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All over the world, groups and individuals are using technology in a variety of innovative ways to increase government transparency, fight corruption, open data, hack on civic problems, strengthen economic development, address environmental problems, improve public health and education, and advance the conditions of women and children.

Our name for this trend is "We-government" or "WeGov" for short. Unlike the older practice of e-government, where public agencies are in the driver's seat and use tech to tell citizens what officials want them to know, allow them to upload required information, and invite input but only on government's terms, WeGov is what happens when citizens and NGOs take fuller advantage of tech's affordances to create (and sometimes co-create, with government's involvement) new and better approaches to providing and using vital public information and services.

techPresident's WeGov vertical is where we cover the people, projects, trends and ideas that are shaping this emerging space with a mix of in-depth feature reporting, daily news digests, and the development of a growing archive of articles, modules and pointers to other valuable resources.

Starting in June 2013, a chunk of the coverage on WeGov is coming from a new partnership with the engine room aimed at expanding our ability to surface and connect emerging tactics and initiatives. The engine room is an organization that uses research and networks to close gaps between advocacy initiatives, technologies, strategies and resources. They match initiatives with specialized expertise to help them make the most out of new technologies. With their help, we will be adding a series of skill shares for practitioners, in-depth reports, columns, and live documentation of relevant events.

To read about WeGov articles that fall under specific categories of interest, click on the links below:

Subscribe to our WeGov mailing list. Current subscribers may need to update their preferences.





WeGov is written and edited by Rebecca Chao, Jessica McKenzie and Antonella Napolitano, in partnership with the engine room and with assistance from Micah L. Sifry. The WeGov advisory board includes Sunil Abraham, Dominic Campbell, Susan Crawford, Beth Noveck, Tiago Peixoto, and Jeffrey Warren.

Personal Democracy Media is thankful to the Omidyar Network and the United Nations Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

WeGov

Recycling Phones to Raise Funds for mHealth Initiatives

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, December 19 2013

What can your old phone do? (Flickr/Phil Roeder)

A nonprofit organization that runs mHealth programs in 20 different countries has started a campaign that collects old cell phones and recycles them, using the profits to fund their humanitarian work. Hope Phones is one of those classic kill-two-birds-with-one-stone organizations: tackling the problem of cellphone waste and fundraising for their humanitarian mission at the same time.

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WeGov

The Cambodian Government's Social Media Nightmare

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, December 18 2013

Prime Minister of Cambodia, and leader of the CPP, Hun Sen (Wikipedia)

The growing popularity of social media in Cambodia, not as entertainment but as a source for alternative news, is threatening the established government leaders and their state-controlled media narratives. In the national elections this June the opposition pulled in 55 seats to the ruling Cambodian People's Party 68, in large part due to the participation of plugged-in and social media-savvy youths. More recently, the government has had their state-approved media account of a November clash between striking garment workers and police refuted by videos uploaded to the Internet and spread through social media.

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WeGov

How To Win Friends & Influence People on Twitter: The International Organizations Edition

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, December 17 2013

A new Twiplomacy study came out last month, and this time the communications firm Burson-Marstellar tackled international organizations. The study found big differences in terms of followers and retweets between the most popular international organizations on Twitter and the average international organization. For example, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (@CERN) and the United Nations Children's Fund led the crowd in terms of retweets, averaging 100 a tweet. The median average of retweets is only four. So what are those organization doing right?

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WeGov

In the Congo, War and Embargo Complicate World Bank Project

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, December 16 2013

The provincial budget minister talks to the press after a generally assembly and budget vote (Credit: World Bank)

The war-ravaged province of South Kivu sits at the eastern border of the DRC, beside the stem of Tanganyika, an African Great Lake. Boris Weber, team leader for the World Bank's ICT4Gov, explains to techPresident that after years of conflict and violence in the province, the provincial government was simply not sending the money allocated to local governments. “Partly, they just didn’t have any incentive to send it. Also, they had no way of knowing and tracking how their money was going to be spent.” The World Bank’s participatory budgeting program, piloted in 2012, aimed to resolve that dilemma by giving those in Bukavu a direct say in how they wanted to see their budget spent; therefore creating the accountability needed to incentivize the provincial government to send money down the line. But locals view the program with a skeptic eye and ask, is it enough? Read More

WeGov

SimCity? More Like Office Pro for Cities

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, December 16 2013

Screenshot from the Microsoft CityNext informational video.

