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WeGov

Using Data and Statistics to Bring Down Dictators

BY Federico Guerrini | Monday, March 10 2014

War Graves in Kosovo (credit: NH53/flickr)

On September 20, 2013, in Guatemala, the former director of the National Police of Guatemala, Col. Héctor Bol de la Cruz, and his subordinate Jorge Alberto Gómez López were convicted for the abduction and presumed murder of student and labor leader Edgar Fernando García, who disappeared in 1984, during the conflict that devastated the South American country between 1960 and 1996. Three years earlier, two lower ranking officers were also convicted for the crime. The convictions were made possible thanks to the work of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that uses statistical analysis to support the cause of human rights. Read More

Obama Confronts German NSA Skepticism in TV Interview But Doubts Remain

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, January 21 2014

Obama tells Claus Kleber, no point in having intelligence if you're restricted to reading media reports (credit: Screenshot/ZDF)

President Obama directly confronted some of the significant skepticism toward U.S. surveillance among the German public in an exclusive interview with German public broadcaster ZDF following his speech Friday. Beyond emphasizing the importance of restoring a trust in German-U.S. relations and dispelling worries about surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the interview's back-and-forth also prompted Obama to spell out the necessary balance he sees between U.S. responsibilities as a country with the most advanced capabilities and inevitable innovation in the area of digital surveillance. German reaction to the interview and the speech was muted, with many German news commentators expressing concern that Obama's vision is in effect a new world order upending established concepts of privacy, rule of law and limited surveillance. Read More

WeGov

The Buenos Aires Net Party: Weaving a Bridge Between the Click and the Vote

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, January 13 2014

The Net Party wants to change government from the inside out (credit: El Partido de La Red)

If you had strolled past the Legislature Palace of the City of Buenos Aires some time in October of last year, you might have seen a towering Trojan horse made of wooden slats taken in tow by a SUV and a group of activists from the nascent El Partido de La Red or Net Party. Rather than housing a lethal subset of the Grecian army, the statue carried ideas from the citizens of Buenos Aires on improving their city government. The Net Party is the city’s newest party and first dabble into direct democracy. Read More

WeGov

Buenos Aires, A Pocket of Civic Innovation in Argentina

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, December 10 2013

Last week, Buenos Aires' Open Government launched an interactive timeline of its 100-year-old subway sytem (Credit: Screenshot)

In only a few years, the government, civil society and media in Buenos Aires have actively embraced open data. The Buenos Aires city government has been publishing data under a creative commons license and encouraging civic innovation through hackathons. NGOs have launched a number of tech-driven tools and Argentina's second largest newspaper, La Nación, has published several hard-hitting data journalism projects. The result is a fledgling but flourishing open data culture in Buenos Aires, in a country that has not yet adopted a freedom of information law. 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

The Rise of 'Selfless' Selfies in Online Activism

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, September 6 2013

Take selfies to be proud of, be a selfie activist (Helga Weber/Flickr)

The selfie portrait, omnipresent on most social networking sites, starting with MySpace, has recently found a higher calling: activism. Last month Filipinos organized an online protest of public transit fare hikes under the hashtag #StrikeTheHike. They encouraged supporters to upload selfies with protest messages to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Another #SelfieProtest in the Philippines is already under way, calling for the abolishment of the “pork barrel” budgeting system following a corruption scandal implicating at least three senators.

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WeGov

How Governments Should Release Open Data

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, August 20 2013

When releasing data, governments should know that format matters almost as much as content. If it is clean, well organized, complete and in a machine-readable format, even a nonprogrammer can make good use of it. A recent post from Craig Thomler, who blogs about eGovernment and Gov 2.0 in Australia, illustrates this point.

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WeGov

The World Bank Finances App: Open Data Online and Off

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, August 14 2013

Greeting card courtesy of Sam Lee

The World Bank values transparency. They have an entire website dedicated to making their financial data open and available to the public. Stores of raw datasets for anyone to “slice and dice, visualize, and share with others.” The quantity of data can be overwhelming, however, so for the mobile app version of their open finances website, they pared the data down and focused on simple information and presentation.

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WeGov

Ethical Disruptions in the Developing World

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, July 30 2013

It can be tempting to treat technology as the Band-Aid of choice for problems that need solving in the developing world. That eagerness could contribute to the explosion of mobile and ICT initiatives. Unfortunately, some put the failure rate for ICT initiatives in developing countries as high as 85 percent. That is in part because of weaknesses in the initiatives, but also, perhaps, because technology is overused.

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WeGov

Weibo: A Tool for the People or the Communist Party?

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, July 29 2013

A chengguan police van in Tiananmen Square (image: Keso/flickr)

Before sunrise on July 17, a farmer named Deng Zhengjia and his wife made their way to Linwu County to sell watermelons. Deng was dead by sundown. Local plainclothes policemen, or chengguan, struck him in the head with a weight from his own scale, killing him. Some are wondering if Deng will be China's Mohammed Bouazizi, a man whose death as a consequence of police overreach will spark widespread unrest and maybe even political change. But far more likely is that his death will be laid at the feed of local officials, the broader implications glossed over, and the entire affair buried inside China's Great Firewall. Much has been made of the tools the Chinese state uses for censorship, and if anything, the aftermath of Deng's death is an example of those tools in action. Read More