Making Voting Systems Open Source Could Forever Change Election Technology

The ACM reports an article by Open Source Digital Voting (OSDV) Foundation at developing a suite of open source election software that would enable users to see and tweak the underlying computer code. Advocates say that these characteristics would enable a global expert community to assess the code's security and enhance the technology's use in elections.

The Next Big Thing Is Small, Cheap, and Not American

Anand Giridharadas reports in the New York Times that the next big thing is not the iPad but the cell phone -- something old, small, cheap and not American:

"Forgotten in the American tumult is a global flowering of innovation on the simple cellphone. From Brazil to India to South Korea and even Afghanistan, people are seeking work via text message; borrowing, lending, and receiving salaries on cellphones; employing their phones as flashlights, televisions and radios."

"And many do all this for peanuts. In India, Reliance Communications sells handsets for less than $25, with one-cent-a-minute phone calls across India and one-cent text messages and no monthly charge — while earning fat profits. Compare that to iPad buyers in the United States, who pay $499 for the basic version, who might also have a $1,000-plus computer and a $100-plus smart cellphone, and who could pay $100 or more each month to connect these many devices to the ether."

"Not for the first time, America and much of the world are moving in different ways. America’s innovators, building for an ever-expanding bandwidth network, are spiraling toward fancier, costlier, more network-hungry and status-giving devices; meanwhile, their counterparts in developing nations are innovating to find ever more uses for cheap, basic cellphones."

UCSD Investigates Developer of Cell Phone Tools for Migrants

Adrian Florido reports in the Voice of San Diego that the media has barraged UCSD Visual Arts Professor Ricardo Dominguez after he and several colleagues announced a cell phone GPS tool designed to help migrants find water stations during remote desert crossings. Now, UCSD is investigating the professor for that and another project he developed as part of his research.

"The tool, Dominguez said, was developed as an art project with practical applications. In the process, he said, it was intended to stimulate conversation about death at the border. The tool, Dominguez said, was developed as an art project with practical applications. In the process, he said, it was intended to stimulate conversation about death at the border."

"Last month, the university launched a second investigation focusing on Dominguez's work in the field of electronic civil disobedience. On March 4, Dominguez organized an online sit-in against the Office of the President of the UC system, in solidarity with statewide student protests that day against UC budget cuts."

"By using a web browser and visiting a special URL students participated in an online protest that redirected them to the president's website, Dominguez said. By using the browser's refresh button repeatedly, he said, the protesters "participated in the equivalent of an offline sit in," immobilizing the site temporarily."

International Man of Mystery: Julian Assange from WikiLeaks

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote a story on Australian-born Julian Assange. Governments and corporations around the world are not too happy with Julian, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, an online drop off box for whistle blowers. What's interesting about the article is that little is known about this international man of mystery:

Connect2Congress Lets You Track Your Senator, One Vote at a Time

The following Georgia Tech news came to us a week ago from the ACM:

SeeClickFix Enables Citizens to Report and Track Neighborhood Problems

Slashdot reports that SeeClickFix is enabling citizens to report and track neighborhood problems from potholes to crime:

In a recent interview, co-founder Jeff Blasius talked about how cities such as New Haven and Tucson are using SeeClickFix to involve their citizens in identifying and fixing problems with city infrastructure. 'We have thousands of potholes fixed across the country, thousands of pieces of graffiti repaired, streetlights turned on, catch basins cleared, all of that basic, broken-windows kind of stuff. We've seen neighborhood groups form based around issues reported on the site. We've seen people get new streetlights for their neighborhood, pedestrian improvements in many different cities, and all-terrain vehicles taken off of city streets. There was also one case of an arrest. The New Haven Police Department attributed initial reports on SeeClickFix to a sting operation that led to an arrest of two drug dealers selling heroin in front of a grammar school.'

More on this story can be found here.

Google Launches New Tool to Show Governments That Censor

GoogleJodi Schneider brings us an AP story about how Google has set up a new tool to show where it's facing the most government pressure to censor material and turn over personal information about its users. Jodi notes that some bloggers who in the past have been critical of Google now praise the decision. What do you think? Will Google improve its credibility after its recent missteps in China and with Google Buzz?

Do Webcams Belong at the Negotiating Table? One Union Thinks So...

Steve Dondley at Communicate or Die brings us the following story:

"SEIU Local 615, a 17,000 member local out of Boston, MA, has proposed webcasting its upcoming negotiations with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As far as I know, this would be a first for a union and it represents an extremely unorthodox move. Usually, the first thing labor and management do is agree to not publicize what goes on in the negotiation process. Is it possible that such agreements are going to become quaint when when the world of radical transparency the futurists say we are heading toward arrives? Or are there damn good practical reasons for these privacy agreements between labor and management?"

The rest of the post is quite interesting and can be found here. What do you think? Do webcams belong at the negotiating table?

World Bank Frees Up Development Data to Researchers

The World Bank has announced that its data -- which used to be available only on a subscription basis -- will now be available for free online.

To get a sense of the potential, check out what Hans Rosling does with this data. He shows how countries pull themselves out of poverty, demos Dollar Street, compares the varying income levels of households worldwide, and then does something truly amazing: