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The Europe Roundup: Ushahidi-Based Websites Spread to Fight Corruption

BY Antonella Napolitano | Thursday, September 15 2011

  • Bulgaria | shahidi-Based Websites Spread to Fight Corruption

    Several Eastern Europe countries are struggling for democracy and transparency; Bulgaria is one of the most involved in the process.
    Transparency International, a research and advocacy organization that fights corruption, conducted a study finding that 97% of the interviewed Bulgarian citizens thought that corruption was a major problem for the country.
    The research also showed that 20% to 25% of Bulgarian voters were victims of the so-called "controlled vote" with 12% admitting they have been involved in vote selling. The expression “controlled vote” indicates voters who either accepted money in exchange ofr their vote or were otherwise coerced into voting, for example, with their employers threatening to fire them unless they supported a certain political party.

    In this troubled scene and with an upcoming election (next October 23rd) a coalition of NGOs has decided to create a collaborative website called For Fair Elections. The website was presented earlier this month by the Institute for Public Environment Development during a seminar organized by TI Bulgaria.

    For Fair Elections is built on a Ushahidi platform and will track electoral violations all over the country. All materials will be submitted online through Facebook, Twitter and email and every report will be marked on the map of Bulgaria after verification.
    As reported by Bulgarian news agency Novinite:

    Representatives of the Institute vow to verify any information they receive. If the latter is not backed by at least one more confirmation, the reported violation will be listed as "unconfirmed," while those verified by the additional check will be labeled "confirmed."
    The NGO is not going to send the information they receive to the Prosecutor's Office, but will advise people who contact them to turn to the prosecution.

    Every location will then show explanation of the type of violation and all the related photos or videos. A mobile version where voters can sent information through text messages on their cell phones is also in the works.
    The website is available in Bulgarian and English.
    This kind of project are spreading in the country. Global Voices reports that in August Bulgarian blogger Boyan Yurukov set up Bulgaria's first Ushahidi-based site,, whose goal is to track crimes and irregularities, using the website and the related Facebook and Twitter account and a mobile application. is technical partner of the project.

  • Italy | Open Data Up For Adoption
    How to create open data engagement? The Italian Public Administration decided to ask citizens to take care of their data.
    FormezPA, an agency of the Italian Government, launched Linea Amica (Italian for “Helpline”), an initiative that aims at creating citizens engagement.
    Linea Amica is the official contact center of the whole Italian Public Administration. The main service is RubricaPA, a specific feature that allows users to find and locate a public agency by searching among thousands of national, regional and local authorities.

    Mantaining an updated database of location and contact information of public offices may seem a small problem but it is a recurring problem for citizens. The Italian Public Admistration has in fact lots of offices and the bureaucracy is complex so it is hard to understand what is the agency that can answer a specific need.
    Moreover websites are not often updated and this creates further problems to citizens, expecially in bigger cities.
    The initiative ask citizens to take responsibility for this kind of data concerning offices in their area to make the system more efficient.
    Italian public policy analyst Luigi Reggi explains how the collaborative process will work:

    The service is now letting the users modify the underlying data by submitting more accurate or updated information on an agency location, telephone number or certified email.The process is simple. You modify of a set of data through a form, then your suggestion is evaluated by the staff, and, if accepted... you have now adopted that specific data.  This means that the staff at the ministry considers yourself somehow responsible of that data and its change over time.

    The initiative seems aimed at public servants and in general at people that are already interested in open data.
    Organizers hope that Linea Amica will create a new relation between data and citizens, as Reggi concludes, “something that may (or may not) create a sort of a personal bond with the data itself. Or even an act of love, quoting from Alberto Cottica’s definition of social network".

  • The Netherlands | Facial Recognition Cameras on Trams
    In the Netherlands facial recognition will be tested in the public transportation sector:

    Rotterdam's public transport company RET is planning to use facial recognition technology to make sure people who have been banned from using the city's trams don't sneak on anyway, local television station RTV Rijnmond reports.
    RET is planning to install cameras in every compartment on the tram 2 route to test the system.
    In theory, the cameras will scan the faces of everyone entering the tram. If someone who has been banned gets on, the driver will be given a signal.
    The idea of using facial recognition technology to reduce aggression on public transport was first mooted a year ago. RET denies there are privacy concerns because no names will be attached to the recorded images.

    (via Evgeny Morozov)

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