Agenda and details of Open Government Partnership “Power of Open” event announced

The details of the launch of the Open Government Partnership on September 20th are now public. Under Secretary of State Maria Otero, Brazilian Minister of State Jorge Hage and President Benigno S. Aquino III will be making keynote speeches, followed by senior government officials, business leaders and technologists, including eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee and Celtel founder Mo Ibrahim.

As I reported yesterday, 22 countries have committed to participate in the partnership now, with more to come.

The “Power of Open” event will be hosted by Google NYC. Given limited capacity for live attendance, a live stream of the event at the Open Gov Partnership YouTube channel will substantially increase the forum’s reach. The “Power of Open” agenda is embedded below.

Power of Open Agenda 9.6.11

Building a revolution in relevance in an age of information abundance

Revolutions rooms“We’ve had a decade’s worth of news in less than two months,” Mike Allen, chief White House correspondent for Politico. In the Saturday edition of Politico’s Playbook, Allen looked back at the Arab Spring and Japanese ongoing challenges:

It was Feb. 11 – seven weeks ago — that Mubarak fled the Arab spring, a rolling reordering of Middle East power that could wind up affecting global security as profoundly as 9/11.

It was March 11 – 15 days ago – that we woke to the news of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which will have ripple effects on the fragile global economy for months to come.

And, oh, we’re in three hot conflicts at once, for the first time since World War II.”

Related, in the NEW YORK TIMES: “Inundated With News, Many Find It Difficult to Keep Up on Libya

“People interviewed across four states said that at a time when the world seems to stagger from one breathtaking news event to another — rolling turmoil across the Middle East, economic troubles at home, disaster upon disaster in Japan — the airstrikes on military targets in Libya can feel like one crisis too many.”

Through it all, I’ve been following Andy Carvin (@acarvin), whose Twitter feed has been a groundbreaking curation of the virtual community and conversation about the Middle East, including images, video, breaking news and unverified reports.

To wax metaphorical, his account has become a stream of crisis data drawn from from the data exhaust created by the fog of war across the Middle East, dutifully curated by a veteran digital journalist for up to 17 hours a day.

Carvin has linked to reports, to video and images from the front lines that are amongst the most graphic images of war I have ever seen. While such imagery is categorically horrific to view, they can help to bear witness to what is happening on the ground in countries where state media would never broadcast their like.

The vast majority of the United States, however, is not tracking what’s happening on the ground in the region so closely. NEW YORK TIMES:  

“A survey by the Pew Research Center — conducted partly before and partly after the bombing raids on Libya began on March 19 — found that only 5 percent of respondents were following the events ‘very closely.’ Fifty-seven percent said they were closely following the news about Japan.”

Understanding the immensity of the challenges that face Japan, Egypt and Libya is pushing everyone’s capacity to stay informed with day to day updates, much less the larger questions of what the larger implications of these events all are for citizens, industry or government. In the context of the raw information available to the news consumer in 2011, that reality is both exciting and alarming. The tools for newsgathering and dissemination are more powerful and democratized than ever before. The open question now is how technologists and journalists will work together to improve them to provide that context that everyone needs.

Finally, an editor’s note: My deepest thanks to all of the brave and committed journalists working long hours, traveling far from their families and risking their lives under hostile regimes for the reporting that helps us make it so.

Micah Sifry on “Wikileaks and the Age of Transparency”

The emergence of Wikileaks as a global player in technology-fueled transparency was one of the biggest stories of 2010. Micah Sifry, co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum and editor of techPresident, used Wikileaks as a peg to explore the new information ecosystem in his excellent new book, “Wikileaks and the Age of Transparency.” Last night in Washington, Sifry spoke about why he wrote the book and offered some cogent reflections about how transparency has gone global. Video of his talk is embedded below.

Few people have as rich an understanding of the intersection of technology and politics than Sifry. I’m looking forward to reading my new copy of the book immensely and, of course, to following his chronicling of the age of transparency in realtime at @mlsif.

