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Innovator's Dilemma: How SF's Rajiv Bhatia Pioneered Open Health Data and Ruffled Feathers

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, February 6 2014

Rajiv Bhatia

During his fifteen-year tenure at San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, Dr. Rajiv Bhatia excelled. By measuring the health impacts of proposed laws and policies, he created powerful tools to advocate on behalf of the disadvantaged. Gentrification is innately distasteful to many: Bhatia showed how it could be harmful. His work contributed to today’s civic obsession with open data and transparency before those words began to buzz in the ears of bureaucrats, civic hackers and entrepreneurs. He looked at data politically, and searched for political fights to deploy it in. At least he did until June of last year. Read More

First POST: "Who Watches?"

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 8 2014

The Obama administration won't release a legal memo giving the FBI warrantless spying powers; one of the 1971 burglars who exposed FBI domestic spying back then explains her actions; cops use social media to catch gangs; cops get caught on social media defrauding the taxpayer; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

The Future of Election Monitoring

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, December 13 2013

What does an algorithm know about the difference between tamales and Tamale, Ghana? (Flickr/fcastellanos)

The Social Media Tracking Centre (SMTC) is an election monitoring process that pulls in information from multiple data streams—Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and blogs and websites—and can be used to generate visualizations and other analytics. It was first launched to monitor Nigeria's elections in April 2011, and then subsequently used in Liberia, Ghana and Kenya.

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WeGov

Can Data Solve Africa's Food Problem?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 16 2013

Farm in Malawi (Wikipedia)

Africa is not living up to its agricultural potential. Less than a quarter of arable land in sub-Saharan Africa is being cultivated, while more than 190 million people in that region live chronically undernourished. The region is woefully less mechanized than the rest of the world, and problems like Aflatoxins impede trade, costing Africa more than $450 million in lost profits. Solving these problems requires investing in equipment and infrastructure, but often farmers cannot get the necessary bank loans because a lack of agriculture data prevents lenders from determining risk.

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WeGov

How Do You Prepare For A Disaster That Could Kill More Than 300,000 People?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, September 3 2013

Aerial view of damage to Wakuya, Japan, following 2011 earthquake (U.S. Navy/Flickr)

An earthquake in the Nankai Trough, off of the southern coast of Japan's Honshu Island, could kill up to 323,000 people and cause ¥220 trillion (US$2.21 trillion) in damages. Or at least, those are the worst case scenario projections by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Disaster Prevention Council. To prepare for the potential calamity, the Japanese government is building an electronic mapping system in advance of the potential earthquake.

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WeGov

Three Things Latin America is Learning About Civic Technology

BY Susannah Vila | Wednesday, July 3 2013

Aerial view of Lima, Peru (flickr/NeoKat)

Look closely at any recent wave of street protests and you’re likely to find a group of “civic technologists” trying to find news ways for citizens to participate in the public sector. These are the type of people that came together last week in Uruguay for Latin America’s first “unconference” on open government. Roughly 60 civic technologists talked for two days about their shared challenges and emerging best practices in using technology to engage citizens. Read More

WeGov

The Future of Development Includes a Data Revolution, UN Panel Says

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, June 10 2013

Grassroots data collection should play an increasing role to meet global development goals, according to a recently released United Nations report. Read More

What Will Campaigns of the Future Do With Their Data? Before Rootscamp, Some Hints

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, November 29 2012

In 2016, will there be ethical turns on the data-paved path to victory? Photo: Steve Bott

Most people who volunteered through Dashboard, the Obama campaign's online organizing platform, went on to volunteer through a field office, Obama for America Director of Digital Organizing Betsy Hoover said today. Speaking with reporters at a lunch event organized by New Organizing Institute, Hoover explained — as has been previously reported but not quite put in such clear terms — that Dashboard was meant to be a place for field organizers to identify people who might be persuaded to take action offline as well as online. Her remarks come the morning after an email to supporters from Jeremy Bird, OfA's organizing director, that explained a majority of volunteers on the campaign chose to do so from a field office, while "many" used Dashboard or other online tools instead. Read More

Presidential Campaign 2012, By the Numbers

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 26 2012

While not all of the numbers are in yet, we thought it would be useful to put in one place all the relevant data currently available about online and offline engagement by the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns. Some of these factoids are essentially unverifiable, but represent the claims being made by the campaigns in press reports. Others are drawn from available social network profiles and/or contemporaneous Google searches. Read More

WeGov

With Text Messages, Saving Lives Through Timely Words

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, August 2 2012

Sometimes all it takes to save lives is the right words at the right time. That's what researchers are finding as they explore two projects to use text messages in an effort to influence people's behavior. Early intervention specialist Patrick Meier describes how this knowledge was used in conflict resolution — specifically in a project called CeaseFire Chicago, which reduced dramatically the number of shootings in the city's marginalized neighborhoods. Now a Kenyan NGO is employing the same methodology to reduce conflict in the slums of Nairobi. And this is all based on earlier work that a World Health Organization found used text messaging to improve treatment results for patients with HIV in Kenya. Read More