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WeGov

Move Over Skype. For a More Secure Chat, There’s OStel.

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, October 7 2013

sparktography/flickr

As Edward Snowden’s leaks have revealed, none of our digital devices are truly safe from prying eyes, including Skype. As of February 2011, the U.S. government has had the capacity to monitor Skype calls and in July of this year, several newspapers exposed the level of cooperation Skype has had with the government in monitoring calls; the NSA apparently tripled its level of monitoring since July of last year, nine months after Microsoft bought the application. There is now a Skype alternative called OStel, offered by the Guardian Project, an organization that creates secure, open-source communications software that often assists those living under censorship. Read More

WeGov

7 Tactics for Your Civic App That You Can Learn From Twitter and Airbnb

BY Susannah Vila | Wednesday, October 2 2013

If you are looking to improve your civic app, don't be afraid to look at non-civic models like Twitter (petesimon/flickr)

It may sound obvious, but without users, it’s not possible for software to do much of anything - let alone facilitate social change. As we explored in our last post, a few organizations and individuals have started hosting ongoing conversations among technologists and people who can use data and applications to address civic issues. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Engaging the right people at the right time requires a variety of different tactics. Many of these tactics can be borrowed from user acquisition teams at non-civic applications like Yelp, Airbnb, or Dropbox. Read More

WeGov

The Hunt for Open Data in China

BY Rebecca Chao | Wednesday, September 11 2013

No data in this stack of hay. (Perry McKenna/flickr)

Like water and oil, ‘open data’ and ‘China’ that take a bit of engineering if you want them to mix. Stories like those of human rights advocate Xu Zhiyong, arrested for rallying citizens to demand public disclosure of their officials’ wealth, are more the norm. But rather than ask for information, a group of young techies are going out and finding it, despite the challenges in its use and the risks of digging too deep. Read More

WeGov

One-Size-Fits-All Toolkit For Gathering Information In A Crisis

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, September 4 2013

The thing about crises is that they can take you by surprise. Although governments and humanitarian organizations do their best to prepare, it's nice to have something to fall back on in any situation, something like an emergency first aid kit for NGOs. The nonprofit media support organization Internews thought so too, which is why they partnered with Columbia University's Modi Research Group and Captricity to create the Humanitarian Data Toolkit.

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WeGov

The Open Data Tool That's Getting Thousands All Over Africa to the Polls

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, August 28 2013

Screenshot of GoToVote! ZW

A “get out the vote” initiative that began in Kenya is spreading across Africa to countries like Ghana, South Africa and now Zimbabwe. On July 31, Zimbabwe's election day, thousands of voters knew where to go because of a simple online tool called GoToVote! ZW. It saved those citizens the usual hassle of searching for their polling station.

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WeGov

Citizen Journalism and mGovernance in Rural India

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, August 19 2013

Imagine nearly 20 million people without access to news and current events. In the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, language barriers, illiteracy, lack of Internet access and strict radio regulations exclude millions living in rural communities from the mainstream media. A voice messaging service called CGNet Swara overcomes those obstacles and empowers anyone in rural India with a cell phone to become a citizen journalist.

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WeGov

India Launches Open Data Portal

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, August 13 2013

On Thursday August 8 the Indian government launched an open data portal with more than 3,500 data sets from 49 different government offices. The website, Data Portal India (data.gov.in), has been compared to similar websites launched by the US in 2009 and the UK in 2010. Read More

WeGov

Magpi: The Gmail of Mobile Data Collection

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, August 9 2013

Yellow-breasted Magpie, not to be confused with DataDyne's Magpi (Wikipedia)

Since 2005, organizations like the World Bank, the World Health Organization and USAid have used a program called Magpi to collect information on diverse subjects, everything from water quality to anti-malarial bednet distribution to the health of endangered species. Magpi, a program created by social enterprise DataDyne, operates on a 'freemium' model: the basic service is free but customization costs. Even paying for the more advanced service, however, is less expensive than developing an entirely new pilot program. Magpi should be a boon to nonprofits organizations, but instead the first adopters were all for-profit companies. This, a co-founder of DataDyne says, is due to a flaw in the NGO funding model.

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WeGov

Citizens Create Open Data Tools to Drive Transparency in Hong Kong

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, August 8 2013

The Legislative Council Building in Hong Kong (source: Martin Schiele/flickr)

Edward Snowden might have thought otherwise, but Hong Kong residents find their city-state pretty opaque when it comes to access to information about their own government's activities. A group of open data activists are trying to change that, kicking off several initiatives and creating new tools. Read More

WeGov

A Skill Share on Transparency & Accountability in Service Delivery

BY Susannah Vila | Thursday, August 8 2013

(image: cogdogblog/flickr)

In collaboration with WeGov, the engine room is coordinating some online skill shares for people using technology in transparency and accountability to learn from one another. We’re excited to announce that our first virtual event in this series will focus on the use of citizen reporting to improve delivery of basic services like water, healthcare, education and electricity. Read More

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Beyond @Congressedits, Capitol Hill Looks for Entry to Wikipedia

As he recently told techPresident, the creator of Congressedits did not aim to make Members of Congress look bad, but said he hoped that they would recognize the importance of Wikipedia as a public space and engage more with its community. "If staffers and politicians identified as Wikipedians, that would be super. You could imagine politicians' home pages with a list of their recent edits, that they would be proud of the things that they are doing." On Capitol Hill, there is in fact interest in making that vision a reality, starting off with an initial conversation that could create a framework for more Wikipedians in Congress. GO

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In the Philippines, Citizens Go Undercover With Bantay to Monitor Public Offices

The Philippines, a country of almost 100 million, is considered among the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, despite a boost in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index in the past few years (from 134th in 2010 to 94th in 2013 out of 175.) Corruption involves all levels of government, but benefits also from a mindset of tolerance, says Happy Feraren, the co-founder of Bantay.ph, an anti-corruption educational initiative that teaches citizens how to monitor the quality of government services, sometimes by going undercover. GO

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