“WE SEEK TO BE LEADERS IN ELECTRONIC DEMOCRACY”
- Written by EVoting Communications
- February 28th, 2021
TOMÁS BARROS, GENERAL MANAGER, STATES THAT ELECTRONIC DEMOCRACY IS THE NEXT BIG THING.
2020 was a year of hard work for EVoting: new services, diversification of clients, international takeoff and voting records are some of the milestones that marked the year (see LINK). Tomás Barros, general manager in charge of this process, is tired, but also optimistic and with an eye on the future. “Electronic participation is going to increase, because people are asking for more democracy and breaking this scheme in which democratic participation is only voting to elect our authorities. There is a demand today for broader participation. In EVoting, we have had people defining regulatory building plans, the country’s Constitution, whether or not to restrict the bars’ working hours, where to prioritize the communal budget, among many other issues. People want to make collective decisions on issues that concern their lives and the tool to do that – in terms of cost, time, and accessibility- is electronic voting. So, more than electronic voting, I believe that electronic democracy is the next big thing”.
Don’t you think there is a lot of resistance to electronic voting? I don’t see people resisting it. Most of the messages we receive are grateful and congratulate us for the simplicity of the system. And the levels of participation are always very high in our processes, not only in Chile, but also in the other seven countries of the region where we currently are. I would say that resistance to electronic voting is more institutional.
There is criticism that electronic voting is not sufficiently secure. Security has many aspects to it and you have to see what you compare it with. Electronic voting can be more secure than paper in many situations. It cannot be burned, misplaced, stolen, etc. In Chile, it is mentioned that there is no assurance that the person is actually voting freely, but Servel (Chile’s Electoral System) announced that it will allow mail-in vote, and in this case, electronic and mail votes have no differences. In both cases we have to trust that we are in a society that is mature enough so that the cases where someone can be influenced or pressured are the least amount of people and do not influence the final result. I believe that Chileans know how important it is to vote and we take care of our right to vote.
How did the pandemic context influence EVoting? There was a huge increase in demand because processes that used to be done on paper, now had to be remote. It was surprising to see the value that people give to democracy, the person on the street. For the vast majority, democracy has too great of a value to be postponed by a pandemic and they began to tell us “Look, I want to elect my leaders, I want to give my opinion, I want to make decisions and I cannot because of public health restrictions”. They actively looked for a solution and they found us, because we have the most experience in this. We did a lot of voting and electronic assemblies -from sports clubs to shareholders’ meetings-, we developed a product that would fit this need to participate together, discuss an issue and make a decision. Our remote meeting platform was very welcome.
We also transformed all our face-to-face processes and made them remote, we organized ourselves without an office, we learned to communicate as a team, to function in a different way. But working remotely made us a more solid company and allowed us to be in Perú, Costa Rica, Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico and Panama, and to understand that it is not so different from being in Santiago, Valparaíso or Valdivia. This learning allowed us to adapt to a world where the physical is not a limitation. We broke our borders.
What does this mean? From the moment we developed expertise in remote work, we realized that borders between countries had lost their meaning. That we were not selling services for Chile, but for the whole region and the world. We felt prepared for that and the proof is that we are doing it. We define ourselves as a global company because we changed the place from where we stand: we don’t see ourselves as suppliers of a single globalized world. The logic we started to work with was that our platforms, protocols, methods, language, will be for everyone, everyone will be able to understand and use them. And, at the same time, we maintain the ability to adapt to the specificities of each client.
Where do you see EVoting in 10 years? We definitely see ourselves as a leader and reference in e-democracy throughout the Americas. Those who have the standards, the protocols, who know what does and knows what can and cannot be done. And then, we seek to have a presence in Europe and to be able to advise and support democratic processes in places where these are more complex; make electronic voting accepted and valid, ensuring what aspects need to be taken care of, where to concentrate our efforts, etc. Seven years ago, we started with a system for electronic voting. Today we discovered other needs along the same lines and have developed products for each need. I am sure that needs will continue to appear within what we understand by democracy and I believe that EVoting will continue to make technology that gives people Access to an open democracy, making it easier, with more channels and more participation techniques. We seek to be leaders in electronic democracy.