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New US Digital Service Looks to Avoid IT Catastrophes

BY Alex Howard | Wednesday, August 13 2014

USDS' Mikey Dickerson at the 2009 MySQL Conference (Photo by Jorge Bernal)

At a time when the public's trust in institutions is at historic lows, the federal government's use of technology has an unusual place in the national discourse. After the first Internet president's administration was responsible for the high-profile failure of Healthcare.gov, the issue seemed ripe to drive significant reform on Capitol Hill. Even if some 10 million adults gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act after "Obama's trauma team" made successful fixes to Healthcare.gov, negative public perception has lingered, and for good reason. Under the radar, other projects have continued to sputter, like a $300 million dollar Social Security government IT boondoggle that still has not delivered a working system for submitting disability claims. The crash of the FCC's dated website under the weight of 1.1 million comments this summer didn't help, either. At the same time, the confidence of the technology community has been damaged by revelations of dragnet surveillance and surreptitious backdoors planted in software. Now, the executive branch has launched two new initiatives aimed squarely at these issues, 18F and the just-announced US Digital Service, Alex Howard reports. Read More

WeGov

NDI Launches Open Source DemTools for International Development

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, August 13 2014

Screenshot of the four tools

Yesterday the National Democratic Institute launched a suite of web-based applications created for their partner organizations, mostly pro-democracy groups and political parties around the world. These “DemTools,” which are ready-to-use but can also be customized, will give organizations in developing countries some of the capabilities that political activists and parties in the United States have had for years. Moreover, since the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is making the promise to host partner organization's applications in the cloud essentially forever, they hope these applications will help usher in a period of more sustainable tech.

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First POST: Jumping

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, August 12 2014

The US Digital Service arrives; what hashtag activism is really good for; unmasking some anti-net-neutrality sock puppets; new voting technology advances; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Better Underwear

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, June 13 2014

Elon Musk goes open source with his cars; the Snowdenbot saves a life; the New York Times and "better underwear"; and much much more. Read More

WeGov

Estonia's Online Voting System Is Not Secure, Researchers Say

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, May 21 2014

Personal computer used to build election client for distribution/Photo by Estoniaevoting.org (CC BY-SA 4.0)

“I gave my e-vote. This is not only convenient, but a vote of confidence to one of the best IT systems in the world, a vote of confidence to the Estonian State,” tweeted Toomas Hendrik Ilves , the president of ... Read More

Fleets of Sailing Robots to Help Research & Protect the Oceans

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, May 16 2014

What Protei could eventually do to help clean up plastics (Screenshot of TEDtalk below)

Imagine fleets of small boats cruising around the ocean, monitoring levels of plastic, oil and radioactivity, and eventually helping to clean up the ocean, and all completely unmanned. That may not be as far from reality as one might think. Scoutbots, a company that develops and builds open hardware technologies for environmental stewardship, recently began selling the first commercial prototype of its radio-controlled sailing robot, the Protei 011 “Optimist.” It is kind of like a seafaring drone.

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First POST: Wheeler Dealer

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, April 24 2014

The FCC wants to allow "commercially reasonable" discrimination online; net neutrality advocates protest; Comcast Country (aka "Philadelphia") comes under scrutiny; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Dude, Where's My Cow? The App.

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, March 27 2014

If you live in Jamaica, losing a cow is serious business. Now, there's an app for that. (siwild/flickr)

About six months ago, we wrote about a new initiative in Jamaica that sought to address agricultural and livestock theft, a problem that has put a $50 million plus yearly dent in the country's economy. At that time, the civic tech nonprofit, Slashroots, had partnered with the Mona School of Business & Management at the University of the West Indies to create a new fellowship program called Code for the Caribbean; similar to Code for America, it pairs talented developers with government agencies to create tailored apps that agencies actually need. Now, that program has wrapped up and the fellows have collaborated with Jamaica's Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to create two apps: one that allows police officers to use SMS to verify farmers' identities (and their produce) at specific roadside checkpoints and another that acts as an electronic billboard of produce stock and prices in order to fill an information gap that has often led either to agricultural overproduction or underproduction. Read More

WeGov

Can the Internet Help Build Democracy in Tunisia?

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, March 4 2014

The website of the NGO I WATCH (screenshot)

As January 26, 2014 approached, the day Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly would vote on passing a Constitution that had been snarled in debate for two years, rather than feel relief, activist Achref Aouadi tells techPresident he had grown dismayed after his failed attempts to create an online platform that would allow Tunisian citizens to debate, discuss and vote on the provisions of the draft Constitution. A day before the vote, he had not yet found a viable platform nor the funds for a developer. A crucial opportunity would be lost for stirring civic participation, which he sees as a vital step in the building of Tunisia’s democracy. Then, an online search turned the tide in Aouadi’s favor. Read More

WeGov

The UAE Wants to Speed Up Government Service Delivery With Drones

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, February 25 2014

Screenshot of Netflix's (fake) "Drone2Home" program

Earlier this month Netflix released a short mock commercial poking fun at Amazon's plans to create a drone delivery service called Prime Air.

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News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

First POST: Creeping

Senator Al Franken's tough questions for Uber's CEO; how the NSA could make its phone metadata program permanent; global privacy groups launch a personal spyware catcher called Detekt; and much, much more. GO

Recreation.gov and other Govt Projects Move Toward Embracing New Digital Approach

A draft request for proposals for the revamping of Recreation.gov will include a requirement that reservation availability data be publicly accessible and that all proposals detail how they will enable third-party sales, as two members of the United States Digital Services have joined the government team overseeing the RFP, meeting some key demands of civic technologists and consumer oriented technology companies. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Ubermenschens

Surge-pricing in effect for Uber privacy violations; why "privacy" policies should be called "data usage" policies; pols silent on Uber mess; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Uber Falles

Uber exposed for plan to dig up dirt on journalist critics; sneaking a SOPA provision into the USA Freedom Act; high-speed free WiFi coming to NYC; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Differences

How to use Twitter to circumvent campaign coordination rules; the net neutrality debate keeps getting hotter; charting the gender balance at dataviz conference using dataviz; and much, much more. GO

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