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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:

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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

Privacy and Surveillance are the Elephant in the Room at OGP Summit [UPDATED]

BY Katrin Verclas | Friday, November 1 2013

Intel Free Press/flickr

Privacy, surveillance and the closing of political space for openness and transparency activists in many countries was the hot issue at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit in London that was left largely unaddressed by the OGP member countries present. Read More

WeGov

New Report Highlights Digital Revolution in Disaster Response

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, November 1 2013

Hurricane Sandy (Wikipedia)

The World Disasters Report 2013, released earlier in October, evaluates the way technology can aid in disaster response. The report states that it is “essential—and inescapable” that humanitarian action become more technological but it also warns humanitarian organizations not to rely too heavily on technology because it can exclude those without access to it.

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WeGov

Baby Names and Hunting Rules...Is Canada's Latest Open Government Push Doing Enough?

BY Elisabeth Fraser | Thursday, October 31 2013

A screenshot of Ontario's new open data website

Canada’s latest push for open data is happening in Ontario with a new Open Government initiative launched this week. It is part of the Ontario government’s efforts to increase public access to its data. Billed as, “a commitment to the people of Ontario to engage, collaborate and innovate,” the site pledges to unlock “the power of data in a digital age and partners with people to spark a new generation of ideas through easier access to information, more voices at the decision-making table and new economic opportunities powered by public information.” But does it go far enough? Read More

WeGov

New Report Highlights Successes and Challenges of Worldwide Open Data Policies

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, October 31 2013

David Cameron addressing the OGP summit (10 Downing Street/Facebook)

A new study of 77 countries from the World Wide Web Foundation and Open Data Institute indicates that while 55 percent of countries have open data initiatives in place, less than 10 percent of key government datasets around the world are in fact easily accessible to the public. Read More

WeGov

Tell President Kenyatta You Paid A Bribe

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, October 31 2013

125,584,332 Kenyan shillings have been paid in bribes since the end of 2011 (Wikipedia)

As Kenya continues to struggle with everyday corruption, President Kenyatta has launched a platform through which citizens can report incidents of bribery directly to his administration. Similar platforms, like I Paid A Bribe and Not In My Country, which targets corruption in the school system, already exist, but bribery is so systemic that only seven out of 100 Kenyans will report specific instances, according to Transparency International's most recent East African Bribery Index. It remains to be seen if President Kenyatta's attention to the problem will inspire more participation and eventually lead to reform and change.

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WeGov

Too Much "Open Government," Not Enough Openness?

BY Panthea Lee | Thursday, October 31 2013

Are Open Government initiatives too much show and no substance? (Laurence and Annie/flickr)

But despite all the ambition and innovation of Open Government initiatives, the utility of this movement is yet unproven. Many initiatives seek transparent, participatory, and accountable governance, but is the practice of open government living up to the promise behind these three pillars? Read More

WeGov

Argentina's Expanding Surveillance State

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 30 2013

Screenshot from the SIBIOS promotional video

“If we know more about who we are, we can better take care of ourselves.”

That's the reason the Argentinian government gives for their new Federal System of Biometric Identification (SIBIOS) program in a promotional video they play at border control stations. Privacy rights activists have been up in arms about SIBIOS since Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner created it with an executive decree in 2011. It has been active practice since 2012, with little to no public debate about it. Nothing has slowed down the expanding database of information, which includes fingerprints and photos. Earlier this month, Mendoza became the 13th province to sign the Federal Program Partnership and Security Assistance, a program meant to "harmonize" national and provincial policies, and gives provinces access to databases like SIBIOS.

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WeGov

The World Bank's Lo-Tech Open Data Experiment

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 30 2013

Although the open data movement is associated with the Internet and tech-savvy types, an estimated 65 percent of the world's population remains entirely offline. As part of their ongoing push to open up development data, the World Bank has tested initiatives in remote communities to see how open data could be used offline. They wanted to put the assumption that open data is too difficult to understand (especially without the advantage of computer literacy) to the test.

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WeGov

An Interview with Crypt0nymous On Operation Maryville

BY Carola Frediani | Wednesday, October 30 2013

Last week a crowd of a few hundred peoplegathered at the courthouse square in Maryville, Missouri, along with dozens of reporters and a few people adorned in Guy Fawkes "Anonymous" masks. The international spotlight on this tiny college town would have been unthinkable even ten days earlier. Demonstrators, both in the streets and online, were supporting a teenage girl whose alleged rapist walked out of court without a single charge. Those protesting believed prosecutors dropped the charges because the suspect, a 17-year-old football player, was the grandson of Rex Barnett, a former state legislator. Italian journalist Carola Frediani, the author of an in-depth book on Anonymous, conducted an interview with one of the Anons involved in the Maryville protest, Crypt0nymous, and we present an edited version of their conversation below. Read More

WeGov

Who Does it Best When it Comes to Open Data?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, October 29 2013

Screenshot of 2013 Open Data Index

To coincide with the Open Government Partnership Summit in London—which Susannah Vila and Christopher Wilson of engine room are live-blogging for techPresident this week—the Open Knowledge Foundation has released the 2013 Open Data Index, the first major assessment of open government data worldwide. The Index is based on community surveys in 70 countries, and ranks countries based on availability and accessibility of data in ten categories, including government spending, election results and pollution levels. The United Kingdom came out on top, followed by the United States; Cyprus is way behind, scoring a mere 30 points compared to the United Kingdom's 940.

