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WeGov

The Buenos Aires Net Party: Weaving a Bridge Between the Click and the Vote

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, January 13 2014

The Net Party wants to change government from the inside out (credit: El Partido de La Red)

If you had strolled past the Legislature Palace of the City of Buenos Aires some time in October of last year, you might have seen a towering Trojan horse made of wooden slats taken in tow by a SUV and a group of activists from the nascent El Partido de La Red or Net Party. Rather than housing a lethal subset of the Grecian army, the statue carried ideas from the citizens of Buenos Aires on improving their city government. The Net Party is the city’s newest party and first dabble into direct democracy. Read More

With More Than 7 Million Searchable Records, Citizen Audit Makes Nonprofit Transparency Easy

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, January 9 2014

“An enormous segment of the economy is exempt from taxes, which means they kind of have a burden to have increased transparency,” says Luke Rosiak, an investigative reporter at the Washington Examiner. Despite the clear public interest in making the tax forms of nonprofits readily available, and the fact that the IRS has nonprofits submit their 990 tax forms electronically, which should make them easy to post directly online, Rosiak says the IRS does not release them “in any meaningful way.” Instead, journalists, researchers, and those who work in nonprofits have to bumble through The Foundation Center’s 990 finder for scanned PDFs, or pony up serious money for easier access to the still-hard-to-sift through PDFs with Guidestar. To accomplish what Rosiak thinks the IRS should probably doing already, he started a project called Citizen Audit. The site takes over a decade of nonprofit tax forms and puts them online, and is in the process of running them through computationally intensive optical recognition software, to makes them fully searchable. Read More

WeGov

An Accidental Ally For the European Union: “Thank you, Mr. Snowden,” says European Commission VP Reding in Hangout Debate

BY Antonella Napolitano | Thursday, January 9 2014

Screenshot of the hangout debate with European Commission VP Viviane Reding

The year 2013 was a "Year for the Citizens" in the European Union where the institution pledged itself to "encourage dialogue between all levels of government, civil society, and business." But in many countries citizens were more hostile than open to communicating with an institution often perceived as distant and intrusive. That's probably one of the reasons why the European Commission is launching a series of online initiatives to create a space for debate with the most important members of the European institutions. Last Tuesday, the Vice President of the European Commission Viviane Reding hosted an online debate on Google hangout, joined by five journalists and activists from all over Europe.

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WeGov

A Boost for Both Transparency and Taxes in Mexico?

BY Rebecca Chao | Wednesday, January 8 2014

There may be more pesos for the municipality of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga this year (Credit: Scott Robinson/flickr)

While the Mexican municipality of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga sits in the center of the country, its name translates as “Land in the Corner” in the Aztec language, Nahuatl. The title is perhaps more fitting now. Once one of the country’s most corrupt municipalities, it now occupies a special corner of Mexico as its least corrupt, jumping from a 34.2 in 2009 to a full score of 100 in 2013 as ranked by the transparency organization CIMTRA. Mayor Ismael del Toro and his predecessor Enrique Alfaro are in part responsible for pushing forward a number of innovative policies that include a four-year-old participatory budgeting project, which allow citizens to vote annually on how their taxes should be spent. Read More

First POST: "Who Watches?"

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 8 2014

The Obama administration won't release a legal memo giving the FBI warrantless spying powers; one of the 1971 burglars who exposed FBI domestic spying back then explains her actions; cops use social media to catch gangs; cops get caught on social media defrauding the taxpayer; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Breathing New Life into Data with the "Scrapeathon"

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, January 6 2014

The logo for Data Publica's Scrapathon (credit: Data Publica)

At the heart of most civic-oriented hackathons, those short 24-hour or so gatherings to code and create innovative apps for public good, is data. But many hackathons suffer from a lack of quality data or knowledge on where to find it, a problem that Benjamin Gans says he and his team at a for-profit data crunching company, Data Publica, noticed after attending and hosting a number of their own hackathons. They have coined the term "scrapathon" or scrapeathon to describe the new data scraping events they have begun hosting to give data a new and more purposeful life. Read More

Detroit Ledger Tracks Detroit's Civic Foundation Complex

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, December 17 2013

Screenshot from Detroit Ledger

Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy ever in July, but for years now private foundations have attempted to fill the city’s public service gap with their own money, and their own agendas. Foundations like Ford, Knight, Kresge, and Skillman are investing hundreds of millions dollars to address the city’s failing schools, starving economy, and rescue its orphaned art collection. While foundational cash is preferable to a public service vacuum, it raises questions about access, influence, and accountability. Read More

First POST: Can You Hear Me Now?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, December 17 2013

Federal District Court Judge Richard Leon blasts the NSA's phone metadata collection program; Edward Snowden sees vindication in the preliminary ruling; the Internet Archive unveils an amazing visualization of the "geography of US TV news"; and much, much more. Read More

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

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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News Briefs

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First POST: MonopSony

Debating whether the Sony hack is a national security issue; living in the Age of Outrage; how Black Twitter is changing the civil rights scene; and much, much more. GO

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First POST: Company

The global "Snowden effect" is huge; how many consumer-facing online services fail the user privacy test; the Dems' 2016 digital to-do list; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Mood Slime

The Sony email leak reveals the MPAA's campaign against Google; how Uber is lobbying in local markets; mapping the #MillionsMarchNYC; and much, much more. GO

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