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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

Dude, Where's My Cow? There May Be An App For That

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, October 18 2013

siwild/flickr

Sometimes the thieves come in large trucks armed with guns and take what they like in broad daylight. Sometimes they slink across the fields in the middle of the night for their plunder. But the results are the same: the loss of crops and in many cases, cows, that has cost farmers US$52 million a year in Jamaica alone. These thefts – known as praedial larceny – are endemic across the Caribbean region. Read More

WeGov

Looking to Draft a Constitution? Now You Can Google It

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, October 17 2013

Screenshot of the website

Constitute, a new platform created by the Comparative Constitutions Project in partnership with Google Ideas is a tool to "read, search and compare" constitutions from over 170 countries. Read More

WeGov

UK National Health Service Sitting On Potential Treasure Trove of Data

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, October 17 2013

Make room for the data (Wikipedia)

We live in a world in which data is so valuable some people compare it to the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The data in this case is the vast stores of patient information held by the U.K.'s National Health Service. One of the world's largest public health systems, the NHS serves more than 50 million people. Those 50 million plus medical records are being moved to a new central database to facilitate better healthcare for patients, regardless of where they go to receive care. The central database could also be a treasure trove of data for researchers, if patients acquiesce to sharing.

Read More

WeGov

Open Corporate Data For Everyone, Everywhere

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 16 2013

Screenshot of Barclays relationship network

The open data movement is sweeping the world and its champions are determined that no government, organization or even corporation will be left behind. This summer OpenCorporates launched an open data corporate network platform on which they can collect, collate and visualize corporate relationship data. They are striving to be nothing less than the go-to database for corporate data, with “a URL for every company in the world.”

Read More

WeGov

Zambian President Admits to Spying on Fellow Officials

BY Rebecca Chao | Wednesday, October 16 2013

President of Zambia Michael Sata (Commonwealth Secretariat/flickr)

During his 2011 election campaign, the current president of Zambia, Michael Sata rose to popularity by playing on anti-Chinese sentiment and the anger of laborers over poor standards at the many large Chinese-run mines in Zambia. Now it seems Sata is taking a cue from his key economic partner with what appears to be a worrying surveillance program of other Zambian officials. According to Global Voices, he tapped the phone of his foreign minister and also planted a bug underneath a chair in the office of the leader of Barotseland region, whose citizens want to secede from Zambia. Read More

WeGov

Can Data Solve Africa's Food Problem?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 16 2013

Farm in Malawi (Wikipedia)

Africa is not living up to its agricultural potential. Less than a quarter of arable land in sub-Saharan Africa is being cultivated, while more than 190 million people in that region live chronically undernourished. The region is woefully less mechanized than the rest of the world, and problems like Aflatoxins impede trade, costing Africa more than $450 million in lost profits. Solving these problems requires investing in equipment and infrastructure, but often farmers cannot get the necessary bank loans because a lack of agriculture data prevents lenders from determining risk.

Read More

WeGov

Mediastan: A Travelogue of "Comparative Censorship"

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, October 15 2013

Opening credits of Mediastan

Julian Assange's contempt for The Fifth Estate is no secret. In a statement about the Dreamwork's film about WikiLeaks, Assange called it “a geriatric snoozefest that only the US government could love.” As an alternative to that “Hollywood propaganda,” Assange suggests viewers interested in WikiLeaks watch the documentary Mediastan, which is billed as “a WikiLeaks road movie.”

Read More

WeGov

Ghanaians Push For Internet Access and Data Journalism

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, October 14 2013

Ghanaian civil society organizations have banded together in a push for greater Internet access in the country. Earlier this month 30 organizations called on the government to make Internet penetration a priority. The call took place turning a workshop on Internet freedom in Ghana organized by the Media Foundation for West Africa with support from a UK-based organization, Global Partners and Associates. Ghana's Communications Minister, Dr. Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, has voiced his support for the organizations' plea.

Read More

WeGov

It's Not New, But "Twiplomacy" Is Increasingly Refined

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, October 11 2013

"Real-time fire hose" (Wikipedia)

Oh, the things you can read on “that real-time fire hose of public opinion known as Twitter,” as the New York Times so aptly called it.

During the United Nations General Assembly meeting that took place in the last few weeks, it was the place to go for progress reports on negotiations over Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons. It was also where the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, announced his “historic” phone call with Barack Obama, the first exchange of its kind between the United States and Iran in more than 30 years.

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WeGov

Saudi Arabia Blocks Online Petition to Lift Ban on Women Drivers

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, October 10 2013

An alternative headline

The drive to get Saudi women behind the wheel has been long and arduous. Women have been protesting the ban on women drivers since the early '90s. An online petition created in September has thrust the issue into the spotlight once more, with everyone from the religious police to pseudo-scientists weighing in. In what seems like promising news, three women, members of the council that advises King Abdullah, recommended earlier this week that the ban on women driving be lifted. But the country-wide blocking of the online petition suggests authorities are not yet ready to listen, in spite of their claims otherwise.