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WeGov

Pushback Against Corruption In Philippines Continues With Gov't Hackathon

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, October 28 2013

The Philippines government is sponsoring a two-day hackathon early next month as part of an attempt to reform government and reduce corruption. Less than two months ago the country was rocked by a corruption scandal implicating three senators, two former lawmakers, and a businesswoman for misuse of state funds totaling more than US$200 million. The central government will provide data for the #KabantayNgBayan (Guardians of the Nation) hackathon, which will encourage the development of apps that encourage citizens to monitor and participate in government.

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WeGov

"Dumbphones" To Get A Bit Smarter With Wikipedia Zero

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, October 28 2013

Times have been tough for Wikipedia. Earlier in October the Wikimedia Foundation disabled a ring of more than 250 fake accounts used by a public relations firm to write and edit company pages. The scandal has prompted at least one writer to wonder if Wikipedia is getting worse. Other have pointed to the fact that there are 20,000 fewer active contributing editors now than in 2007, and blame the “crushing bureaucracy” and “abrasive atmosphere” created by the current collective, which is 90 percent male. In spite of the recent bad press, the beleaguered site has announced a new pilot program called Wikipedia Zero, which will provide access to 70 million new users without computers, smartphones or data plans.

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WeGov

Can Facebook Zero Aid Development Work in Africa?

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, October 28 2013

Usha Venkatachallam, founder of a technology consulting company, divides her time between Washington, D.C. and Coimbatore, India, but the global nature of her development work has recently led her to Uganda where she is working on creating a digital health platform in Apac, a remote rural area of the country. Part of the project will utilize Facebook Zero, which Venkatachallam says will prove useful for engaging users in “resource constrained environments.” Read More

WeGov

UN Publishes Hypnotizing Map of Our "Global Pulse"

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, October 25 2013

The United Nations has published a 3D map of the top 20 countries talking about the post-2015 development goals. Called the UN Global Pulse, it just goes to show that big data can be so cool.

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WeGov

Apple Kicks Out Another Anti-Censorship App From Their Chinese Store

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, October 25 2013

Just when it seemed like a small opening for controversial apps had appeared in the Chinese Apple App store, it quickly closed again. Yesterday, GreatFire.org's Free Weibo, a tool that allows you to search and find censored tweets on China’s popular microblogging platform, Sina Weibo, was finally made available in the Apple apps store in China after being previously blocked. When I asked Charlie Smith, who along with Martin Johnson created Great Fire, a website that monitor's censorship in China, "why the sudden reversal?", the answer was clear: it was an oversight. Read More

WeGov

Why The Remarkably Similar Circumvention Tools uProxy and Lantern Are Not Overkill

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, October 24 2013

Night and day: two radically different ways of describing remarkably similar tools

Not all anti-censorship tools were created equal. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Take uProxy, for example, one of several new tools Google Ideas launched at their Summit meeting in New York City this week. UProxy is a browser extension that connects people in censored countries to the Internet through people in uncensored countries. Sound familiar? It should. Although seeded by Google Ideas, it was built by developers at the University of Washington and Brave New Software. That's right, Brave New Software, the same organization behind the anti-censorship tool Lantern, profiled earlier this week by techPresident, which also uses peer-to-peer (P2P) technology to circumvent Internet blocks.

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WeGov

Google Lets Crowd Help Pick Winner in Google Impact Challenge India

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, October 22 2013

You have eight more days to vote for the fan favorite project in the Google Impact Challenge. Ten Indian nonprofit organizations have been selected as finalists by Googlers and, with help from the company, have produced videos that showcase their organization and their project. The four winning organizations—one fan favorite and three selected by a panel of judges—will be announced on October 31. The winning organizations will receive a Rs 3 crore (approximately US$486,690) Global Impact Award, 10 Nexus tablets and mentoring and technical support from Google. Read More

WeGov

Could State Department Funded Lantern Be Bigger, Better Tor?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, October 22 2013

Lanterns in Singapore (Tallkev/Flickr)

Global Internet freedom is without a doubt declining. Authoritarian states like China and Iran routinely block social media and news websites. Half of the countries surveyed for the 2013 Freedom House report on net freedom have blocked political or social content, and nearly a third blanket block at least one blogging or social media platform. Anti-censorship tools exist, but the most popular and effective buckle under the overwhelming demand for them in repressive countries.

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WeGov

The Balkan Startup: If You Build It, Will They Come?

BY Antonella Napolitano | Monday, October 21 2013

The list of the 12 local projects that have joined The Balkans Startup Project

The late Douglas Engelbart, an early pioneer of the Internet also known as the guy who invented the computer mouse, used the term "bootstrapping strategy" for his own business as a way to "use what you build to boost your own effectiveness." Today, the Citizens Foundation of Iceland, an organization which provides open-source civic engagement platforms, is "boostrapping e-democracy" with The Balkan Startup Project. Read More

WeGov

Google Ideas Map Shows What Cyber Warfare Looks Like Today

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, October 21 2013

DDoS attacks on October 21, 2013

A swirling vortex hovers over Washington D.C. and brightly colored dots pour into the city from above. Elsewhere—in China, France and Brazil, for example—less impressive streams penetrate their capital cities as well. What looks at first glance like an image from the classic alien attack film Independence Day is actually a new visualization from Google Ideas and Arbor Networks. Called the Digital Attack Map, it depicts Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks around the world and will be updated with new data on a daily basis. The map was launched today as part of the Google Ideas' “Conflict in a Connected World” summit.

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