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WeGov

Can the Internet Improve Democracy? Thoughts on the 2013 World Forum for Democracy

BY WeGov | Friday, December 6 2013

Just another gathering? (Credit: Wikimedia)

The list of online democratic platforms has swelled in just the last few years. Germany's Pirate Party, Italy's Five Star Movement and Iceland's Citizens Foundation are just a few examples of civic groups that have expressed dissatisfaction with the status quo and have attempted to solve the inadequacies and inefficiencies of government through technology. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Council of Europe held its second annual World Forum for Democracy, gathering over thousands from civil society, government and the media to discuss the effect of the Internet on democracy. What exactly did the forum accomplish? Did it have a productive impact on the discussion of democracy and the Internet? Two practitioners who attended the forum weigh in. Read More

WeGov

Putting the International Spotlight on Killer Robots

BY Carola Frediani | Tuesday, December 3 2013

Campaigning in London to create a worldwide ban on killer robots (image: Stop Killer Robots/flickr)

Imagine an unmanned robot surveying enemy land and deciding, based on algorithms rather than human control, when it should and shouldn't drop a bomb or release a cascade of bullets. These "killer robots," once a topic restricted to an elite group of scientists, military analysts and visionary science writers has now reached a global audience through the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a movement that, very strikingly, seeks to preemptively ban them. Most weapons bans are reactive, taking place after it has exacted a massive toll. Read More

WeGov

In Tanzania, MOOCs Seen as "Too Western"

BY Amanda Sperber | Friday, November 22 2013

A primary school in Arusha, Tanzania (Chris Gansen/flickr)

For many low income countries around the world, including Tanzania, MOOCs are being hailed as digital salvation, bringing “elite” education to the masses. But for some in Tanzania, MOOCs are seen as overly Western, inaccessible to those who do not speak English and unable to address some fundamental problems with education in Tanzania. Read More

WeGov

Activists Put a Hole in the Great Firewall of China

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, November 18 2013

The man with the golden cam/flickr

When the Chinese versions of Reuters and the Wall Street Journal were censored on Friday, the team at GreatFire.org quickly got to work in restoring them by creating what they call “mirror sites.” Much like a reflection, they are essentially impossible to eliminate without causing significant economic damage to China, according to Great Fire co-founder Charlie Smith. Read More

WeGov

After NSA Scandal, Crop of Whistleblower Communication Tools for Journalists Emerge

BY Carola Frediani | Wednesday, November 13 2013

Uncle Sam wants to know (Jeff Schuler/flickr)

Among the many questions raised by the NSA scandal, there is one that is especially worrying for journalists: how to have secure communications with sources given the widespread surveillance of emails, phone calls, chats and browsing activities. How should investigative reporting deal with the technological challenges posed by governments’ mass control of Internet and phone traffic? A number of online platforms have now sprouted across the globe with the mission to protect the anonymity of journalists' sources. Read More

WeGov

Raspberry Pi Tackles the Great Firewall and Peruvian Amazon

BY Rebecca Chao | Wednesday, November 13 2013

The low-cost computer has inspired a number of projects for social good (GijsbertPeijs/flickr)

When Eben Upton created the Raspberry Pi, a single-board computer the size of a credit card, he had no inkling its reach would extend beyond England’s borders and do more than inspire UK’s youth to program. A little went a long way. Thousands of miles, in fact, to places as far from the UK as China, India and as remote as the Peruvian Amazon. The Raspberry Pi, first conceived by Upton in 2006 and released in February of last year, is produced by the non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation. Since then, it has sold 1.2 million units worldwide and was named the top 100 most inspiring social tech innovations by the Nominet Trust, which has noted its use in developing countries as a low-budget tool or computer. Read More

WeGov

Italy, a Test Lab for Participatory Democracy

BY Carola Frediani | Wednesday, November 6 2013

Beppe Grillo Rallying the Crowd at Piazza Dante in Naples. (Avanguardie.info Web Magazine/flickr)

Online platforms for participatory democracy are flourishing in Italy and they are being initiated by civil society and local governments alike. Some of these tools are limited to 'social reporting,' where citizens are asked to recount problems and disruptions; others strive for empowering people with some sort of liquid democracy that allows people to debate and even propose legislation. But all of these platforms grew out of a deep dissatisfaction toward Italian politics and politicians. Now, a variety of tools to enable bottom-up decision making are being tested by local municipalities in Italy and being developed by small groups of volunteers. 
 Read More

WeGov

Privacy and Surveillance are the Elephant in the Room at OGP Summit [UPDATED]

BY Katrin Verclas | Friday, November 1 2013

Intel Free Press/flickr

Privacy, surveillance and the closing of political space for openness and transparency activists in many countries was the hot issue at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit in London that was left largely unaddressed by the OGP member countries present. Read More

WeGov

Baby Names and Hunting Rules...Is Canada's Latest Open Government Push Doing Enough?

BY Elisabeth Fraser | Thursday, October 31 2013

A screenshot of Ontario's new open data website

Canada’s latest push for open data is happening in Ontario with a new Open Government initiative launched this week. It is part of the Ontario government’s efforts to increase public access to its data. Billed as, “a commitment to the people of Ontario to engage, collaborate and innovate,” the site pledges to unlock “the power of data in a digital age and partners with people to spark a new generation of ideas through easier access to information, more voices at the decision-making table and new economic opportunities powered by public information.” But does it go far enough? Read More

WeGov

Too Much "Open Government," Not Enough Openness?

BY Panthea Lee | Thursday, October 31 2013

Are Open Government initiatives too much show and no substance? (Laurence and Annie/flickr)

But despite all the ambition and innovation of Open Government initiatives, the utility of this movement is yet unproven. Many initiatives seek transparent, participatory, and accountable governance, but is the practice of open government living up to the promise behind these three pillars? Read More