Last month, Microsoft India launched Microsoft CityNext. CityNext is an initiative in which city residents and government officials alike use technology to improve and grow their city. One blogger called it the “Real SimCity for India.” One of the biggest challenges on India's plate right now is how to update aging infrastructure to cope with expected city growth in the next two decades.

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WeGov

Can Do-It-Yourself Biology Change Science or Save a Life?

BY Carola Frediani | Friday, December 13 2013

Taking the lab home. (Credit: Z33 art centre, Hasselt/flickr)

They are rebels with a cause, fighting for open science. Each of them do it in their own way. Still, they all have a common goal: to change the way in which science is practiced, the way its results are distributed and even who gets to participate. It’s a loose movement made up of a new breed of scientists such as the Italian veterinary virologist Ilaria Capua, who challenged the World Health Organization’s policies on sharing data and created a global consortium of scientists who sought to foster international sharing of avian influenza data. Capua’s stand was an act of rebellion against institutional science, a victory for open biology and the start of a new type of scientific research enabled by the Internet and ICT tools, through which international cooperation could be reached by online data sharing. And yes, it was a way of hacking biology.

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WeGov

The Future of Election Monitoring

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, December 13 2013

What does an algorithm know about the difference between tamales and Tamale, Ghana? (Flickr/fcastellanos)

The Social Media Tracking Centre (SMTC) is an election monitoring process that pulls in information from multiple data streams—Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and blogs and websites—and can be used to generate visualizations and other analytics. It was first launched to monitor Nigeria's elections in April 2011, and then subsequently used in Liberia, Ghana and Kenya.

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WeGov

Can Open Data Improve Primary Education?

BY Susannah Vila | Thursday, December 12 2013

A primary school in Bajipura, India Credit: Flickr user nanubhai

According to the UN’s Millenium Development Goals website, primary education enrollment in developing regions reached 90 percent in 2010. And still, 123 million young people around the world lack basic reading and writing skills. Various efforts are underway to improve basic education. What role might open data play?

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WeGov

The App That Builds Trust Into Citizen Media

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, December 12 2013

What did I tell you about not believing everything you see on the Internet? (Flickr/@Doug88888)

Don't trust everything you find on the Internet.

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WeGov

In India, Voice Messaging Mobilizes More Effectively Than SMS

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, December 11 2013

Drought-dry dirt. (Flickr/Mundoo)

In the midst of the terrible drought that struck the Indian state Maharashtra in March 2012, a political scandal broke and revealed a top minister was helping divert water from farmers to power plants. Greenpeace India launched an awareness building campaign on May 22 by unfurling a 250 foot banner that read “Water For Farmers / Not Power Plants” over a dam. Although an online petition garnered support from urbanites, Greenpeace India needed to reach people in rural areas, the ones hurt most by the drought. The Digital Mobilisation Lab at Greenpeace (MobLab) blog took a critical look at what worked and what didn't, and interactive voice response comes out a winner.

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WeGov

New Report Says Canadian Politicians’ "Digital Offices" Need a Makeover

BY Elisabeth Fraser | Wednesday, December 11 2013

A new report by the nonprofit Samara explains how Canada's politicians are not doing well in connecting online.

Canada has seen steep drops in political participation of late, as well a general decline in political engagement, according to Samara, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to improving political participation. The organization believes their MPs’ lackluster online presence has something to do with it; they released a report last week, detailing their survey of websites for Canada’s MPs. 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

Tech Journos in Iran Arrested For "Contact With Foreign Media," Among Other Charges

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, December 10 2013

Screenshot of video of a state TV broadcast

In the past three weeks 24 journalists, bloggers and technologists at online media companies have been arrested by Iran's elite force of revolutionary guards. Yesterday, some of those arrested appeared on state television, handcuffed and with their faces to the wall, obscuring their identity.

