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Announcing "WeGov," Covering Technology in Politics and Governance Worldwide

BY Micah L. Sifry and Andrew Rasiej | Monday, April 16 2012

Welcome to WeGov, the newest experiment at Personal Democracy Media and a special new section of techPresident that we are launching today with the financial support of the Omidyar Network.

This new section of techPresident has a simple but ambitious goal: To report on the stories of efforts around the world to reshape politics and governance using technology, and to assess the impact of those efforts.

We live in a time when any civic activist with a good idea about how to make government and society work better needs little more than basic computer skills to launch their project into the public arena. It is also a time when government agencies and private companies alike are exploring open platforms that offer new forms of public engagement, either passively through open data or more actively by creating tools that blend government, private and public inputs. Everything from government policy-making to investigative reporting to local social services and civic life are being upended and reconfigured. After years of theorizing about the potential of the networked public sphere to change life as we know it, talk is now being joined by action, and thinking by doing. People around the world are now beginning to experience increases in transparency, accountability, and civic participation; changes which now can be measured.

Currently, the information available about this emerging movement is scattered across several sites and sometimes hard to find. Often, the reporting available is incomplete or out-of-date. As a result, many individuals and groups often end up having to reinvent the wheel, either repeating mistakes or developing redundant technologies to support their projects or initiatives. Furthermore, they aren’t able to benefit from the experience, advice, support, and technologies of peers working on similar projects.

To help address these problems, and to expand our coverage of the worldwide transparency movement, we’re launching this new WeGov section as a combination news-blog and online resource center that would be a hub of current reporting, analysis and background materials on the groups working all over the world on government transparency, anti-corruption, open data, civic hacking, and what we often call “We-Government” projects.

We’re thrilled that David Eaves, a Canadian author and consultant with deep experience in this arena, will be joining our team as a senior editor, in charge of writing a weekly column along with stewarding the contributions of other writers and staff who we will be adding to our team in the coming days. Over the next year, our goal is to deliver regular in-depth feature stories along with a daily news digest pointing to important developments around the world as they occur, a weekly email update focused on all things WeGov, and a repository of articles and related resources, organized along a common-sense taxonomy that will help people interested in drilling down on a particular topic to tap into the best work available.

We are deeply grateful to our friends at the Omidyar Network, a strategic leader in supporting all kinds of innovative WeGov-type projects, many of which are oriented around transparency and accountability in the United States, South America, parts of Europe, India, and Africa. Our commitment to ON is to deliver the best journalism that we can do, and they in turn have ensured us complete editorial freedom to cover this entire arena as we see fit. We are under no obligation to cover specific ON-funded projects, and our team will strive to report as fairly and accurately as we can. For those of our readers who are familiar with how ON works with its grantees--and in the interests of full transparency--the metrics that PDM is obligated to meet as a condition of ON’s support pertain to growing the audience for our stories, growing a large email list of subscribers to a weekly WeGov digest, and to obtaining additional financial support for our WeGov from other potential funders as proof of the value of our coverage. In other words, we have to provide content of demonstrable value, but we are free to do so according to the best independent judgment of our staff.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll have more news as we build out the rest of our WeGov editorial team, and as we work to produce a more distinct look and feel for this new section. We look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

News Briefs

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In China, Local Governments Play Whac-a-Mole With Taxi Apps

It seems these days that car-hailing apps exist only to give cities grief. In New York, car sharing start-ups like Lyft ignore labor, safety insurance laws and in China, the situation is no different except in one regard: taxi hailing apps in China are proliferating at a faster rate than in the U.S. In China, however, the taxi system is very much in its infancy and local Chinese governments are struggling to control the proliferation of new apps that flout the law. GO

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The Uncertain Future of India's Plan to Biometrically Identify Everyone

Since its launch in 2010, people in India have raised a number of questions and concerns about the Aadhaar card —formally known as Unique Identification (UID)— citing its effects on privacy rights, potential security flaws, and failures in functionality. GO

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