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What Swartz, Lessig, Assange & Snowden Have to Teach Us

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, January 27 2014

Is the lone hacker-whistleblower model of change working? (flickr: Meet the Media Guru/biatch0r/Robert Douglass/Doc Searls)

The following is the text of the remarks I made yesterday at "As Darkness Falls," an international conference that took place this past weekend in Berlin, which was focused on "Theory and Practice of Self-Empowerment in the Age of Digital Control." (People here are taking the NSA surveillance revelations very seriously.) One of my co-panelists was Jacob Applebaum, an independent hacker and security expert who works on Tor, whom I refer to as Jake at one point in my comments. Video of our full panel should be posted online soon. Read More

Speak Up, Speak Out, and Think Bigger: Honoring Aaron Swartz

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, January 10 2014

Brooklyn, New York (Flickr/Timothy Krause)

Tomorrow, January 11, 2014, marks the one year anniversary of Internet activist Aaron Swartz's tragic death. Since then, activists and programmers around the world have met and worked together at hackathons in his name and an award has been created in his memory. Tomorrow, activists led by Lawrence Lessig will march across New Hampshire to protest the campaign finance system, a cause Swartz encouraged Lessig to take up. But, Swartz's father is still waiting for an apology from MIT for their hypocritical approach to the prosecution of Swartz and a prominent senator is pushing to expand the cybercrime law prosecutors used to come down hard on Swartz. One year later, where are we?

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WeGov

Amidst War and Embargo, A Project to Give Congolese Say in Local Budget

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, December 16 2013

The provincial budget minister talks to the press after a generally assembly and budget vote (Credit: World Bank)

The war-ravaged province of South Kivu sits at the eastern border of the DRC, beside the stem of Tanganyika, an African Great Lake. Boris Weber, team leader for the World Bank's ICT4Gov, explains to techPresident that after years of conflict and violence in the province, the provincial government was simply not sending the money allocated to local governments. “Partly, they just didn’t have any incentive to send it. Also, they had no way of knowing and tracking how their money was going to be spent.” The World Bank’s participatory budgeting program, piloted in 2012, aimed to resolve that dilemma by giving those in Bukavu a direct say in how they wanted to see their budget spent; therefore creating the accountability needed to incentivize the provincial government to send money down the line. But locals view the program with a skeptic eye and ask, is it enough? Read More

Updated Guidelines Encourage Federal Agencies to Publish "License-Free" Data

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, December 12 2013

A group of open government advocates and advocacy organizations have come together to issue updated guidance on how federal agencies can make their documents available in an open and accessible way, seeking to go beyond and clarify open data guidance that the Obama administration had published in May. Read More

First POST: Intellectuals

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, December 12 2013

Why you should get off Facebook; where the women tech intellectuals are at; the PCCC gets poked and prodded; NYC's police crime data policy gets stopped and frisked; and much, much more. Read More

New Knight Report Maps Growing Civic Tech Ecosystem

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, December 4 2013

Investor networks in civic tech, per Knight Foundation report

The Knight Foundation has released a fascinating and valuable, if incomplete, report on "The Emergence of Civic Tech: Investments in a Growing Field." It's the first major effort I've seen to define and map this growing space, and covers 209 companies that have received funding since 2011 in its purview. Read More

NYC Unveils Sandy Funding Tracking Portal Amid Calls for Transparency

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, December 3 2013

New York City on Monday unveiled the first iteration of an online platform designed to track the city's dissemination of federal disaster recovery and resilience funds in connection with the aftermath from Superstorm Sandy. While advocates expressed concerns that not enough of the data was available in a disaggregated, accessible and downloadable format, city officials told techPresident they are working to make as much underlying data available as they could through New York City's Open Data portal. Read More

First POST: Crisitunity?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, November 20 2013

Why the Obamacare mess may be far, far worse for the Democratic party than people realize; the latest in voter-targeting TV ads; thinking about "popular data" as a new way to grow civic engagement around open data; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Italy, a Test Lab for Participatory Democracy

BY Carola Frediani | Wednesday, November 6 2013

Beppe Grillo Rallying the Crowd at Piazza Dante in Naples. (Avanguardie.info Web Magazine/flickr)

Online platforms for participatory democracy are flourishing in Italy and they are being initiated by civil society and local governments alike. Some of these tools are limited to 'social reporting,' where citizens are asked to recount problems and disruptions; others strive for empowering people with some sort of liquid democracy that allows people to debate and even propose legislation. But all of these platforms grew out of a deep dissatisfaction toward Italian politics and politicians. Now, a variety of tools to enable bottom-up decision making are being tested by local municipalities in Italy and being developed by small groups of volunteers. 
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WeGov

At "Peak Open," Open Government Partnership Faces Default States of Closed

BY Alex Howard | Wednesday, November 6 2013

Incoming civil society chair of the OGP, Rakesh Rajani, far left (Photo: Alex Howard)

With the second annual Open Government Partnership summit now concluded, one longtime observer of the "open government" movement, Alex Howard, offers his overview of its achievements, shortcomings and challenges ahead. 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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