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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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WeGov

Philippines Gov't Launches Portal To Transparently Handle Foreign Aid

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, November 25 2013

Hygiene kits and water in the Philippines (Flickr/U.S. Embassy in Manila)

Foreign funds are flooding into the Philippines in the wake of Super-typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda. Three days ago the World Bank increased its aid package to nearly US$1 billion. The Asian Development Bank will provide up to US$523 million in assistance. To ensure the funds are used in a responsible manner, the Philippines Department of Budget and Management launched the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub, or FAiTH.

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WeGov

Red Cross Relies on OpenStreetMap in Haiyan Relief Efforts

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, November 13 2013

Screenshot of the OpenStreetMap of Tacloban

Humanitarian organizations are amping up their use of crowdsourcing made possible by the Internet. On Monday, techPresident reported that the United Nations partnership with the Digital Humanitarian Network resulted in groundbreaking use of human computing and machine computing to sift through big data in the aftermath of Super-typhoon Haiyan. In a similar vein, for the first time the Red Cross coordinated their response to Haiyan based on information crowdsourced on OpenStreetMap (OSM).

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WeGov

Ushahidi Responds To Westgate With Two New Emergency Response Tools

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, September 30 2013

Once again, violence has compelled the Kenyan organization Ushahidi to build new tools for disasters and emergencies, natural or otherwise. Ushahidi launched their popular mapping platform in 2008 so that people could track reports of post-election violence. Since then, they have also launched SwiftRiver and Crowdmap, and have built a backup Internet generator called BRCK. The Westgate Mall attack, so close to their home base, in a way sent them back to their roots: figuring out how to respond best to, and mitigate the worst effects of, violence.

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WeGov

Can Patrick Meier's New App MicroMappers Completely Change The Way We Think About Clicktivism?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, September 19 2013

Patrick Meier (SHAREconference / Flickr)

Imagine 20, 30, or even 50 thousand volunteers helping a community, whether on the other side of the country or the other side of the world, in the aftermath of a disaster, and all with just a few swipes on a smartphone. Patrick Meier's new platform MicroMappers makes that possible, and anyone with an Internet connection and five minutes to spare can contribute to disaster relief.

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WeGov

Build Your Own Disaster Relief Drone

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, June 26 2013

The OpenRelief Drone (carrierdetect/Flickr)

Anyone with a thousand bucks and some engineering know-how can now build their very own drone. Unlike those controversial ones used in the “drone war,” these are made for disaster relief.

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After Oklahoma Disaster, Neighbors Look Online for Ways To Help

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, May 21 2013

In echoes of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, social media sites and small business websites in and around tornado-wracked Moore, Okla., are full of offers of help, questions about missing pets and loved ones, and evidence that neighbors are willing to reach out to help one another in a disaster. On a single Facebook group, there's a Mexican restaurant in Oklahoma City promising free meals to first responders or people hit by the tornado; a mother a few hours' drive from Moore offering to open her door for children who might need a place to stay; a resident sharing a picture of a found dog and contact information for the owner to get in touch. Read More

Chaos Spills Online From Blasts at Boston Marathon

BY Nick Judd | Monday, April 15 2013

As of this writing, the most reliable reporting finds that 22 people are injured and two are dead in the wake of two blasts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday afternoon. More can be quantified in Monday's tragedy, and in time the deluge of information might help understand how it happened. But for now, the best use of social media is to reconnect and reassure. Read More

New York City's New "Code Corps," A Volunteer Force of Techies in Disaster Response

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, February 14 2013

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new initiative called Code Corps in his State of the City address today, billed as the country's first municipal program that brings volunteer technologists to bear on city government's emergency and disaster recovery needs. Read More

News Briefs

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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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friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

thursday >

In Pakistan, A Hypocritical Gov't Ignores Calls To End YouTube Ban

YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan by executive order since September 2012, after the “blasphemous” video Innocence of Muslims started riots in the Middle East. Since then, civil society organizations and Internet rights advocacy groups like Bolo Bhi and Bytes for All have been working to lift the ban. Last August the return of YouTube seemed imminent—the then-new IT Minister Anusha Rehman spoke optimistically and her party, which had won the majority a few months before, was said to be “seriously contemplating” ending the ban. And yet since then, Rehman and her party, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), have done everything in their power to maintain the status quo.

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The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery. GO

Boston and Cambridge Move Towards More Open Data

The Boston City Council is now considering an ordinance which would require Boston city agencies and departments to make government data available online using open standards. Boston City Councilor At Large Michelle Wu, who introduced the legislation Wednesday, officially announced her proposal Monday, the same day Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued an executive order establishing an open data policy under which all city departments are directed to publish appropriate data sets under established accessibility, API and format standards. GO

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