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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

Apple Stoops to “Whole New Level” of Self-Censorship in China

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, October 4 2013

Apple silently removed OpenDoor, an app that helped users evade China's Great Firewall, without any explanation and, the app developer says, without any just reason. Chinese netizens are understandably angry and many are criticizing Apple for their willingness to cooperate with Chinese authorities.

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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

Has technology changed politics? One British MP says, not so much.

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, September 30 2013

Nadhim Zahawi (center) sans musical tie (Policy Exchange/flickr)

Nadhim Zahawi is no stranger to the power of the Internet. He is better known as the British MP who set off his musical tie while speaking in parliament, a moment captured on video, which received 500,000 hits. He is also the founder of YouGov, a company that conducts polls via the Internet that performed fairly well. In a talk he gave on Sept. 25th (see the full transcript here) at the British think tank, Centre for Policy Studies, Zahawi argued that while Internet technology hasn’t changed the substance of politics, it has changed the shape of it. While he spoke specifically about British politics, the points he makes is applicable to most Western governments struggling with how to engage an evermore wary public. Read More

First POST: Bad Boys

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, September 26 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: Understanding the Internet's role in the ongoing Republican crack-up; Cory Booker's Twitter flirtations; how email has changed your workplace for the better; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

New Zealand - The World's Laboratory for Progressive Digital Legislation

BY David Eaves | Wednesday, September 18 2013

The wanted Mr. Kim Dotcom (mikesolita/flickr)

One nice advantage of having a large world with lots of diverse states is the range of experiments it offers us. Countries (or regions within them) can try out ideas, and if they work, others can copy them! For example, in the world of drug policy, Portugal effectively decriminalized virtually all drugs. The result has been dramatic. And much of it positive. I wonder if we might see a similar experience in New Zealand ten years from now about technology policy. At a glance, New Zealand would probably be the place I'd send a public servant or politician wanting to know more about how to do technology policy right. So why is that? Read More

WeGov

Entering a New Era of Open Data in the U.K.?

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, September 17 2013

Not your average data catalog (dfulmer/flickr)

The U.K. government, last week, began releasing its inventory of hitherto "unpublished" data on data.gov.uk while also allowing users to comment on the quality and content of the data. Is the U.K. onto something new or is it some of the same old? Read More

WeGov

On Their Terms: A Digital Project to Give Inuit Say in Developers' Arctic Ambitions

BY Elisabeth Fraser | Thursday, September 12 2013

It's walrus season in Nunavut. (j.slein/flickr)

A new project in Canada’s north is attempting to bridge the digital divide facing Inuit communities. In doing so, it hopes to give them a say as developers move to take advantage of their resource-rich land. The idea is to provide high-speed Internet access to Inuit living in northern communities, where extremely low bandwidth access makes surfing the net a slow and cumbersome task. “These people, who most need access to these networks, have the worst cost-per-bandwidth in the civilized world,” says Cohn. 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

In Italy, Online Tool Monitors Aid Money Post-Earthquake

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, September 6 2013

The main map on Open Ricostruzione website show the damages in the area and the donations received

On May 20, 2012, I was awakened suddenly at 4 a.m. in my apartment in Milan. It didn't take long for me to find out that most of Northern Italy had experienced the same that night. A 5.9-magnitude earthquake had hit nearby in Emilia-Romagna, the region just below Lombardy, causing severe damages in cities and villages and 27 deaths. While rescue and emergency efforts went relatively smoothly, rebuilding was entirely another matter. In Italy, the construction industry has often been at the center of corruption scandals and one of the most recent ones had started with an earthquake. But with the help of an online platform, those in Emilia-Romagna were determined not to repeat the mistakes of L'Aquila, where aid money allegedly disappeared into the pockets of corrupt politicians. Read More