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WeGov

Capture the Ocean: Paving the Way for a "Lean Data" Future

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, March 28 2014

Moonjazz / Flickr

“One of the things I would say to a large company,” began one comment from Edward Snowden at SXSW earlier this month, “is not that you can’t collect any data; it is that you should only collect the data and hold it for as long as necessary for the operation of the business.” A new research project called Capture the Ocean hopes to make business models like the one described by Snowden possible by identifying, explaining and comparing global laws regulating data collection, use and retention.

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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

Turkey's Twitter Ban and Why the Country's Still Tweeting

BY Carola Frediani | Tuesday, March 25 2014

khalid Albaih/flickr

When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided on Thursday to “wipe out” Twitter, banning the microblogging website across the country, he made it more popular than ever. In a few hours after the ban, hashtags like #TurkeyblockedTwitter and #TwitterisblockedinTurkey became trending topics. Turkish netizens managed to post more than half a million tweets in the 10 hours following the ban with an average of about 1.8 million tweets per day, according to Al Jazeera. That figure quickly grew to the point of setting a new record for the country. 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

MoveOn To Launch Six Figure Campaign To Sign Young Americans Up For Healthcare

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, February 28 2014

Sample banner ads for MoveOn's campaign (courtesy of MoveOn.org)

On Monday, MoveOn will launch a national mobile campaign to get young Americans to sign up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline. The campaign makes use of “tap-to-call” technology, in which a cell phone user only has to tap an ad to be connected with an enrollment specialist. MoveOn has dedicated $100,000 dollars to the campaign already, but after two months of positive test results the organization hopes to raise more funds to expand the program.

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WeGov

Telegram: Viable WhatsApp Alternative from Russia, But Still Questionably Secure

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, February 26 2014

Telegram (U.S. National Archives/Wikipedia)

After Facebook bought the messaging application WhatsApp on February 19 for a whopping $19 billion dollars, the messaging app Telegram, a product of the “Russian Zuckerberg” Pavel Durov, surged in popularity.

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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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WeGov

Transparency Optional? Try Poderopedia

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, February 21 2014

Transparency is important (Seth Thomas Rasmussen/Flickr)

In many parts of the world, political transparency is still considered to be optional. Take Panama, for example, where political candidates are not required to declare assets, sources of funding or potential conflicts of interest. This puts the onus of discovery and exposure on the public. However, before Panama voters head to the polls in May they can check a Poderopedia-powered platform chock full of vital information crowdsourced (and verified) by journalists and citizens. The project is called “Cuida Tu Voto” (“Watch Your Vote”) and launched in Panama City earlier this week.

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WeGov

In Syria, All's Fair in Love, Tech and Civil War

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, February 14 2014

There is more than a bit of Pygmalion in Haidar's story (Marissa-rissa)

They say all's fair in love and war, and this story contains a bit of each. Yesterday The Guardian profiled Ahmad Haidar, a hacker and technologist who uses his skills to battle the Syrian government. After the Syrian Electronic Army offered him a position in the group in 2011, he bailed on them in favor of the rebels. He used to make viruses to infect state-controlled websites, and he named them after—who else—ex-girlfriends. Haidar's newest project is a robot that can rescue sniper victims without putting more lives in danger. He has named it Tena, after a Finnish woman he once sat next to on an airplane.

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WeGov

Gaming to Unite a Divided City in Cyprus

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, February 5 2014

The Last Divided Capital (Dan Nevill/Flickr)

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Nicosia became the last divided capital in the world. Located on the island of Cyprus, the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sections are separated by a United Nations buffer zone. A new online game allows young Nicosia residents on both sides of the divide to experience—virtually—their city as a whole, and helps them understand their shared history.

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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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