Samantha Power: Transparency has gone global

Innovations in democratic governance have been and likely always will be a global phenomenon. Samantha Power, senior director and special assistant for multilateral affairs and human rights at the White house, highlighted the ways in which platforms and initiatives for transparency in other countries are growing on the White House blog yesterday.

While “Sunshine Week” may be an American invention, the momentum for greater transparency and accountability in government is a global phenomenon. In countries around the world, governments and civil society groups are taking new and creative steps to ensure that government delivers for citizens and to strengthen democratic accountability.

From Kenya to Brazil to France to Australia, new laws and platforms are giving citizens new means to ask for, demand or simply create greater government transparency. As Power observed, open government is taking root in India, where the passage of India’s Right to Information Act and new digital platforms have the potential to change the dynamic between citizens and the immense bureaucracy.

Power listed a series of global transparency efforts, often empowered by technology, that serve as other useful examples of “innovations in democratic governance” on every continent

  • El Salvador and Liberia recently passed progressive freedom of information laws, joining more than 80 countries with legislation in place, up from only 13 in 1990;
  • A few weeks ago in Paris, six new countries from Europe, Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East met the high standards of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), empowering citizens with unprecedented information about payments made for the extraction of natural resources;
  • Brazil and South Africa are pioneering innovative tools to promote budget transparency and foster citizen engagement in budget decision-making, along with tens of other countries that are making budget proposals and processes open to public input and scrutiny;
  • Civil society groups are developing mechanisms to enable citizens to keep track of what happens in legislatures and parliaments, including impressive web portals such as votainteligente.cl in Chile and mzalendo.com in Kenya; and
  • Experiments in citizen engagement in Tanzania, Indonesia, and the Philippines, are demonstrating that citizen efforts to monitor the disbursement of government funds for education, health, and other basic services, actually decrease the likelihood of corruption and drive better performance in service delivery.

There’s a long road ahead for open government here in the United States. While improving collaboration and transparency through open government will continue to be difficult nuts to crack, it looks like “Uncle Sam” could stand to learn a thing or two from the efforts and successes of other countries on transparency. Addressing FOIA reform and better mobile access to information are two places to start.

For more on how open government can have a global impact, click on over to this exclusive interview with Samantha Power on national security, transparency and open government.

Apps for Amsterdam catalyzes civic hacking in Netherlands

Application contests, data camps and hackathons are showing how civic coding can put open government data to work. In the Netherlands, Apps for Amsterdam has launched to try catalyze the development of software that puts the city’s open data to work. If you’re interested in open government in the Netherlands, here’s your chance to hack the government – for good.

The new competition is backed by the Waag Society, the city of Amsterdam and Public Hack. There’s an upcoming open data hackathon in Amsterdam on March 12th, for those interested. Below is an account of the launch curated by Rolf Kleef using Storify:

Gov 2.0 and open government: Perspectives from Belgium and Australia

On any given week, there’s usually someone delivering a presentation that explores the intersection of citizens, technology and government. Here are just a few of the better ones I’ve come across in 2011 so far. If you’ve found other gems out there on the Internet, please share the links in the comments. Below, you’ll find ideas from citizens of three different countries, along with a report on government from the Pew Internet Society that was delivered as a presentation.

Vincent Van Quickenborn

Vincent Van Quickenborne
Vincent Van Quickenbore. Credit: Wikipedia

“My conclusion today:‘Open Data is becoming a reality. The public sector must lead by example. It must rethink administrative processes that appear to be dinosaurs in the era of social media and cloud computing.’” –Vincent Van Quickenborn, Belgian Minister for “Ondernemen en Vereenvoudigen.” (Loosely translated, that’s “enterprise and simplification.”)

David J. Eade on the Characteristics of Government 2.0

Perspectives from Australia, including lessons after the recent “Big Wet,” from David J. Eade, co-founder of the Government 2.0 in Queensland community.

