Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Indentity, e-government and using ICT for judicial proceedings

Few weeks ago while living a talk about e-government at the MERCOSUR Conference for Computer Law in Cordoba, Argentina, I repeated my discontent with the overemphasis that Civil law jurisdiction place on the issue of identification and the constrains that the identification requirements place on the use of ICT for government and judicial business. The issue requires a quite long and deep analysis but, notwithstanding the long tradition of written documents in Civil law jurisdictions and leaving apart the scaremongering of identity theft in Internet (it does exist, it is growing but the sky is not falling), the issue is one of cost-benefit and usefulness. I have suggested for a while that even mobile phones should be allowed to transact with the recognition of the phone’s unique transmission identification as prove of identity, and finally a country, Estonia, has decided to move towards allowing its citizens to vote using their mobile phones. It ca be argued that not every country is like Estonia, but once the move is started there, studies should be conducted to adapt the idea to countries with other cultural backgrounds, but where participation and transparency could be greatly enhanced by the use of ICT. Those countries, while lacking extensive Internet and computer networks deployment, have an increasing number of mobile phones in the hands of their population.

Other example that shows that there is an excess of focus on the issue of identity in certain jurisdictions is the one given by the recent situation in Australia…there an Australian lawyer used Facebook to serve an eviction notice on a couple, move that was then approved by an Australian supreme court. The lawyer tried several times to contact the couple by other means without success, so he opted for Facebook. The lawyer's client had been given permission to repossess their house in Canberra, but Australian law requires anyone losing their home to be notified. In April, a lower Australian court ruled against documents being served by Facebook because the option of contacting a person via post was not exhausted, but in the latest ruling, the judge allowed it to happen but insisted that the documents must be attached to a private message sent via Facebook that could not be seen by other members.

Can you imagine that in most Civil law jurisdictions?...not by coincidence some countries are in the state they are…

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