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In Russia, Independent YouTube Programming Lures Viewers Away from State TV

BY Natalia Antonova | Tuesday, March 19 2013

Screenshot from Russia's independent Dozhd TV

In Russia, state owned television's coverage of high profile cases and events has been losing credibility amongst educated, middle class viewers who see it as anodyne, patronizing or insufficiently critical. A notorious recent case of poor television reporting occurred with the prosecution of feminist collective punk band Pussy Riot. It was impossible to miss the strong difference between state-owned television’s coverage and analysis, versus the reporting offered by independent Russian programming on YouTube. Read More

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Open Academic Resources Offers Education Opportunities in Emerging Economies

BY Julia Wetherell | Monday, March 18 2013

The launch of the Research Data Alliance this week could have major implications for the future of the academic community, bridging major institutions and driving collaborative innovation.  Yet the benefits of world universities opening their gates are more lateral than vertical, strengthening ties within communities that are already educationally privileged.  How do developing countries stand to benefit from open knowledge projects?

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Live in Google Hangout, One Indian Official Says Government's Participatory Democracy Effort is Elitist

BY Julia Wetherell | Monday, March 18 2013

The Indian Government Planning Commission Google Hangout.

India’s government has been embracing a high-tech strategy over the past year, with new online portals and open data initiatives aiming to democratize civic life.  Last Friday, a Google Hangout with members of the Government Planning Commission was emblematic of these efforts.  But some viewers expressed skepticism that undermined the impact of the conversation, alleging that some of the “spontaneous” citizen questioners in the hangout were government plans. One commission member denounced the event live on camera.

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Mobile Health Initiatives Falling Short of a Cure

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, March 14 2013

As more and more mobile initiatives for the developing world are announced to great fanfare, a backlash has risen asking when we’re going to see concrete effects. Yesterday, the New York Times’ Fixes column turned an eye to the realm of mobile health, looking at some of the reasons why social limitations can work against mobile innovations.

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The US Military is Trying to Track Political Upheaval Via Social Media Content

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, March 14 2013

Cat Improving Military Strategy (from Memecenter.com).

Someone at South by Southwest may have already beaten them to programming drones to do the Harlem Shake, but the US military is still getting into memes.  An intelligence tool currently in development at the Office of Naval Research will track the spread of viral content online by actually treating it like a virus, using epidemiological models to predict how and where different ideas will emerge.

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For American IT Giants, A Mission to Burma

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, March 6 2013

After nearly 30 years of U.S. government imposed sanctions, several American information technology firms sent delegates on a trade visit to Burma (Myanmar), for the first time in the Internet age.  Facilitated by USAID, the US companies – including Google, Microsoft, HP, Intel, and Cisco – convened with the Burmese Chamber of Congress during an economic conference in Rangoon on February 25.  With Burma’s bid to join the Open Government Partnership looming, the meeting raises questions of a military regime’s ability to foster government accountability and transparency. Read More

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Will Mobile Banking Empower Women, or Just Telecoms?

BY Julia Wetherell | Friday, March 1 2013

The "virtuous circle" of MFS, according to GSMA's study.

In many developing economies, while men earn wages outside the household, women are often acting behind the scenes as the money managers at home.  Yet a recent study found that mobile banking and financial services, which have gotten a lot of press as solutions for bringing economic empowerment to citizens in developing nations, has largely passed over women who could be using them.  Could m-banking strengthen women’s financial practices and narrow the digital gender gap? Or will promoting it only line the pockets of telecom corporations?

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EU Court to Determine if People Googling Themselves Have the Right to Censor Search Results

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, February 27 2013

Google Spain.

If an Internet user sees that their reputation is getting tarnished online, should they have the right to request that the data be removed from search results?  That’s the premise of a case from Spain that the European Court of Justice will be deliberating over the next several months, after the country’s highest court ruled that Google was responsible for the spread of the harmful information. 

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Low Price Smartphones Dominate the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

BY Julia Wetherell | Monday, February 25 2013

The 2013 Mobile World Congress kicks off in Barcelona today, with representatives from over two hundred countries congregating to see what the next year will bring in apps, hardware, and initiatives.  With mobile firmly in place as primary communication platform of the developing world, the focus now turns to bringing next-generation technologies into the hands of these millions of subscribers, by creating cheaper smartphones. 

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Climate Change Activists Go Toe-to-Toe With Exxon Over Crowdfunded TV Ad

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, February 21 2013

Screengrab from the Exxon Hates Your Children ad.

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: The sponsors of a controversial ad hoped that crowdfunding could help them place their message on national television, turning a space usually reserved for selling cars and lingerie into a marketplace of ideas. But before their 30-second climate-change spot could air during President Barack Obama's State of the Union, its target, Exxon-Mobil, successfully campaigned for Comcast to pull the ad. The controversy generated some press, but those climate-change activists were boxed out of a key market at a key time — leaving questions about crowdfunding's impact for activism. Read More