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[Op-Ed] Tech, Democracy and USAID

BY Katrin Verclas | Thursday, April 10 2014

Among a myriad of controversies surrounding ZunZuneo is the illicit collection of millions of cell phone numbers (teleyradio)

There has been much debate about the ill-fated "Cuban Twitter" program funded by USAID, the US development agency, and administered by Beltway contractors Creative Associates and MobileAccord. While "Cuban Twitter" was indeed completely mismanaged, USAID is involved in a myriad of other projects that are supporting democracy efforts, citizen oversight over institutions, political party development, and fair elections. Many of these purport to have a technology component as well. So how do they fare? Read More

First POST: Cockamamie and Catastrophic

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, April 9 2014

More fallout from the "Cuban Twitter" misfire; Snowden explains how he is not like Assange; the benefits of open data; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Stunts

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, April 8 2014

USAID pushes back in defense of ZunZeneo; Indian candidate copies from Obama data playbook; cities from Boston to Philly to San Francisco roll with the web; and much much more. Read More

First POST: USAID's Exploding Cigar

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, April 7 2014

Why ZunZeneo, the "Cuban Twitter" funded by USAID, was such a bad idea; some hard questions about the Comcast-TimeWarner merger; tech's "man problem"; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: The Problem with ZunZuneo and "Cuban Twitter"

BY Anne Nelson | Monday, April 7 2014

Rock painting of the "Cuban Five" (Photo copyright: Anne Nelson, 2013)

On April 3, the AP broke the story of ZunZuneo, a USAID-funded text messaging service in Cuba designed to circumvent government censorship and build a platform for dissent. Latin America expert and new media scholar Anne Nelson explains why the covert project was such a bad idea. Read More

WeGov

Mobile App Helps El Salvador's Police Combat Sky-High Homicide Rates

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, July 2 2013

The El Salvadorian government has partnered with USAID and Qualcomm to give police officers crime fighting tools on their mobile phones. The program, called Seguridad Inalambrica (Wireless Security) was first tested in Santa Tecla. In September 2012 the program entered phase two and was expanded to cover other municipalities in the San Salvador metropolitan area. In June, a USAID representative spoke to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about the reduction of crime in Central America and the Caribbean and mentioned the El Salvador program as one they hope to expand to cover other regions.

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WeGov

Putin Expels USAID; Organization Contributed to Russian NGO that Mapped Electoral Balloting Irregularities

BY Natalia Antonova | Friday, October 5 2012

Screenshot from the Golos election mapping site

The Russian government booted USAID out of the country following accusations that the well known aid agency had been "meddling in internal affairs," as Vladimir Putin put it. He was referring to Golos, a group that mapped balloting fraud in the Russian election. A Russian journalist provides the background and some valuable insight into the circumstances surrounding this incident. Read More

Obama Administration Looking To Award Prize Money For Ideas On Preventing Mass Atrocities

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, April 23 2012

An exhumed mass grave outside of Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2007. Photo: Adam Jones

The Obama administration on Monday issued a call to the public to come up with creative ideas for tracking and preventing mass genocide and other atrocities in countries across the globe. The call is part of the Administration's new campaign against mass atrocities, and involves $600,000 in prize money that will come from USAID and The Omidyar Group's Humanity United foundation. Read More

Tech-Savvy FCC Managing Director Wraps Up Stint, Heads to USAID

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, June 9 2011

Steve VanRoekel Today's the last day in the office for Steve VanRoekel, the managing director of the Federal Communications Commission. Appointed by FCC chair Julius Genachowski, during his two year stint VanRoekel ... Read More

Meet ForeignAssistance.gov

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, December 17 2010

The new ForeignAssistance.gov Read More

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

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tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

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monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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