Hackers join the British PM in India

Founder of visualization site Information is Beautiful, David McCandless travelled with David Cameron on his first trip to India as British Prime Minister this week. He was part of a small group of politically active programmers aiming to "explore links between tech, transparency and community-based democracy in India" he explains.

Reporting back on his trip in the Guardian today, David admitted to "a slight colonial attitude going into the meet. Thinking of the UK as a great hacking nation and leading data port, I was expecting to be helping the collected Indian IT professionals and activists improve their skills and give them fresh ideas on how to bootstrap their democracy". But he found great examples of powerful data projects going on amongst his Indian counterparts. These included:

  • A bus mapping project to make the system easier to understand for passengers and to identify which areas od Chennai are poorly services
  • A tool to monitor school performance in Karnataka, similar to the UK's SchooloScope website
  • A project to track information on all Indian politicians including their financial, criminal and educational background
  • A phone service to enable India's many mobile phone users to get information about their local area from the internet.

Read fuller descriptions of each of the projects he identified in his article.

Mapping technology projects for transparency

Technology for Transparency Network is a Rising Voices project to gain a better understanding of current online technology projects that increase transparency, government accountability. The research initiative studies Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, China, and Central & Eastern Europe. It is co-funded Open Society Institute's Information Program and Omidyar Network's Media, Markets & Transparency initiative.

The network has developed a series of five minute podcast interviews with leaders of some of the most interesting technology for transparency projects. These include:

Technology and Transparency: How VicTEAMS is using the web to fight crime in Venezuela

Patricia Ortiz Keme writes about how her organization VicTEAMS is planning to revolutionize the way the issue of violence is being addressed in Venezuela.

In my country, violence is sky- high. With a crime rate of 16.047 homicides as for last year, insecurity has been persistently considered the number one problem by Venezuelans in the last 8 years. There are various detriments to the problem: bad public policies and government neglect, with both chavistas and opposition supporters considering not enough is being done to solve the problem; soaring impunity rates, with 91% of cases never making it to a conviction; internal corruption with an ever rising number of operating bands dismantled including some sort of law-enforcement officials among its members; and last but not least, the huge lack of accountability: the officers in charge keep rotating from one position to another as means to calm the public without there being any real change or person held responsible for the before mentioned problems.

The consequences: mistrust in law-enforcement authorities, only about 40% of victims denounce the crime; community leaders and citizens are intimidated into not publicly speaking about the situation by the ruling gang members; and the loss of public spaces and social structure created by violence leaves citizens even more marginalized, unorganized and vulnerable. Even more so, self-censorship from the media is increasing due to fear of being accused of calling for public disobedience or instigation of violence.

Despite all this, one window of opportunity seems to open up. The use of Internet in Venezuela is a fast growing trend, with one third of the country as users. There are almost 7 million Venezuelans using Facebook , and many more with cell phones.

From Slashdot: China simultaneously praises and censors Internet while Chinese Internet addicts escape; Turkey bans Google

A few stories on today yesterday on China. eldavojohn writes that,
"in a new whitepaper, China has declared the Internet to be 'the crystallization of human wisdom' and officially issued what appears to be a defense of its policies on Web censorship, while at the same time making contradicting statements like 'Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet' and (in the same paper) 'Laws and regulations clearly prohibit the spread of information that contains content subverting state power, undermining national unity, [or] infringing upon national honor and interests.' The paper also claims some questionable superlatives such as 'China is one of the countries suffering most from hacking.' On the positive side, this 31-page document might be offered as an operating guide for businesses, like Google, looking to understand exactly what the law is surrounding the Internet in China. The document is a rare glimpse of transparency in China's regulations."
Meanwhile, talk about Internet freedom! UgLyPuNk writes that Chinese Internet addicts attempted a prison break:
"A group of inmates at the Huai'an Internet Addiction Treatment Centre decided they'd had enough of the 'monotonous work and intensive training.' Working together, they tied their duty supervisor to his bed and made a run for it.

Vancouver ChangeCamp | June 12th | W2 Storyeum, 151 W. Cordova St., Vancouver BC

What is ChangeCamp?

On June 12th the 2nd Vancouver ChangeCamp is being held. It is a hybrid conference on issues surrounding citizen participation and open government.

This event is open to anyone to attend and participants can also propose topics to be discussed during the day of the conference. Thought some of you may have experiences to share; or may just want to attend and see various examples - some of which may be of interest as more and more e-government, open government and community informatics initiatives are undertaken worldwide.

ChangeCamp is an event format, an open community and a set of tools and ideas designed to give citizens and governments the ability to work collaboratively in new ways to make change and to better address real-world challenges in our communities.

The ChangeCamp community is focused on two goals:

  1. helping governments become more open, transparent, participatory, innovative, efficient and effective
  2. helping citizens become more connected to each other around their civic passions in the place they call home

Read about ChangeCamp in the Globe & Mail.

CBC Radio’s Spark! Episode #65: ChangeCamp (starts at 18:00)

Image credit: MarinaToronto

Image credit: MarinaToronto

Participants of International Conference Release Declaration on Public Software

Practitioners and policy makers from India and some other South Asian countries met in Kochi, Kerala, India on 27-29 May, 2010 for the International Conference on 'Software in the Public Sector, with focus on Public Education', organised by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Government of Kerala. At the conclusion of these deliberations, the participants released the 'Kochi Declaration on Public Software', with the commitment to support the adoption of Public Software Principles in public agencies in India and other South Asian countries. The declaration recognises that the unique context of public software and its objectives of ensuring equity and social justice has implications for ensuring universal access to such software, as well as transparency and participation by the citizens in its design and use, and urges public institutions in these countries to adopt and promote Public Software. For more information, please see: The Hindu on May 26, The Hindu on May 29, The Indian Express, The Indian Express, Kerala IT News Portal, and Kaumudi Online.