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First POST: Transparency Matters

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, April 1 2015

A return to pre-Watergate days?; Jeb Bush has already, apparently, forgotten about "transparency matters"; ghostwriting for government agencies; X-Lab going independent; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Complications

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 19 2015

Obama administration sets record for censoring or denying access to files requested under FOIA; hype over Meerkat; French gov't starts to block websites that promote or advocate terrorism; the theme for Personal Democracy Forum 2015; and much, much more. Read More

[Op-Ed] Civic Tech and Engagement: How City Halls Can Help Construct Stronger Neighborhoods

BY Susan Crawford | Tuesday, July 29 2014

Boston's new District Hall, a public-private partnership for civic innovation

Last week, the UN reported that more than half of humanity now lives in cities; by 2050 two-thirds of people will, up from just 30% in 1950. Given the grave challenges facing the world's booming urban areas—including global warming, economic dislocation, and crumbling basic infrastructure, among other torments—tomorrow's mayors will need to take bold steps to ensure their constituents live in dignity and safety. But public distrust of dysfunctional, faceless government is profound, resources are limited, gaps between groups are widening, and many are unaware of the role of government in their lives—which makes citizens less likely to support major initiatives. One way to fill the drained reservoir of public trust in municipal government, writes Susan Crawford, is to make city hall more visibly—and continuously—responsive. Digital technology can help: by using data to optimize the use of limited city resources and communicate clearly (with a friendly voice) across a range of platforms, a city can make life noticeably better for its citizens. Read More

Towards More Effective Civic Innovation with Anthea Watson Strong

BY Sam Roudman | Monday, June 9 2014

Anthea Watson Strong at PDF. Credit: PDF Flickr

In a talk entitled “The Calculus of Civic Innovation,” Anthea Watson Strong discussed how tools for civic engagement might be made more effective. Read More

WeGov

State of the App in Fighting Sexual Harassment

BY Tin Geber | Tuesday, April 22 2014

A woman in Cairo holds a sign that reads: I wish I could walk around without being hurt by inappropriate words (UN Women/flickr)

There is little doubt that sexual harassment represents a cultural and social pandemic. Verbal and physical assaults are disturbingly commonplace, and despite widespread social campaigns, show little signs of abetting. So it’s not surprising that policy makers and advocacy groups are turning to technology, hoping that data and mobile apps can play a role in stemming incidents of sexual harassment and violence, maybe even addressing cultural patterns and social norms.

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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

The Largest Loomio Project Yet

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, March 13 2014

Loomio goes to Greece (credit: screenshot of www.eda.org)

In many ways, open source is like a sperm bank: you never know what your offspring will look like or where they will end up unless they take the initiative to reach out. Benjamin Knight, a founder of the open source group decision-making platform known as Loomio, had his own Vince Vaughn "Delivery Man" moment when he got a call from Giorgio Mariotti from the Pirate Party of Hellas. Mariotti says he had used Loomio's open source to create 461 Loomio groups for each of the municipal to national levels of government in his country. Mariotti wanted to kickstart a process of direct democracy and needed to know: could Loomio's servers handle this many groups? Knight reassured Mariotti it could but that it was certainly the largest Loomio project to date. Read More

WeGov

Can the Internet Help Build Democracy in Tunisia?

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, March 4 2014

The website of the NGO I WATCH (screenshot)

As January 26, 2014 approached, the day Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly would vote on passing a Constitution that had been snarled in debate for two years, rather than feel relief, activist Achref Aouadi tells techPresident he had grown dismayed after his failed attempts to create an online platform that would allow Tunisian citizens to debate, discuss and vote on the provisions of the draft Constitution. A day before the vote, he had not yet found a viable platform nor the funds for a developer. A crucial opportunity would be lost for stirring civic participation, which he sees as a vital step in the building of Tunisia’s democracy. Then, an online search turned the tide in Aouadi’s favor. Read More

WeGov

Making "NSA-Proof" Social Networking Mainstream

BY Carola Frediani | Tuesday, February 18 2014

Even Internet Grandma Can Use It? (credit: KnowYourMeme)

Webmail services like Yahoo and Google and social networks like Facebook and Twitter are convenient and efficient platforms, as well as easy to use, but they collect massive amounts of user data that can facilitate intelligence spying and other types of snooping. Meanwhile, securer methods of communication are often cumbersome and overly technical for the average user who would like to send an email without having to download and set up various software. Yet after Edward Snowden’s leaks, an increasing demand for securer alternatives has led to the development of anti-surveillance products with an eye towards being user friendly. Read More

WeGov

From Sochi to Yerevan: Crowdfunding in the Caucasus

BY Onnik James Krikorian | Wednesday, February 12 2014

The Sayat Nova Project, a Kickstarter-funded study of the minority culture of the South Caucasus (© Onnik James Krikorian)

In July 2007, when the venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics was announced, writer-filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen and photographer Rob Hornstra embarked on an ambitious project to shine a light on the then little known Black Sea resort town of Sochi, in what was to become The Sochi Project. Without the help of crowdfunding, the project and the freedom through which filmmakers could create, would not have been possible. In fact, crowdfunding for civic-oriented projects is growing ever more popular in the Caucasus, especially as press freedom stagnates and foreign aid decreases. Read More