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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

Succeeding Means Letting Go: A Response to David Eaves

BY Tom Steinberg | Thursday, July 26 2012

Responding to David Eaves, mySociety Director Tom Steinberg pulls the lid off of a project in the works: a new open-source component for civic hackers, built by Chile's Ciudadano Inteligente, that will fit into mySociety's new Components framework. "It's because we believe," Steinberg writes, "that the only way that the Components can really thrive beyond our organizations is if they are truly interoperable over the web, truly owned by different people, and if they can handle massively varying political and cultural contexts. It is our goal that in the future any of the Components being used to underpin a website or app can be out and replaced by a clone that speaks the same API, but which may be built by a different group, in a different language. Interoperability and flexibility are everything." Read More

WeGov

Mapping Technology Allows NGOs to Coordinate Disaster Relief in West Africa

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, July 26 2012

Screenshot from SahelResponse website

In a textbook example of how technology can be used to coordinate crisis management, SahelResponse has created a map that helps NGOs coordinate food relief in the drought-and-conflict -afflicted Sahel region of West Africa. Read More

WeGov

Is Civic Hacking Becoming 'Our Pieces, Loosely Joined?'

BY David Eaves | Wednesday, July 25 2012

David Eaves writes: "So far, it appears that the spirit of re-use among the big players, like MySociety and the Sunlight Foundation*, only goes so deep. Indeed often it seems they are limited to believing others should re-use their code. There are few examples where the bigger players dedicate resources to support other people's components. Again, it is fine if this is all about creating competing platforms and competing to get players in smaller jurisdictions who cannot finance creating whole websites on their own to adopt it. But if this is about reducing duplication then I'll expect to see some of the big players throw resources behind components they see built elsewhere. So far it isn't clear to me that we are truly moving to a world of 'small pieces loosely joined' instead of a world of 'our pieces, loosely joined.'" Read More

WeGov

YouTube Now Lets You Blur Faces in Videos: What This Means for Safety-Minded Activists

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, July 18 2012

Today YouTube is rolling out a new feature that allows users to obscure faces that appear within videos before posting them.

"Whether you want to share sensitive protest footage without exposing the faces of the activists involved, or share the winning point in your 8-year-old’s basketball game without broadcasting the children’s faces to the world, our face blurring technology is a first step towards providing visual anonymity for video on YouTube," YouTube policy associate Amanda Conway wrote in a blog post.

One expert in video in activism calls this "a step in the right direction," but warns that the most important tool for videographers is an understanding of when and why to use this kind of feature.

Read More

WeGov

How the New York Times Uses Citizen Media to Watch "Syria's War"

BY Lisa Goldman | Monday, July 16 2012

Source: YouTube via nytimes.com.

Forced to watch ongoing violence and unrest in Syria from afar, the New York Times launched "Watching Syria's War," an interactive page that presents, parses and explains videos coming out of the country from a growing group of activists and everyday citizens. In an edited interview with Lisa Goldman, page editor J David Goodman explains how the project works, from the way the Times breaks down what is or isn't credible for its visitors to what the entire endeavor might say about the future of conflict reporting. Read More

WeGov

Can Mobile Payments Reduce Corruption and Help Workers in the Developing World?

BY Lisa Goldman and Nick Judd | Thursday, July 12 2012

Photo: Monty.Metzger / Flickr

Back in May, federal officials revealed a sweeping new "digital government" strategy that included an international flavor: technologists coming to the federal government through a fellowship program would work on projects related to an initiative by USAID, the U.S.'s international development agency, to push for more people in the developing world to get paid by mobile phone instead of in cash. In announcements, government officials framed mobile money as a new and innovative solution to some financial problems for people without access to a bank. But mobile money is also an industry that's old enough to have a broad user base in some parts of the world and a few known problems, some of which a USAID-backed pilot program encountered firsthand. Despite these issues, officials are pushing ahead — so let's dig into how, and why. Read More

WeGov

Ushahidi and the Long Tail of Mapping for Social Change

BY David Eaves | Monday, July 9 2012

What makes a mapping project successful? Image: Trafficking map Epawa SMS

A new website called DeadUshahidi launched recently with the express purpose of tracking Ushahidi mapping projects that experienced little use. While the Ushahidi team responded in good form, but it was hard not to see the website as a shot across its bow.

