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Protests in Brazil Turn Digital

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, June 28 2013

While protests continue in streets, hacktavists retreat for a day indoors (Euqueriaser/Flickr)

Inspired by protests in the streets, hacktivists in Brazil are taking to their computers. Organizers drew around 200 engineers, journalists, lawyers and activists to a June 16 event in Sao Paolo. These hacktivists brainstormed on how to make protests more efficient, from tear gas-resistant masks to easier access to public data. Another group of hacktivists met on June 19 in Rio de Janeiro to do their digital part for protesters. Read More

Despite Software Problems, Civic Hackers are Pedaling Bike Share Data

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, June 13 2013


Reporters are shoaling around the news that New York City's new bike sharing system, Citi Bike, is benighted with problems stemming from its high-tech software. But that's not putting the brakes on plans to explore what programmers might do with data generated by the system by hosting a Citi Bike Civic Hack Night later this month. Read More

In San Francisco, Accelerating a "Civic Technology" Industry

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, May 16 2013

Code for America's San Francisco headquarters. Photo: mk30 / Flickr

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: What does "civic technology" look like as a new subset of the software industry — a collection of startups that challenges existing heavyweights in government technology, or creates completely different tools? The Code for America Accelerator program invests seed money, time, and free food into a few new companies to find out. It's accepting applicants for its second year of operation. First-year participants tell Sam Roudman why they feel their year in Code for America's San Francisco headquarters was time well spent. Read More


Female Organizer of Pakistan's First Hackathon Stresses Collaboration Over Competition

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, May 16 2013

Downtown Karachi via Wikipedia

After Pakistan banned Valentine's Day this year, Sabeen Mahmud started an online protest in which people uploaded photos to mock the government ban. In the weeks following she received death threats and menacing phone calls, and early on she had to stay home from work. That did nothing, however, to keep her from further organizing. Last month, the café she started in Karachi hosted Pakistan's first ever hackathon, which tackled problems including sanitation, crime, disaster management, and education. She even invited a government representative to observe the initial conversations, tackling sensitive areas like government inefficiency and elections.

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San Francisco Announces "Innovation Fellowship"

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, April 24 2013

The San Francisco Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation is seeking applicants for a new fellowship, the Mayor's Innovation Fellowship. The program is inspired by the White House Presidential Innovation Fellowship program, the city announced in a blog post. In that program, launched last year, technologists worked with federal officials for a period of months on technology projects like a unified homepage for access to federal services or another project to make it easier for small businesses to compete for select government business. Read More

TechPresident Podcast: "Open Government"

BY Nick Judd | Friday, April 12 2013

Can technology improve communication between citizens and government? We've been closely watching the Knight News Challenge, a $5 million experiment that aims to find out. Micah Sifry, Nick Judd and David Eaves talk through our recent reporting on what's been tried and tested where technology and government meet. Read More

Hackathon Promises $50,000 to Apps for a Smarter Subway Ride

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, April 11 2013

Previous year's contest winner, Embark. Source: Embark

The New York City MTA and AT&T are co-sponsoring a two-day hackathon to launch this year's MTA App Quest program in partnership with NYU Poly and ChallengePost, which helps run problem-solving competitions for government agencies and software companies. Read More

Optimism, Fear, and the Knight News Challenge

BY David Eaves | Tuesday, April 9 2013

Reading through the list of Knight News Challenge semi-finalists I was left feeling both optimistic and concerned. Optimistic because there are a number of great ideas people have put forward. Indeed the sheer number of submissions to the challenge - 828 - itself speaks to a deep well of people that want to find ways to improve the interaction between citizens and government. As a serious policy and government geek it is always nice to find peers. On the flip side I get a little depressed because programs like the news challenge remind me of the problems of both money, and scale, that plague any change initiative, but particularly in government. Read More


Geeks Gather for India's First Government Sponsored Hackathon

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, April 8 2013

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the India Planning Commission, opening the hackathon (image: Flickr/Mcenley)

The Indian government held its first ever official hackathon on April 6 and 7. The event, which took place at 10 educational institutions across the country, was organized to communicate the 12th five-year-plan, India's strategic and economic plan, to the public. More than 1,900 participants collaborated on apps and infographics, tackling problems such as healthcare opportunities and the difficulties faced by farmers. Read More

In Kansas City, "Innovation" Means Modern Government and a Modest Budget

BY Sam Roudman | Monday, April 8 2013

Kansas City. Photo: Out.of.Focus / Flickr

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: Pulling itself out from under the weight of America's economic downturn, Kansas City has done what a handful of other cities have also done in recent years: Hired a "chief innovation officer" responsible for ushering in a leaner, modernized city administration. The broad strokes are the same, but looking at Kansas City shows that "innovation" means different things in different cities. Read More