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Citizen Journalism and mGovernance in Rural India

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, August 19 2013

Imagine nearly 20 million people without access to news and current events. In the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, language barriers, illiteracy, lack of Internet access and strict radio regulations exclude millions living in rural communities from the mainstream media. A voice messaging service called CGNet Swara overcomes those obstacles and empowers anyone in rural India with a cell phone to become a citizen journalist.

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Is Crowdfunding's New "It Girl" Creating a Generation of Citizen Philanthropists?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, August 16 2013

“I went on a shopping spree in July and spent four million dollars on girls and women,” Maz Kessler says proudly. As the founder and creative director of Catapult, a start-up nonprofit organization that helps development projects for women and girls get funding, she has every reason to boast. Catapult, a crowdfunding site that insists on transparency and engagement with donors, is one of several organizations changing the world of philanthropy. Launched on the first International Day of the Girl, in October 2012, the start-up has already seen impressive results.

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South Africans Use Community Monitoring Tool to Promote Gov't Accountability

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, August 15 2013

Screenshot of the Lungisa Facebook page

Citizens in South Africa have taken community monitoring into their own hands – and onto their social networks. Using a tool called Lungisa, they can report problems with water, sanitation, electricity, schooling and health care and the nonprofit that operates Lungisa, Cell-Life, reports the problem to the appropriate authorities. Even better? The issues are getting resolved.

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The World Bank Finances App: Open Data Online and Off

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, August 14 2013

Greeting card courtesy of Sam Lee

The World Bank values transparency. They have an entire website dedicated to making their financial data open and available to the public. Stores of raw datasets for anyone to “slice and dice, visualize, and share with others.” The quantity of data can be overwhelming, however, so for the mobile app version of their open finances website, they pared the data down and focused on simple information and presentation.

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India Launches Open Data Portal

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, August 13 2013

On Thursday August 8 the Indian government launched an open data portal with more than 3,500 data sets from 49 different government offices. The website, Data Portal India (data.gov.in), has been compared to similar websites launched by the US in 2009 and the UK in 2010. Read More

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Petition to Unblock YouTube in Pakistan Basically Ignored By Minister of IT

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, August 12 2013

The organization challenging Pakistan's YouTube ban in court claimed last month that a meeting with the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), moderated by the Lahore High Court, was biased and unfair in its execution and in its portrayal by the media. Only last week the Minister of IT failed – once again – to appear in the Lahore High Court. The counsel for the petitioner, Bytes for All, asked that the court temporarily lift the ban but the request was denied.

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Helsinki App Challenge Provides Developers With Hand Holding and Advice

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, August 12 2013

Courtesy: DotOpen

Already considered one of the least corrupt countries in the world, Finland continues to lead by example in open data and government transparency. An initiative in Helsinki, sponsored by organizations like Apps4Finland and Helsinki Loves Developers, encourages app developers to take advantage of the treasure trove of open data available.

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Magpi: The Gmail of Mobile Data Collection

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, August 9 2013

Yellow-breasted Magpie, not to be confused with DataDyne's Magpi (Wikipedia)

Since 2005, organizations like the World Bank, the World Health Organization and USAid have used a program called Magpi to collect information on diverse subjects, everything from water quality to anti-malarial bednet distribution to the health of endangered species. Magpi, a program created by social enterprise DataDyne, operates on a 'freemium' model: the basic service is free but customization costs. Even paying for the more advanced service, however, is less expensive than developing an entirely new pilot program. Magpi should be a boon to nonprofits organizations, but instead the first adopters were all for-profit companies. This, a co-founder of DataDyne says, is due to a flaw in the NGO funding model.

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Prominent Russian Activist Founded a Well-Known Anti-Corruption Website

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, August 8 2013

Aleksei Navalny (Flickr/acidpolly)

Aleksei Navalny, the Russian activist who made U.S. headlines recently because of his high-profile trial and conviction, was, in a surprising turn of events, released after only a day, pending an appeal. The media coverage of Navalny makes him sound like a one man anti-corruption show, but while he may lead, he is far from alone in his quest. Navalny is responsible for RosPil, an anti-corruption website that relies on volunteers to peruse publicly available documents for signs of corruption.

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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness Gains Wide Endorsement in Europe

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, August 7 2013

Since the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness was introduced last September, it has garnered more than 120 endorsements from civil society organizations in 74 countries. This month, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) became the first international institution to endorse the declaration.

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