. We know something about putting teams together, raising money, and building momentum.
So, we decided it was time to apply our entrepreneurial zeal and start-up know-how to the public benefit of re-inventing voting technology.
As we studied the need, we determined 5 things that have become the drivers for this project:
1. How America votes is just as important as who America votes for;
2. As democracy becomes more digital, the pressure increases to vote digitally;
3. The free-market approach of entrusting the private sector to produce voting machinery we could count on, has failed;
4. Government is no better able to innovate because it’s burdened by politically controlled appropriations and a constitutionally mandated bureaucracy;
5. The only way to restore trust in e-voting in this increasingly digital society is to design, build, and maintain the blueprints for the technology by and for the public, in an open transparent manner.
The OSDV Foundation’s mission is to make that happen – funded by philanthropists, social venture capitalists, and the public. And we’re taking a different approach from other non-profit efforts engaged in election reform activities.
1st, we understand it will require solid funding, the smartest people, and maximum public involvement to have any chance at success. That’s happening.
2nd, OSDV provides the framework – that is, the resources, structure, and organization – to power a core team of senior technologists …combined with a larger virtual community of volunteers …to actually design and build the next generation of e-voting technology in a transparent open source manner.
The digital democracy has already benefited indirectly from open source projects like Linux, Apache, Firefox, MediaWiki and WordPress. Now, we have an opportunity to benefit society directly with the OSDV project – using collective common sense, creativity, ingenuity, and technical know-how to get at the root of the problems of e-voting, then build and present a solution for everyone to see, touch, and try.
In short, we believe this is the first ever digital public works project.
But there is a ton of work to do.
OSDV is looking at the entire “ballot ecosystem.” This means the design and development of hardware, software, and systems, including:
– Building prototypes;
– Vetting and publishing specifications;
– Implementing reference implementations,
– Developing public demonstrations,
– Supporting independent evaluations, and
– Conducting real-world usability testing
Then there’s making the case that open standards-based e-voting can be feasibly and cost-effectively adopted by U.S. counties and by companies that supply technology to them.
But the mere existence of such technology won’t be enough to have a public impact, even if it’s “open-source,” “high-quality,” “high-assurance,” publicly vetted and demonstrated, and thoroughly tested.
In addition to correcting the dysfunctions of current e-voting, we need to show how open, standards-based voting technology – combined with the information flow of public networks – can create new levels of transparency into the detailed operations, conduct, and results of public elections.
Yes, this is an ambitious undertaking.
Of course, there will be tremendous challenges.
We know there will be adoption hurdles.
But that’s what makes this project challenging, engaging, and imperative.
So we’re looking for anyone who loves a challenge and believes that the only way to restore trust in how America votes is to put the vital tools of voting into a digital public works project.
I’m sure I’ve raised more questions than the words I’ve just spoken, so please join my colleague and me at the reception, and so we can talk details.
Thanks David, for the 5 minutes.