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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

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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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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