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WeGov

From Sochi to Yerevan: Crowdfunding in the Caucasus

BY Onnik James Krikorian | Wednesday, February 12 2014

The Sayat Nova Project, a Kickstarter-funded study of the minority culture of the South Caucasus (© Onnik James Krikorian)

In July 2007, when the venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics was announced, writer-filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen and photographer Rob Hornstra embarked on an ambitious project to shine a light on the then little known Black Sea resort town of Sochi, in what was to become The Sochi Project. Without the help of crowdfunding, the project and the freedom through which filmmakers could create, would not have been possible. In fact, crowdfunding for civic-oriented projects is growing ever more popular in the Caucasus, especially as press freedom stagnates and foreign aid decreases. Read More

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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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: Obscurity

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 4 2014

New "transparency" reports from major tech companies on government data requests; seeing secret surveillance satellites; ElectionMall's troubled history; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

World Bank's New Website Lets Countries Compare Data on Education

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, January 30 2014

The data portal allows users to see what education data is available per country. (credit: screenshot, World Bank)

As our partner Engine Room’s Susannah Vila recently asked in a post, can open data improve primary education in developing countries? She points to a number of grassroots education data initiatives like Check My School in the Philippines and platforms that provide school quality data for parents in Kenya and Tanzania; but the latest education data initiative by the World Bank is aimed at policymakers. Read More

WeGov

TRAC FM Stirs Debate in Uganda By Merging Radio and Data

BY Erin Byrnes | Wednesday, January 29 2014

A radio presenter using the TRAC FM online platform (credit: TRAC FM)

Margaret Caroline Adong, 33, doesn’t own a smartphone or have access to the Internet where she lives in the Serere district in rural Uganda but she does participate in every TRAC FM poll that she hears over the radio or receives a text about. This SMS-based polling platform facilitates citizen engagement with interactive radio programs in Uganda through data collection and a radio broadcast of the mapped poll results. Read More

WeGov

"Burying" Data Until Convenient Undermines The UK's Open Data Efforts

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, January 27 2014

They don't have to bury it forever, just long enough (Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist/Flickr)

Revelations that the UK government held back crucial information about the effects of alcohol pricing on health, until a policy decision about it had gone by, have left some questioning the United Kingdom's open data program.

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WeGov

Gov'ts Hoarding Data Lose Out On Potential Revenue

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, January 21 2014

Screenshot of the gRoads Global Map

Open data is all the rage these days, but many governments are still reluctant to release geospatial data, perhaps because of the impulse to try and recoup some of the high costs of collecting it. However, experts say that this is stifling innovation and damming potential revenue streams.

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First POST: Paranoid Liberalism

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, January 21 2014

The New Republic accuses Snowden, Greenwald and Assange of being "paranoid libertarians"; Academics think Facebook can be used to predict election results; Data-mining for marketing purposes goes really, really awry; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

New Data.Gov.Ph Site Lowers Barriers to Gov't Data in Philippines

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, January 16 2014

Screenshot of Data.gov.ph

A presidential spokesperson launched the new Open Data Philippines site on Thursday. This is a big step in the direction of transparency for the Philippines, which was chided in a Sunlight Foundation report last October for erecting unnecessary barriers to public data.

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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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