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The Europe Roundup: Evaluation Reports

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, June 17 2011

  • UK | evaluation reports
    After years of successful projects aimed at raising civic awareness, commissioned a detailed analysis of two of its most successful projects, TheyWorkForYou and WriteToThem.
    Researcher Tobias Escher from the Oxford Internet Institute conducted the studies, with many interesting findings. Here's what mySociety folks wrote about it:

    [...] we set up TheyWorkForYou and WriteToThem was to make representatives accessible to people who were newcomers to the democratic process. It was therefore heartening to read that 60% of visitors to TheyWorkForYou had never previously looked up who represents them, and two in five users of WriteToThem have never before contacted one of their political representatives.But, as you would expect with any properly neutral evaluation, it’s not all good news. Our sites aim to reach a wide range of people, but compared to the average  British internet user, WriteToThem users are twice as likely to have a higher degree and a higher income. It also seems that users are disproportionately male, white, and over 35.

    The reports are rich with data and stories and are a must-read not only for those are interested in the results of the two projects but also for people who would like to replicate this kind of initiatives in their own country, a hope shared by Escher, too:

    What I hope the research results show is that engaging citizens with the help of the Internet is neither simple nor impossible, and that there are few simple answers in relation to whether the Internet is good for democracy. [...] From my experiences, I know that it is often somewhat difficult for NGOs to engage in evaluation, for lack of money or time, and sometimes also for a lack of understanding of why this is useful. However, I firmly believe that it is crucial to do evaluation both to get some critical assessment of one’s own achievements – to help improve the site – as well as to give other initiatives in this space the chance to learn from the successes and failures of others.

  • EU | The Open Data Challenge is over
    The Open Data Challenge, Europe's biggest data competition, ended yesterday with the announcement of the winners during the Digital Assembly in Brussels. The competition had 430 entries from 24 EU countries.
    The topics vary from improving mobility and transportation to fighting corruption, from the evolution of EU legislation to mapping carbon dioxide emissions.

    Open Data Challenge from Open Knowledge Foundation on Vimeo.

    The winners were selected by a jury of experts and announced by Vice President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes.

  • UK | The risks of oversharing: British Ministry of Defence steps in
    The British Ministry of Defence has recently released a public announcement and a series of videos warning servicemen and women of the security risks in using social networking sites.
    "Think before you tweet/blog/update/tag/comment/check-in/upload/text/share" instructs one of the videos as the main message of a document illustrating online engagement guidelines.

    Reporting on the topic, The Telegraph observes how this kind of warning resembles some propaganda campaigns from the Second World War:

    During the Second World War, propaganda campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic warned Allied personnel to be careful where they mentioned sensitive information. In Britain, the key slogan was "Careless talk costs lives"; famous cartoons by Fougasse showed British citizens talking quietly, not noticing caricatures of Hitler or Goebbels listening in. Another showed a soldier, an airman and a sailor at a party, clearly trying to impress a young woman, above the words "Keep mum - she's not so dumb!
    In the US, the equivalent was  "Loose lips sink ships".

    Even if the comparisons seem a bit too strong, this is not bad advice altogether, though, notes the Atlantic Wire: Taken out of the military context, the warnings actually apply to everyone who takes too little care of their digital security, and it's not bad advice, especially with the recent hacker epidemic in the U.S. Though it kind of seems a stretch to equate a rogue overshare with your mom inviting a terrorist to tea.