Read More

WeGov

A Guide to the Hackers of the Syrian Civil War

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 9 2013

Screenshot of a Facebook page for the Syrian Electronic Army

WeGov

SIM Card Registration Newest Assault on Privacy and Freedom of Expression in Zimbabwe

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 9 2013

Harare, Zimbabwe (Wikipedia)

As of October 1, Zimbabweans have 30 days to register their SIM cards with their service providers, or risk a fine or imprisonment of up to six months. The Zimbabwean government is also establishing a single subscriber database of all the subscribers' personal information. The government justifies these measures as necessary to safeguard national security, but human rights activists in Zimbabwe say that they pose a threat to citizens' privacy and free expression.

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WeGov

Quién Manda: A Pinterest For Politician and Lobbyist Relations?

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, October 8 2013

http://quienmanda.es/

Some day, the term ‘El Fotomandón’ may give Spanish politicians the jitters. El Fotomandón is, in some sense, like a paparazzi meets Pinterest for politician and lobbyist relations, displaying photos of them interacting together. These so-called ‘protagonistas’ are tagged with their full name and titles. It belongs to the site, Quién Manda (‘Who’s Your Boss?’), launched today by Civio, a civil interest group that works on transparency issues in Spain. Its mantra is to bid ‘bye, bye to opacity’ and ‘hello to democracy.’ Read More

WeGov

A 'Farmville' to Help Kyrgyz Farmers Sell Organic Crops

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, October 8 2013

Screenshot of the virtual farm

A virtual co-operative in Kyrgyzstan in its second year is providing farmers increased financial security by splitting the inherent risks of farming with the customers. Described last year as a “real-life Farmville,” ICF Farm has dropped some of the distinctive characteristics reminiscent of the popular Facebook game, perhaps for simplicity's sake. Now, instead of renting plots or bed, customers simply place orders for the desired products. In exchange for their early investment, customers are guaranteed organic food, and do not have to worry about the changing prices of the market.

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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

Cameroon's Award-Winning ICT Blogger Explains Why Digital Media Still Lags

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, October 7 2013

Around the world, bloggers have often stepped up to fill the void that traditional media either will not fill or cannot fill. Many of them, like Cameroonian blogger and multimedia journalist Dorothée Danedjo Fouba, take their responsibilities as bloggers as seriously as any journalist. In an interview with fellow Cameroonian blogger Dibussi Tande, published by Global Voices Online, Fouba said, a “good blogger must already have the intrinsic qualities of all good journalists.”

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WeGov

Notes From Last Week’s Skill Share on Citizen Reporting

BY Susannah Vila | Monday, October 7 2013

One way to grow good ideas is by sharing. (image: tiff_ku1/flickr)

We’re experimenting with methods to help advocacy initiatives directly share experiences, tactics and lessons without needing to comb the web for projects relevant to their own work or access the international conference circuit. We want to find mechanisms that make such peer-­to-­peer sharing as efficient and impactful as possible. One of the things we’re testing out is convening and then sharing online conversations about specific tactics and how they work in different contexts. We’re calling these conversations skill shares. We held the first one last week and we wanted to share a bit of of what we learned. For this conversation we focused on tactics for getting citizens to share quality reports about the delivery of public services. Read More

WeGov

Interview: Misha Glenny on Internet Crimes, Espionage and National Security

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, October 4 2013

http://www.juanosborne.com/

It has been a punishing week for cyber criminals, with the indictment of 13 members of the hacking group, Anonymous, charged with attacking government and credit card websites, as well as the arrest of one of the leaders behind Silk Road, a billion dollar Internet narcotics market known as the "Amazon of illegal drugs." Who exactly are the individuals behind these schemes and what does it mean for the future of the Internet? Misha Glenny, an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, talks to TechPresident about the dark side of the Internet. 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

As "War Games" Escalate, Russia Blocks Over 26,000 Websites To Get At One Art Blog

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, October 3 2013

This may not surprise you, but Russia's law banning “homosexual propaganda” does not make exceptions for satirical online art projects. The Russian censorship agency Roskomnadzor added the art blog and multimedia platform Looo.ch [NSFW] to its registry of “forbidden websites” on September 19 after they uploaded two racy multimedia “textbooks.” But blocking Looo.ch backfired on Roskomnadzor in a big way. To get at Looo.ch, the agency cut access to the website host SquareSpace and 26,439 other websites went down in Russia. The art blog was thrust into more prominence as a result of the gaffe. Meanwhile, other websites frustrated by the increasing frequency of down-time and inadvertent blocks are trying to train their users to be tech-savvy in these times of “war games.”

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