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WeGov

Dude, Where's My Cow? The App.

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, March 27 2014

If you live in Jamaica, losing a cow is serious business. Now, there's an app for that. (siwild/flickr)

About six months ago, we wrote about a new initiative in Jamaica that sought to address agricultural and livestock theft, a problem that has put a $50 million plus yearly dent in the country's economy. At that time, the civic tech nonprofit, Slashroots, had partnered with the Mona School of Business & Management at the University of the West Indies to create a new fellowship program called Code for the Caribbean; similar to Code for America, it pairs talented developers with government agencies to create tailored apps that agencies actually need. Now, that program has wrapped up and the fellows have collaborated with Jamaica's Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to create two apps: one that allows police officers to use SMS to verify farmers' identities (and their produce) at specific roadside checkpoints and another that acts as an electronic billboard of produce stock and prices in order to fill an information gap that has often led either to agricultural overproduction or underproduction. Read More

WeGov

In Soggy UK, Is #FloodHack A Solution or a Shield?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, February 18 2014

Screenshot of a Youtube video depicting a flooded Worcester overtaken by swans (credit:INT/youtube)

What's that Prince William is cradling? His son Prince George? Nope—that's a sandbag. Prince William and Prince Harry pitched in to flood defense efforts Valentine's Day ahead of yet another winter storm. The storms have been so bad this season that they have earned their own BBC listicle, beginning with the October storm St Jude, which cost four people their lives, and ending with severe flooding along the Thames last week as it reached at its highest level in 60 years. On Sunday, London's technology community took a different approach to flood relief as they came together for a hackathon dubbed #FloodHack.

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First POST: Fingerprints and Fire Insurance

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 18 2014

How the NSA and GCHQ targeted WikiLeaks, Anonymous and Pirate Bay; why collecting Americans' phone metadata is just like fingerprinting and buying fire insurance; how the paper lobby is hoping to keep the government from going online; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Gaming to Unite a Divided City in Cyprus

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, February 5 2014

The Last Divided Capital (Dan Nevill/Flickr)

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Nicosia became the last divided capital in the world. Located on the island of Cyprus, the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sections are separated by a United Nations buffer zone. A new online game allows young Nicosia residents on both sides of the divide to experience—virtually—their city as a whole, and helps them understand their shared history.

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WeGov

In Lebanon, Dark Humor Has Practical Use

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, January 29 2014

Screenshot of the Google Play app

An application that began as a dark joke has actually found quite a bit of traction in troubled Lebanon. After a suicide bombing rocked part of Beirut January 21, Sandra Hassan uploaded “I Am Alive” to Google Play, an application that lets you send an alert to Twitter saying you survived.

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First POST: Welcome to the NBA

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, January 16 2014

Reading the tea-leaves before President Obama's NSA reform speech Friday; Fred Wilson explains why the end of net neutrality spells bad news for tech start-ups; SayIt, a new tool for annotating public transcripts, launches; and much, much more. Read More

With More Than 7 Million Searchable Records, Citizen Audit Makes Nonprofit Transparency Easy

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, January 9 2014

“An enormous segment of the economy is exempt from taxes, which means they kind of have a burden to have increased transparency,” says Luke Rosiak, an investigative reporter at the Washington Examiner. Despite the clear public interest in making the tax forms of nonprofits readily available, and the fact that the IRS has nonprofits submit their 990 tax forms electronically, which should make them easy to post directly online, Rosiak says the IRS does not release them “in any meaningful way.” Instead, journalists, researchers, and those who work in nonprofits have to bumble through The Foundation Center’s 990 finder for scanned PDFs, or pony up serious money for easier access to the still-hard-to-sift through PDFs with Guidestar. To accomplish what Rosiak thinks the IRS should probably doing already, he started a project called Citizen Audit. The site takes over a decade of nonprofit tax forms and puts them online, and is in the process of running them through computationally intensive optical recognition software, to makes them fully searchable. Read More

WeGov

In Brazil, Hacking From “Inside the Leviathan's Belly”

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, January 7 2014

Behemoth and Leviathan, by William Blake (Wikipedia)

Last month Brazil's lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, passed a resolution creating a Laboratória Ráquer—a space permanently designated for hackers—inside Congress. This is the first such hacker space in the world, according to Opening Parliament.

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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

Detroit Ledger Tracks Detroit's Civic Foundation Complex

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, December 17 2013

Screenshot from Detroit Ledger

Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy ever in July, but for years now private foundations have attempted to fill the city’s public service gap with their own money, and their own agendas. Foundations like Ford, Knight, Kresge, and Skillman are investing hundreds of millions dollars to address the city’s failing schools, starving economy, and rescue its orphaned art collection. While foundational cash is preferable to a public service vacuum, it raises questions about access, influence, and accountability. Read More

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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