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PoplusCon: Lowering the Tech Barriers for Civic Startups

BY Eilís O'Neill | Friday, May 2 2014

Listening to the opening speeches at PoplusCon (credit: Eilis O'Neill)

Almost 100 civic coders and activists from 27 countries came together from April 29 to 30, in Santiago, Chile for PoplusCon where participants discussed how to create easy-to-use tools, what they call Poplus components, that allow civil society to create legislative monitoring websites. TechPresident reports on the conference from Santiago, Chile. Read More

WeGov

State of the App in Fighting Sexual Harassment

BY Tin Geber | Tuesday, April 22 2014

A woman in Cairo holds a sign that reads: I wish I could walk around without being hurt by inappropriate words (UN Women/flickr)

There is little doubt that sexual harassment represents a cultural and social pandemic. Verbal and physical assaults are disturbingly commonplace, and despite widespread social campaigns, show little signs of abetting. So it’s not surprising that policy makers and advocacy groups are turning to technology, hoping that data and mobile apps can play a role in stemming incidents of sexual harassment and violence, maybe even addressing cultural patterns and social norms.

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Open Data Gives New Lease of Life for Civil Society in the South Caucasus

BY Onnik James Krikorian | Thursday, April 3 2014

Eric Barrett, Executive Director of Jumpstart Georgia at the Central Open Data Hackathon in Warsaw (Onnik James Krikorian)

Two weeks ago, on March 21, 2014, the Georgian chapter of leading international anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International called on the country’s citizens to turn off their mobile phones for one hour to protest government surveillance. The action came in the wake of revelations that the previous authorities were intercepting phone calls, text messages, and internet traffic on a systematic basis. The European Union calls the situation that still exists today under a new government, "a jungle of misuse of the possibilities of technology to record almost everything." Yet, despite concerns regarding the amount of data collected on citizens in the former Soviet republic, large online databases of government information might actually be giving the media and civil society in Georgia a new lease of life in fighting corruption and engaging citizens. Read More

WeGov

Dude, Where's My Cow? The App.

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, March 27 2014

If you live in Jamaica, losing a cow is serious business. Now, there's an app for that. (siwild/flickr)

About six months ago, we wrote about a new initiative in Jamaica that sought to address agricultural and livestock theft, a problem that has put a $50 million plus yearly dent in the country's economy. At that time, the civic tech nonprofit, Slashroots, had partnered with the Mona School of Business & Management at the University of the West Indies to create a new fellowship program called Code for the Caribbean; similar to Code for America, it pairs talented developers with government agencies to create tailored apps that agencies actually need. Now, that program has wrapped up and the fellows have collaborated with Jamaica's Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to create two apps: one that allows police officers to use SMS to verify farmers' identities (and their produce) at specific roadside checkpoints and another that acts as an electronic billboard of produce stock and prices in order to fill an information gap that has often led either to agricultural overproduction or underproduction. Read More

WeGov

Can the Internet Help Build Democracy in Tunisia?

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, March 4 2014

The website of the NGO I WATCH (screenshot)

As January 26, 2014 approached, the day Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly would vote on passing a Constitution that had been snarled in debate for two years, rather than feel relief, activist Achref Aouadi tells techPresident he had grown dismayed after his failed attempts to create an online platform that would allow Tunisian citizens to debate, discuss and vote on the provisions of the draft Constitution. A day before the vote, he had not yet found a viable platform nor the funds for a developer. A crucial opportunity would be lost for stirring civic participation, which he sees as a vital step in the building of Tunisia’s democracy. Then, an online search turned the tide in Aouadi’s favor. Read More

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World Bank's New Website Lets Countries Compare Data on Education

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, January 30 2014

The data portal allows users to see what education data is available per country. (credit: screenshot, World Bank)

As our partner Engine Room’s Susannah Vila recently asked in a post, can open data improve primary education in developing countries? She points to a number of grassroots education data initiatives like Check My School in the Philippines and platforms that provide school quality data for parents in Kenya and Tanzania; but the latest education data initiative by the World Bank is aimed at policymakers. Read More

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TRAC FM Stirs Debate in Uganda By Merging Radio and Data

BY Erin Byrnes | Wednesday, January 29 2014

A radio presenter using the TRAC FM online platform (credit: TRAC FM)

Margaret Caroline Adong, 33, doesn’t own a smartphone or have access to the Internet where she lives in the Serere district in rural Uganda but she does participate in every TRAC FM poll that she hears over the radio or receives a text about. This SMS-based polling platform facilitates citizen engagement with interactive radio programs in Uganda through data collection and a radio broadcast of the mapped poll results. 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

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New Report Says Canadian Politicians’ "Digital Offices" Need a Makeover

BY Elisabeth Fraser | Wednesday, December 11 2013

A new report by the nonprofit Samara explains how Canada's politicians are not doing well in connecting online.

Canada has seen steep drops in political participation of late, as well a general decline in political engagement, according to Samara, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to improving political participation. The organization believes their MPs’ lackluster online presence has something to do with it; they released a report last week, detailing their survey of websites for Canada’s MPs. Read More

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EU Initiative Will Map Cyber Repression Around the World

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, November 8 2012

The EU is about to launch "a global monitoring system that will help chart digital repression by mapping the Internet’s "cyber geography" in near real time," reports Slate. Read More