Steve Lunceford

This Prezi on open government and Gov 2.0 by Steve Lunceford is an engaging overview, and a welcome change from static, slide-driven presentations.

Government Online – Findings from Pew Internet

Themes to watch in 2011: E-democracy in Brazil

As Nat Torkington put it this morning at O’Reilly Radar, “people who consider tech trends without considering social trends are betting on the atom bomb without considering the Summer of Love.” Torkington was annotating a link to 2011 predictions and prognostications at venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s blog which center on the following presentation that Paul Kedrosky sent him from JWT, a marketing agency.

JWT’s thirteenth prediction will be of particular interest to readers of this blog: “Brazil as E-Leader.”

This digitally savvy, economically vibrant country will prove to be an e-leader. Social media is more popular here than in developed markets, and Brazil has the highest Twitter penetration (23 percent, as of October ComScore figures). PC penetration has reached 32 percent, and many Internet cafes further broaden access. Mobile subscriptions have 86% penetration. Already Brazil is ahead in electronic democracy (with innovations like online town halls and crowd-sourced legislative consulting), and its 2010 census was paperless, conducted electronically.

There are many other themes that will matter to the Gov 2.0 world in 2011 in there, including smart infrastructure investment, scanning everything, home energy monitors, and mHealth. Heck, seemingly mobile everything. Of course, as Mike Loukelides pointed out in his own watchlist of 2011 themes to track, “you don’t get any points for predicting ‘Mobile is going to be big in 2011.'” He thinks that Hadoop, real-time data, the rise of the GPU, the return of P2P, social ubiquity and a new definition for privacy will all play important roles in 2011. Good bets.

JWT does get points for this set of trends, however, and that prediction about e-democracy in Brazil strikes me as apt. Last year at the International Open Government Data Conference, I met Cristiano Ferri Faria, project manager in e-democracy and legislative intelligence at the Brazilian House of Representatives. Faria talked about his work on e-Democracia, a major electronic lawmaking program in Brazil since 2008. As the 112th United States House of Representatives goes back to work today, there are definitely a few things its legislators, aides and staffers might learn from far south of the border. You can download his presentation as a PDF from Data.gov or view it below, with an added bonus: reflections on open government data in New Zealand and Australia.

One caution: Faria concluded that “this kind of practice is too complex” and that e-Democracia “needs a long-term approach.”

Looks like they’re still in an e-government in beta down there too.

Iogdc 2010 Day1 Plenary

A Day in the Life of Twitter: Jakarta glows as brightly as New York and San Francisco

#Indonesia has the highest percentage of web users on #Twitter. Blogging/micro-blogging has been adopted and adapted in powerful ways here.less than a minute ago via txt

You can see that activity flare brightly in this extraordinary visualization of mapping a day in the life of Twitter by Chris McDowall.

From the video description of “Mapping a Day in the Life of Twitter” by Chris McDowall on Vimeo.

Last week I hooked a computer up to the Twitter data streaming API and, over the course of a day, grabbed every tweet that had geographic coordinates. I wrote a Python script to parse the 2GB of JSON files and used Matplotlib with the Basemap extension to animate 25 hours of data on a world map. The resulting animation plots almost 530,000 tweets — and remember these are just tweets with geo-coordinates enabled.

I recommend you full-screen this video, turn scaling off and high definition on.

The animation begins at 5am on November 18, Greenwich Mean Time (United Kingdom). This corresponds to midnight Eastern Standard Time, 9pm Pacific Time (Nov 17) and 6pm in New Zealand (Nov 18).

There are some interesting things to note:
– It is possible to infer the passage of the sun across the map as data begins to stream out of mobile phones and desktops and previously dark patches of the map begin to glow white.
– At 8:00, 9:00 and 10:00 GMT waves of tweets pass across the United States from East to West. This is an automated Twitter service that tweets local news for specific ZIP codes.
Turn your attention to Indonesia. Jakarta glows as brightly as New York and San Francisco.
– Note the black spots. With the exception of a few cities, such as Lagos and Johannesburg, Africa remains the dark continent.