David Eaves explores why there are so many Ushahidi-powered mapping projects that appear to have fallen by the wayside — and why that might actually be a good thing for people who want to use geospatial data for social change.

Read More

WeGov

Can Tech-Savvy Activists Change Mexico's Presidential Elections?

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, June 28 2012

Student-led protests in Mexico organized around the #yosoy132 hashtag. Photo: MaloMalverde

Are Sunday's presidential elections a fulcrum for the scales of power in Mexico? Is it fair to say Internet-powered student protesters are on one side of that balance beam? And if so, which way is it swinging? I asked Diego Beas, a columnist for Reforma and a keen observer of technology's role in politics throughout the Americas, and Andrés Monroy-Hernández, a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research and a fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Both have been following Mexico's presidential elections closely, and both have the tech background necessary to understand and explain the role of networked politics in this election, but the two have very different perspectives on whether the student protesters are getting anywhere. Click through for a video of our conversation. Read More

WeGov

Brazil's Open-Government Shock Treatment

BY Greg Michener | Wednesday, June 27 2012

Officials in Brazil's government have had a transparency shock treatment in the past year. Photo: Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz

Countries arrive at more transparency and greater freedom of information either through long training or sudden shock treatment.

The U.S. experience, with decades of incremental law and legal precedent, is synonymous with the archetypical training regime. Brazil, on the other hand, is undergoing the epitome of shock treatment. In one month, May 2012, Brazil formally launched an ambitious freedom of information law that outlines a "right to information" – replete with provisions for the release of information in open, computer-readable formats – and, at around the same time, a new open-data portal. For added shock, the Brazilian government inaugurated a second new fundamental right, the "right to historical truth." This right is embodied by the newly established Truth Commission, whose aim it is to reconcile abuses from the military dictatorship that controlled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Brazil also currently occupies the co-chair of the Open Government Partnership. In short, Brazil is in the midst of a massive transparency offensive and there are positive signs that it is moving in the right direction.

Read More

WeGov

Reporter Detained in Sudan After Posting YouTube Video of Khartoum Protests

BY Lisa Goldman | Friday, June 22 2012

Protesters at an anti-government protest in Khartoum, Sudan

For the sixth day in a row, Khartoum university students were out protesting massive increases in the price of meals and transportation that stem from new government austerity measures. Reporters and activists on the ground in Sudan say the size of the protests are clearly worrying the government of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir — and government forces are cracking down, attempting to limit people's ability to publish video and photos from a political moment that some are debating whether or not to call the arrival of the Arab Spring in Sudan. Efforts to capture images of the unrest, they say, are being hampered by government forces, including the brief detention of one reporter who posted video to YouTube. Read More

WeGov

OGP Diplomacy and South Africa’s Secrecy Law

BY David Eaves | Wednesday, June 20 2012

Open Government Partnership member South Africa has proposed a bill that would make it illegal to publish or even possess leaked government documents, an early test of the partnership's ability to set new international ... Read More

WeGov

In Cairo, #Jan25 Activists Sidelined as Muslim Brotherhood Marches On

BY Lisa Goldman | Wednesday, June 20 2012

A voters' nullified ballot with the English/Arabic comment: "No offense, but the truth hurts."

