Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Does Davos Tech Idealism Actually Do Anything?

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, January 24 2013

Flickr/World Economic Forum.

The World Economic Forum is ongoing in Davos, Switzerland this week, with 2,600 representatives from organizations around the world coming together under the banner of “resilient dynamism,” the optimistic — if abstruse — theme for the 2013 conference. In these dynamic times, tech and its applications for the greater good are prominent on the agenda, but some are wondering how the conference’s idealism will play out in real-world applications.

In attendance for the second year at Davos are the Global Shapers, a group of innovators and entrepreneurs under age 30 who are selected from around the world to attend the WEF. As might be expected of the millennial generation, many are tech wunderkinds — a Deutsche Welle Online article cites delegates from Argentina, Egypt, Myanmar, and Germany, some with startups under their belts, all with strategies for empowering their countries with social tech. Yet Erica Dhawan, a current Global Shaper and veteran of an e-learning social enterprise startup in India that was mired by its overseas financial backers, wrote in Forbes editorial yesterday that, in order to see dividends on their social investments, WEF participants might benefit from a change in perspective:

Social entrepreneurship is just a buzz word, and it never succeeds without a deep understanding of the local environment, corporate governance, and long-term infrastructure. If I were Bill Gates or any other elites at Davos, I would remove the champagne and shrimp cocktail and bring the CEOs to India for a week as an assessment team.

Another blow to the tech dialogue at Davos this year is the noted absence of certain key players; Google, which has hosted several public and private events in years past, canceled its meeting without apparent cause before the conference. Only a handful of Google employees are in attendance, along with only two from Facebook, a number that apparently does not include Mark Zuckerberg. If major companies are are ducking out of the conference, the tech conversation could be limited. It may be cause for the WEF to reformulate its perspective on tech investment, and on empowering people across the world who can't pay up for a $40,000 ticket.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

News Briefs

RSS Feed tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

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.

GO

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.

GO

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.

GO

More