About the OpenECI Software

OpenECI is the only software created by civil society actors that is approved for the online collection of signatures for European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECIs). It was developed as a cooperative venture between The ECI Campaign and Campact! and by IT experts from the first successful ECI Right2Water and ECI End Ecocide. It is secure, user-friendly, mobile-ready and easily combined with the most effective online campaigning tactics. It has been used by successful ECIs such as Ban Glpyhosat, ECI End the Cage Age and ECI Eat Original. In 2019 most of ECI signatures were collected with openECI. All in all 8 ECIs have been using openECI in 2019. For an ongoing example of openECI usage in 2020 see ECI Save Bees and Farmers.

The situation

The online collection of signatures for European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECI) is governed by strict rules and arcane procedures designed to prevent fraud and protect personal data. Until 2015, only the Online Collection System (OCS) provided by the European Commission met these criteria. However, when this system was introduced, it was clunky and prone to glitches. Supporters had to click through four screens to support an ECI. For many years error messages were incomprehensible. It was also hard to customise, use on mobile devices, monitor signature collection statistics and combine with effective online campaigning practices such as single-click social media sharing. It has cost ECI campaigns money, time and lost signatures.

The solution

Open ECI is the only user and campaign-friendly independent software alternative to the official Online Collection System (OCS). It respects all legal ECI requirements, is available in all official EU languages and has been certified for ECI use. It can be hosted on independent servers in any EU Member State. In practice it has always been re-hosted in Germany.

Open ECI was designed by IT experts who are also experienced ECI campaigners. They’ve loaded it with all of the options sophisticated campaigns need to maximize their chances of ECI success and keep supporters’ data safe and secure. Specifically, Open ECI:

  • Simplifies signature collection into a single step. This reduces the chance of losing supporters when toggling through screens and between websites.
  • Can adapt the graphic look and feel to match the campaign’s graphic identity via CSS and HTML adaptations. This uniform, professional look helps to reassure supporters of the ECI’s seriousness.
  • Easily embeds into multiple websites. This allows campaigns to target messages to national contexts and supporters of diverse partner organisations: a key strategy of successful ECIs.
  • Is mobile-ready, allowing supporters to sign ECIs on smartphones and tablets. This is vital for reaching young adults and low-income supporters. Mobile devices may also be used by volunteers to collect signatures at in-person events.
  • Allows supporters to invite friends via social media to support the ECI, as well as return to partner websites for additional actions. This helps ECI campaigns to grow organically and build momentum.
  • Safely stores supporters’ personal data and provides quick, easy and secure signature sharing with national authorities for verification via standard and open PGP security infrastructure. This reassures supporters and protects ECI citizen committees from liability risks.
  • Can be hosted on an independent server and allow real-time access to signature collection statistical data via APIs. This lets campaigns continuously monitor the impact of their campaigning and quickly modify tactics as needed.
  • Accessible to the visually-impaired. Not only can it be used with screen readers, but it includes Google’s RECAPTCHA designed for the blind and visually impaired.
  • Offers user-friendly error management. When a supporter makes a mistake, such as forgetting to input an ID number, it provides helpful messages to fix the error. This limits lost signatures, as well as complaints to campaigns from frustrated potential supporters confused by incomprehensible error messages.

The Open ECI software was developed under a cooperative agreement between the German online campaigning organisation Campact! and The ECI Campaign. The software available to any ECI that either promotes or does not work against Campact!’s core values of environmental protection, social justice, democracy, peace, human rights and equality. Open ECI software is provided free of charge.

Open ECI must be hosted on an independent server. It cannot be hosted on the Commission’s servers in Luxembourg. While renting a server increases initial campaign costs somewhat, Open ECI saves campaigns significant money and time in the long-term through more effective signature collection and data management. ECI campaigns may contract directly with one of our IT consultants for a complete online signature collection package. This includes the hosting service, software installation and technical support, as well as overseeing its certification with national authorities. This allows ECI campaigns to focus their energies on campaigning and outsource the technical and administrative issues of online signature collection to ECI experts. Alternatively, ECI campaigns may be granted a limited usage licence just for the Open ECI software.

For questions and more important background information please contact:

Carsten Berg
Director of The ECI Campaign
European Citizens’ Initiative e.V.

T: +49-761-48806364
M: +49-1764-3064365