Thousands of Egyptians thronged Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday night to protest a judicial decision that hands sweeping powers to the ruling military junta, in a move many see as a consolidation of the military’s power. The Revolutionary Socialist Youth and the April 6 movement, both composed of liberal and leftist anti-Mubarak activists, called for a protest in Tahrir Square. And so did the Muslim Brotherhood. All issued their calls via their Facebook pages. But according to many observations tweeted by people on the scene, the crowd at Tahrir was dominated by Muslim Brotherhood supporters who chanted in support of their candidate, Mohamed Morsi. Read More

WeGov

Hoping to Help Curb Corruption in Morocco by Mapping It Online

BY Hanna Sistek | Wednesday, May 30 2012

Illustration: kentoh via Shutterstock

Tarik Nesh-Nash conceived of and became part of the team that built Mamdawrinch, a just-launched site to map incidents of bribery in Morocco. Built with Transparency Maroc, the Moroccan chapter of Transparency International, the site tackles what Nesh-Nash says is an "endemic" problem in the North African country. Transparency International ranks perception of corruption in Morocco as about as bad as it is in Greece and Columbia, but slightly better than in India. ("Mamdawrinch" means "we will not bribe" in Moroccan dialect.) The focus, says Nesh-Nash, is on the petty corruption that has become part of everyday life in Morocco. "I wanted to open up the debate on the topic," says Nesh-Nash. Read More

WeGov

Open Data, Open Standards, and Community Activism

BY David Eaves | Tuesday, May 29 2012

Of a project in Western New York to help local residents track pollution in their area, David Eaves writes, " activists and non-profits have not even begun to tap the power of open data." Read More

WeGov

Culture Hacking: How One Project is Changing Transparency in Chile

BY David Eaves | Wednesday, May 16 2012

A few weeks after the launch of Inspector de Intereses — a Chilean website that allows citizens to map money trails in politics — the team at La Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente, the organization behind the site, had an interesting visitor. At the doorstep stood a member of parliament, carrying a stack of papers which outlined his interest in various corporations. He had received the team’s letter inviting him — and his colleagues — to update his records, and here he was, ready to do so, in person no less.

That eager senator wasn’t alone: about 20 percent of Chilean parliamentarians took the opportunity to update their records. In a country where conflicts of interest are not regularly discussed or acknowledged, this was an interesting shift, a change in culture and in process that was part of a Ciudadano Inteligente's strategy to make more transparent the link between money and power in Chile.

Read More

WeGov

[OP-ED]: My Government's Commitment to the Surveillance State – the UK Queen's Speech

BY Jon Worth | Monday, May 14 2012

Jon Worth argues that the Queen's Speech, delivered last week, presages a return to the "Big Brother" state in the UK. Read More

WeGov

How to Evaluate the State of Open Data

BY David Eaves | Tuesday, May 8 2012

By tedeytan from Washington, DC (Library of Congress Reading Room Open House 7)

The Open Knowledge Foundation recently announced that it will organize and coordinate an Open Data Census. The intent is to create a basic baseline against which governments can measured around how much (and how ... Read More

WeGov

How the German Pirate Party's "Liquid Democracy" Works

BY David Meyer | Monday, May 7 2012

In the midst of the political upheaval affecting Europe, a relatively new movement is making stunning progress, particularly in Germany. On Sunday, the Pirate Party entered its third German state parliament in eight months, demonstrating momentum that surprises even its core members. The party is now on track to pick up a double-digit percentage of the vote in next year's federal elections. And it's dealing with this explosive growth through the medium it knows best: technology. Read More

WeGov

Why Open Corporate Data Matters

BY David Eaves | Tuesday, May 1 2012

We don’t normally think of corporate data as democratic data. But limited liability – the right to have an legal entity that protects its shareholders from personal bankruptcy – is an enormous privilege conferred by the state to individuals. In a 19th century democracy – to say nothing of a 21st century one - who is making use of this privilege, and to what ends, should be a right of public knowledge. Here's why--and a new report on who is doing it well. (The bad news is, no one.) Read More

WeGov

The Opportunities and Challenges of the Open Government Partnership

BY David Eaves | Monday, April 23 2012

A multilateral partnership on open government and transparency, the Open Government Partnership is still in a formative stage — just learning how to walk. But it will be tested early by a number of issues and how the steering committee reacts over the next few months are likely to determine the fate of the initiative — whether it becomes a transformative body that fosters and supports strong new expectations for what qualifies a country as open and democratic or if it becomes more of a talking shop, like the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which shepherds along more incremental progress. Read More