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Introduction

From: Jake Mumm <jake@jacobmumm.com>
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2009 18:08:11 -0400
Message-ID: <49569ab70904211508i19564647hf2e52af1964c9171@mail.gmail.com>
To: public-egov-ig@w3.org
Greetings All,

As I am new to this list, I write to introduce myself. My name is Jacob Mumm
and I am a web developer with a long standing interest in social justice and
grassroots organizing. I have always been interested in the idea of using
technology to facilitate democratic participation. To this effect, I have
two pet projects, one new and one a few years old. I believe these projects
do a good job to illustrate where my mind is at in relation to the work that
is taking place here with the eGov IG, so I will briefly describe them.

*Open Meeting* is an open source web conferencing solution intended to
facilitate large scale deliberation via small group discussion and real-time
feedback. I did most of my research on this project a couple years back
while in undergrad. I have not completed a working prototype and, as a
result, have not been able to recruit developers. The one thing of true
substance to come of this endeavor is a peer-to-peer networking model
created by the professor I was studying under. This protocol has yet to be
properly documented, however we have had a working proof-of-concept posted
to Source Forge<http://openmeeting.cvs.sourceforge.net/viewvc/openmeeting/networking/>since
early 2007. The beauty of this networking model is that groups can
stream data from any endpoint without the aid of a centralized server, which
leads to two very important things. 1) It enables networks to form
spontaneously from a single host PC, and 2) Leads to a more secure and
trustworthy network.

My new project aims to create an open issue voting system which will
incorporate links to external information sources. I'm working on starting a
business with a friend of mine to develop this website, so I won't go into
extensive detail on features, but in time I hope to discuss different
aspects of the project with the group. For now, I would like to simply talk
about the philosophy behind this idea. In terms of democratic participation,
if a large portion of the population were to express their opinion in a more
regular and quantifiable manner, elected officials may find it more
difficult to go against the people. Rather than wait for the government to
implement this layer into their system, we propose to operate in parallel.
One key difficultly is an issue that has come up in this group, and that is
Identity. Ideally, I'd love to have a complex profile of demographic and
other information on every user to facilitate the production of custom
statistical reports based on votes. The problem is that we can't find a way
to validate identities and, furthermore, people may not wish to give away
their identity to a website where they express political opinion. If we did
manage to validate a person's information, we would be committed to keeping
their name separate from their data(if not completely throwing it away
altogether). It is important to us to make it so people can trust the site.
They can choose to create a public profile if they wish, but by default the
true identity of the voter should not be connected to the vote, only his
data. It is a tricky problem, and for now we plan to build it anyways in the
hope that the sheer number of participants will make it effective.

In all of this, I rely on the potential to programmatically access
government data in the future. I believe it is key to have both the
information at hand as well as the capacity to communicate with others and
share ideas. Better access to data enables better understanding among the
population. All that is needed are ways for people to introduce alternatives
and reach consensus. I strive to build tools that bring people and
information together, and participate in whatever other ways I can, which is
what brings me here to this group. I am excited by the leadership this group
is establishing in the world of eGovernment and I deeply respect the work I
have seen from the members of this group.

Thank you for your time and your work, and I look forward to making
government a little more transparent with you all.

Sincerely,

Jacob Mumm
Received on Thursday, 23 April 2009 05:35:34 GMT

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