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WeGov

From Keeping Away Snoops to Surmounting the Digital Divide, Mesh Networks are on the Rise

BY Carola Frediani | Thursday, January 16 2014

In Somaliland, locals build their own Internet where there is none (credit: Daniel Hastings)

From Somalia to Greece, from New York to rural Spain, an increasing number of communities around the world are taking back the right to build their own Internet, by setting up wireless communication networks. Digital divide, scarcity of resources, fears of corporate and government surveillance are the main drivers behind a growing movement that, by leveraging Wi-Fi technology, seeks to create open, free and autonomous networks to connect people. Read More

WeGov

In Sudan, Civil Society says It's Struggling to Work Around US Sanctions' Block on Tech

BY Amanda Sperber | Tuesday, January 14 2014

In Sudan, going online only yields a slew of inaccessible pages (credit: UNAMID Photo/flickr)

In Sudan, you cannot download an app via Google play, or update software. No transactions can take place over the Internet because you cannot use a credit card. You can't order a book, a computer or buy music. Transferring money to Sudan from the US is also close to impossible, including in times of crisis, like the massive flooding in August 2013, when some in the diaspora tried sending money to give family back home assistance. US sanctions have blocked a number of products in Sudan, including vital technology tools, and while they tried to ease web restrictions in 2010, it has not improved the situation in Sudan.

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WeGov

The Buenos Aires Net Party: Weaving a Bridge Between the Click and the Vote

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, January 13 2014

The Net Party wants to change government from the inside out (credit: El Partido de La Red)

If you had strolled past the Legislature Palace of the City of Buenos Aires some time in October of last year, you might have seen a towering Trojan horse made of wooden slats taken in tow by a SUV and a group of activists from the nascent El Partido de La Red or Net Party. Rather than housing a lethal subset of the Grecian army, the statue carried ideas from the citizens of Buenos Aires on improving their city government. The Net Party is the city’s newest party and first dabble into direct democracy. Read More

WeGov

A Boost for Both Transparency and Taxes in Mexico?

BY Rebecca Chao | Wednesday, January 8 2014

There may be more pesos for the municipality of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga this year (Credit: Scott Robinson/flickr)

While the Mexican municipality of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga sits in the center of the country, its name translates as “Land in the Corner” in the Aztec language, Nahuatl. The title is perhaps more fitting now. Once one of the country’s most corrupt municipalities, it now occupies a special corner of Mexico as its least corrupt, jumping from a 34.2 in 2009 to a full score of 100 in 2013 as ranked by the transparency organization CIMTRA. Mayor Ismael del Toro and his predecessor Enrique Alfaro are in part responsible for pushing forward a number of innovative policies that include a four-year-old participatory budgeting project, which allow citizens to vote annually on how their taxes should be spent. Read More

WeGov

Chinese Communist Party Takes a Stab at Making Viral Online Videos

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, January 7 2014

A motorbike-riding clown is just one "Chinese dream" featured in the CCP's latest propaganda video (credit: screenshot)

It seems as if the Chinese Communist Party is looking for a little country rebranding for the new year and is taking a cue from the power of viral online videos. In its second installment – its first propaganda video achieved some moderate success – the CCP mysteriously published on new year's day a three-minute video on Youku, China’s version of Youtube. It contains no credits though some officials have publicly noted the video and a CCP logo complete with sickle and hammer appears in the right-hand corner of the screen. Read More

WeGov

Breathing New Life into Data with the "Scrapeathon"

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, January 6 2014

The logo for Data Publica's Scrapathon (credit: Data Publica)

At the heart of most civic-oriented hackathons, those short 24-hour or so gatherings to code and create innovative apps for public good, is data. But many hackathons suffer from a lack of quality data or knowledge on where to find it, a problem that Benjamin Gans says he and his team at a for-profit data crunching company, Data Publica, noticed after attending and hosting a number of their own hackathons. They have coined the term "scrapathon" or scrapeathon to describe the new data scraping events they have begun hosting to give data a new and more purposeful life. Read More

WeGov

In the Congo, War and Embargo Complicate World Bank Project

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, December 16 2013

The provincial budget minister talks to the press after a generally assembly and budget vote (Credit: World Bank)

The war-ravaged province of South Kivu sits at the eastern border of the DRC, beside the stem of Tanganyika, an African Great Lake. Boris Weber, team leader for the World Bank's ICT4Gov, explains to techPresident that after years of conflict and violence in the province, the provincial government was simply not sending the money allocated to local governments. “Partly, they just didn’t have any incentive to send it. Also, they had no way of knowing and tracking how their money was going to be spent.” The World Bank’s participatory budgeting program, piloted in 2012, aimed to resolve that dilemma by giving those in Bukavu a direct say in how they wanted to see their budget spent; therefore creating the accountability needed to incentivize the provincial government to send money down the line. But locals view the program with a skeptic eye and ask, is it enough? Read More

WeGov

Can Do-It-Yourself Biology Change Science or Save a Life?

BY Carola Frediani | Friday, December 13 2013

Taking the lab home. (Credit: Z33 art centre, Hasselt/flickr)

They are rebels with a cause, fighting for open science. Each of them do it in their own way. Still, they all have a common goal: to change the way in which science is practiced, the way its results are distributed and even who gets to participate. It’s a loose movement made up of a new breed of scientists such as the Italian veterinary virologist Ilaria Capua, who challenged the World Health Organization’s policies on sharing data and created a global consortium of scientists who sought to foster international sharing of avian influenza data. Capua’s stand was an act of rebellion against institutional science, a victory for open biology and the start of a new type of scientific research enabled by the Internet and ICT tools, through which international cooperation could be reached by online data sharing. And yes, it was a way of hacking biology.

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WeGov

New Report Says Canadian Politicians’ "Digital Offices" Need a Makeover

BY Elisabeth Fraser | Wednesday, December 11 2013

A new report by the nonprofit Samara explains how Canada's politicians are not doing well in connecting online.

Canada has seen steep drops in political participation of late, as well a general decline in political engagement, according to Samara, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to improving political participation. The organization believes their MPs’ lackluster online presence has something to do with it; they released a report last week, detailing their survey of websites for Canada’s MPs. Read More

WeGov

Buenos Aires, A Pocket of Civic Innovation in Argentina

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, December 10 2013

Last week, Buenos Aires' Open Government launched an interactive timeline of its 100-year-old subway sytem (Credit: Screenshot)

In only a few years, the government, civil society and media in Buenos Aires have actively embraced open data. The Buenos Aires city government has been publishing data under a creative commons license and encouraging civic innovation through hackathons. NGOs have launched a number of tech-driven tools and Argentina's second largest newspaper, La Nación, has published several hard-hitting data journalism projects. The result is a fledgling but flourishing open data culture in Buenos Aires, in a country that has not yet adopted a freedom of information law. Read More