Technology underpinned by experience essential to a thriving digital democracy (Guest blog by Civica)
Digitalisation is transforming every aspect of our citizen experience, including the beating heart of our democracy, elections. While we may still cast our votes in public elections using traditional ballot papers, digital technologies have transformed almost every other aspect of electoral administration - from the printing and distribution of those ballot papers to the maintenance of the electoral register.
By embracing digital technologies, governments in the UK and around the world can reinvigorate the relationship between citizen and state, by ensure voting is more accessible and decision-making is more open and transparent. The flip side to rapid digitalisation of course, is the growing potential for ever more elaborate forms of cyber-crime.
Standing up to scrutiny
For public services generally, cyber-attacks are hugely disruptive. From the NHS to local councils, we’ve seen numerous high-profile examples of carefully orchestrated attacks on vital services which have cost millions of pounds and caused major disruption to ordinary citizens. For elections, however, the stakes are even higher. Democracy is the foundation upon which our society is built, and voters must always be entitled to take for granted that every single election, whether it involves a ballot box or a touchscreen, has been conducted in a manner which is honest, transparent, and fair.
As our democratic processes become ever-more digitised, therefore, the digital technologies which support them must stand up to ever higher levels of scrutiny. Even a relatively minor data breach or a brief denial of service could have a major impact on public confidence. The growth of ever more elaborate forms of election interference, from deep fakes to disinformation campaigns, has only heightened public awareness of the fragility of our democracy in the digital age.
No substitute for experience
To ensure our democratic processes can continue to adapt and thrive in the digital age, providers of digital voting and governance technologies require not only the capability, but also – crucially - the experience to understand and mitigate against the evolving nature of cyber-crime. Cyber-criminals are adept at innovating and adapting and so too must the providers of technologies underpinning our democratic processes. This requires relentless investment in both the software and the people who develop and administer it. Cyber criminals will never stand still, and neither therefore can we.
The bedrock of any thriving democracy is the total trust and confidence of citizens in the legitimacy of elections, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the results. Election outcomes, whether for the local parish council or Parliament, must always stand up to the highest levels of scrutiny. With the right technologies, underpinned by wisdom and experience, digital democracy will flourish well into the twenty-first century.
Help to shape and govern the work of techUK’s Cyber Security Programme
Did you know that nominations are now open* for techUK’s Cyber Management Committee? We’re looking for senior representatives from cyber security companies across the UK to help lead the work of our Cyber Security Programme over the next two years. Find out more and how to nominate yourself/a colleagues here.
*Deadline to submit nomination forms is 17:00 on Tuesday 18 October.
Cyber Innovation Den
On Thursday 3 November, techUK will host our fourth annual Cyber Innovation Den online. This year we’ll explore efforts being made to realised the ambition set out in the National Cyber Strategy, with speakers taking a look at the progress we’ve seen to date, including the foundation of the UK Cyber Security Council, the reinvigoration of the Cyber Growth Partnership and the continued growth in the value of the sector to the UK economy.
Cyber Security Dinner
In November techUK will host the first ever Cyber Security Dinner. The dinner will be a fantastic networking opportunity, bringing together senior stakeholders from across industry and government for informal discussions around some of the key cyber security issues for 2022 and beyond.
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