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WeGov

Safecast Logs its 15 Millionth Crowdsourced Data Point for Radiation Mapping

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, February 10 2014

In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed, residents of Japan needed a reliable source of information about radiation levels. Unfortunately, information was either unavailable or withheld from the public. The need for data compelled concerned citizens to create their own, and the need to take their own radiation readings compelled them to make their own Geiger counters. Safecast was born. Last month the global project logged their 15 millionth data point, with no sign of slowing down soon.

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WeGov

Japanese PM Thinks His People Just Don't Understand The State Secrecy Bill

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, December 9 2013

Shinzo Abe shakes hands with President Bush (Wikipedia)

In spite of objections from human rights activists and members of the media around the world, Japan's upper chamber made the controversial State Secrecy Protection Bill law in a “raucous, late-night session” last Friday, December 6, Reuters reports. The House of Representatives passed the bill on November 26. Under the new law, state employees could be jailed for up to 10 years if they leak secrets, and journalists could be jailed for up to five if they use “grossly inappropriate” tactics to uncover state secrets. The passage of the bill has sparked uncharacteristically large protests in a country where protesters have often been considered a part of the political fringe.

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WeGov

Japanese Chat Service Builds In Censorship for China-Based Users

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, November 21 2013

Screenshot of the Citizen Lab's list of censored phrases

Some users of the popular chat application LINE get a custom version of the program, complete with built-in keyword censorship. If someone sets their country location to China during installation, the app downloads a list of censored words from LINE's host server and then any messages containing censored words is blocked. The findings are part of a report by The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, the first of a series on Asian chat and instant messaging applications.

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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

Japanese Court Orders Google Censor Search Algorithm

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, April 17 2013

Screengrab of Google autocomplete in action

A Japanese court has ordered Google change autocomplete results that one man complains associate his name with defamatory phrases. When Google users type in the plaintiff's name, the search engine autofills criminal acts the man asserts he never committed. The plaintiff claimed that these search results caused him to lose his job.

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WeGov

How Effective was Crisis Mapping During the 2011 Japan Earthquake?

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, March 7 2013

A house floats near Sendai, Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami (Wikimedia Commons).

The March 2011 earthquake in Japan had a debilitating impact on infrastructure, and took a devastating cost in human life. Response to the disaster and the road to recovery were aided significantly by a wide range of communications systems. As in many disaster situations before and since, several crisis-mapping efforts immediately took off, filling in information gaps for survivors and providing a picture to the international community.  Two years later, how useful were these maps to disaster response?

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WeGov

For the First Time, Japan's Government Hosts a Hackathon

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, February 7 2013

Japan’s recent strides in open data have displayed a growing interest in transparency from both citizens and public officials.  A hackathon held this past weekend shows that the government is already letting developers in on one high-level project: maintaining national security. 

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WeGov

Is This Japan's Year for Open Data?

BY Julia Wetherell | Friday, February 1 2013

Last summer, the Japanese government announced a new open data strategy, with the intention of connecting the country’s governmental, industrial, and academic sectors. Now Japan is set to have a record year for open data projects, with open government advocates leading the way. Read More

In Japanese Social Media, No Political Opinions During Election Cycle

BY Julia Wetherell | Monday, December 17 2012

Candidates at a live-streamed debate in November (screengrab from Global Voices)

As the Japanese general election came to a close yesterday, with the Liberal Democratic Party returning to control of the Diet in a landslide victory against the Democratic Party of Japan, it’s worth noting that the nation’s electorate made their choice without being allowed to express political opinions on social media. Read More

WeGov

Phone App Helps Locate People in Disaster Zones

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, October 4 2012

Image from Earthquake Buddy

An Australian mobile phone app developer has produced Earthquake Buddy, which allows users to track down their loved ones when conventional communications break down in a disaster zone. 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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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

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