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WeGov

International Human Rights Day in Vietnam Marked By Launch of Blogger Network

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, December 10 2013

Vietnam Flag (Wikipedia)

Today a coalition of Vietnamese bloggers launched the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers (NVB), a new advocacy and watchdog group that will hold the Vietnamese government accountable for their United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) obligations and commitments. The launch was set for December 10 to coincide with International Human Rights Day.

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WeGov

Japanese PM Thinks His People Just Don't Understand The State Secrecy Bill

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, December 9 2013

Shinzo Abe shakes hands with President Bush (Wikipedia)

In spite of objections from human rights activists and members of the media around the world, Japan's upper chamber made the controversial State Secrecy Protection Bill law in a “raucous, late-night session” last Friday, December 6, Reuters reports. The House of Representatives passed the bill on November 26. Under the new law, state employees could be jailed for up to 10 years if they leak secrets, and journalists could be jailed for up to five if they use “grossly inappropriate” tactics to uncover state secrets. The passage of the bill has sparked uncharacteristically large protests in a country where protesters have often been considered a part of the political fringe.

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WeGov

Can the Internet Improve Democracy? Thoughts on the 2013 World Forum for Democracy

BY WeGov | Friday, December 6 2013

Just another gathering? (Credit: Wikimedia)

The list of online democratic platforms has swelled in just the last few years. Germany's Pirate Party, Italy's Five Star Movement and Iceland's Citizens Foundation are just a few examples of civic groups that have expressed dissatisfaction with the status quo and have attempted to solve the inadequacies and inefficiencies of government through technology. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Council of Europe held its second annual World Forum for Democracy, gathering over thousands from civil society, government and the media to discuss the effect of the Internet on democracy. What exactly did the forum accomplish? Did it have a productive impact on the discussion of democracy and the Internet? Two practitioners who attended the forum weigh in. Read More

WeGov

Twitter Angling For More International Users

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, December 6 2013

Twitter on any phone, even the 'dumb' ones (Flickr/Angga Satriya)

Twitter is following Facebook and Google's lead in creating an avenue for feature phone users to access their service, even without an Internet connection. They have partnered with the Singapore-based company U2opia Mobile, Reuters reports.

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WeGov

Pakistanis Show Their Love For YouTube in Vimeo Video

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, December 5 2013

Screenshot from the Hugs for Youtube! video

Although YouTube (the website) has been banned in Pakistan for more than a year now, that didn't keep YouTube (the mascot) from walking the streets of Karachi last month, asking for hugs from Pakistanis who want the video sharing site back. The self-described citizens resistance forum Pakistan for All filmed the stunt as part of their #KholoBC campaign, which opposes Internet censorship and content regulation by the government.

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WeGov

Examining Russia's Censorship Record

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, December 4 2013

Pussy Riot (Wikipedia)

Russia wants to protect children. That is their excuse for a law that gives them the power to selectively censor Internet content. Information about homosexuality or suicide, which Russia refers to as propaganda, are among the banned subjects deemed harmful to children. Earlier this year a Russian prosecutor asked a court to block the website Pobedish.ru (“you win”), part of the suicide prevention resource group Perezhit.ru, which incorporates input from psychologists, psychiatrists, forensic experts and the clergy. Because that makes sense.

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WeGov

In Ottawa, Open Data App Competition Mysteriously Disappears

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, December 4 2013

Traffic jam (Flickr/MSVG)

Shortly after the city of Ottawa released their new smartphone traffic navigation app in mid-November, the negative reviews started to pour in: users reported bugs logging in and bemoaned a lack of features. It was a disappointing product all around, but especially so when one considered that it cost the city roughly $95,000. Then the Ottawa Citizen revealed that the city had considered sponsoring an open data competition, but ultimately chose to give the massive contract to a Toronto company.

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