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The Europe Roundup: Not only in crisis: making the most of crowdsourcing platforms

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, September 23 2011

  • Russia | Not only in crisis: making the most of crowdsourcing platforms
    In the summer of 2010, when fires spread across Russia, Internet activists got organized and created the Help Map, the first use of Ushahidi in the country. The website aggregated information coming from citizens who reported fires and organized it by category, geolocation and time. The crowdsourcing element created the possibility to share information and provide help and became immensely popular, at one point experiencing upto 17,000 unique visitors a day.

    After that experience many asked if Ushaihidi-based platform could prove helpful in bridging the gap between government and citizens.
    The very active Russian blogosphere is trying to work in that direction with the creation of the website (which stands for “virtual alarm”) – which allows people to point both to a specific need (in red) and to offers to help (in green) on the same map. currently lists three maps: a “General Map”, a “Fire Map”, and a “Blood Donation” map.

    Anastasia Severina, one of the bloggers involved, says they have tried to make the site as simple as possible, so that everyone can participate. More details on the process are provided in a Global Voices post:

    The site team in Moscow does not physically transport or receive goods. Instead, Virtual Alarm connects people who live in the same city, with those who have what they need.
    “Let’s say a mother needs supplies, like clothing for her children. It makes no sense to send clothes from an NGO in Moscow to Vladivostok,” Severina explains. Instead, alerts for help or need are marked on a map, and people registered as willing to help are notified of new requests via email.
    After about two weeks, they follow up on any outstanding alerts to make sure someone has responded to the call for help.

    In the near future, Rynda hopes to partner with local businesses in order to offer registered users small rewards – like discounts or movies tickets – as a thank you for volunteering.

  • France | Open data gets traction at local level
    Open data is getting traction in France: while the launch of a national open data portal is set for December, lately, local councils have been working too.
    At the end of September the General Council of Saône-et-Loire (in the region of Bourgogne) will launch an open data portal.
    Arnaud Montebourg, the president of the Saône-et-Loire Council, declared: "It is a great site that we open, very experimental, innovative and forward-thinking, which makes the Saône-et-Loire a place of experimentation, new ideas and projects.".
    Saône-et-Loire is the sevent largest department of France and the most densely populated. This portal is the first of its kind in France. At the moment the only other local initiatives comes big cities like Paris, Rennes, Nantes, Paris and Montpellier.

    The project also involves the Digital National Council (CNN), a new advisory body born last April. The CNN will be responsible for assisting the Government in shaping policies on Internet-related issues. The working group will present a report on the reuse of public data in France in January 2012.

  • Spain | On Spanish Indignants and the power of the networks

    But what is transformative is the process more than the product. It is the elaboration in open commissions and the decision taken in assembly. It is a new politics for exiting the crisis toward a new way of life built collectively. A slow process because, as a poster reads innBarcelona, “we’re going slowly because we’re going far.” So those who minimize the wikiacampadas still do not understand how profound they are.

    — Catalan sociologist and thinker Manuel Castells, pointing to the change that the Indignants movement brought to Spanish politics. According to him, citizens have discovered new forms of organization over traditional channels and politicians will need to face this emerging civil society finding its way to a networked democracy.
    In Spain elections are set on November 20th.