Food for thought and a feast for the eyes as the weekend draws near.

Linking up WhiteHouse.gov and a new US-India Partnership on Open Government

After an election that saw open government make gains in statehouses across the United States, a new transcontinental partnership offers new opportunities for international collaboration. This afternoon, Samantha Power, special assistant to the President for multilateral affairs and human rights, blogged about a new US-India partnership on open government at WhiteHouse.gov. Her post describes President Obama’s visit to an “Expo on Democracy and Open Government” at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and the technologies and organizations he encountered there. According to Power:

“India’s dynamism in the technology sector is well known, as is Gandhi’s legacy in India of civic action and bottom-up change, but today’s expo highlighted something very fresh: Indian civil society’s harnessing of innovation and technology to strengthen India’s democracy — by fighting corruption, holding government officials accountable, and empowering citizens to be the change they seek.”

Power’s post is thorough, descriptive and contextualizes the president’s trip and the growing use of technology to fight corruption and improve accountability in India. It also contains only one link that’s relevant to the organizations that were at said “Expo on Democracy and Open Government.” Ipaidabribe.com was created by Janagraaha to enable “Indians upload videos of their experiences in paying a bribe, in refusing to pay a bribe, and in ‘not having to pay a bribe.'”

The expo itself does not appear to have a website, or at least one that could be discovered after a few minutes of searching online.

The closest thing to an online FAQ is the White House press release on “Indian Innovations in Expo for Democracy and Open Government posted at America.gov, where the participating organizations are listed and described. Neither the WhiteHouse.gov blog post nor the release contains that most elemental of online elements: hyperlinks to the relevant person, place or thing being described. For some readers, used to the limitations of print, that may not be a huge issue. For digital natives or immigrants, the absence of links is a big missed opportunity.

The reason that critique is particularly fresh this afternoon is that one of the archetypal bloggers on the Web, David Winer, made the argument at Scripting News today that WhiteHouse.gov should be a hyperlocal blog. Specifically:

The sitting President can’t run campaign ads as an aspiring President does. But he has the ability to communicate more effectively than anyone else on the planet, if that power is developed. If you send people away to places that involve them. The White House blog should be a daily link list of ideas and perspectives on what’s happening in the world.

For instance, Power could have linked to the press briefing at USAID.gov where she, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra talk about yesterday’s agricultural exposition, including her comments on this open government partnership. For example:

one of the things that we’ve been doing is really learning as a government just how rich the innovations are in a lot of emerging democracies, and indeed, in a lot of new democracies and transitional democracies. No one country has a monopoly on innovation in this space. And it’s indeed quite inspiring to see how even with very few resources you can see how creative nongovernmental actors are, or indeed champions within government who are stepping forward and taking advantage of new technologies and so forth to try to enhance partnership or transparency.

So having said that, I still think India has a huge number of comparative advantages. I mean, for starters it has one of the most noble traditions in human history of bottom-up change and bottom-up activism. I mean, the whole history of modern India is rooted in what you might call the original “Yes, we can” with Mr. Gandhi and the movement that he created and the billions of people that he inspired around the world, one of whom, as the President said today, was Martin Luther King, without whom, arguably, we wouldn’t be where we are in my own country.

So this tradition of bottom-up change, of citizen demand the quality of demand that one encounters out in the most rural areas and some of the most impoverished areas here, even among people who haven’t yet acquired literacy in their communities.

For an administration that’s embraced the idea and practice of Gov 2.0 in many notable ways, failing to link in even a Web 1.0 way is surprising. And to be fair, this post was an exception. The White House blog has frequently made good use of links, video and images, as shown by this week’s WhiteHouse.gov weekly wrapup.

For the sake of the broader open government community who may be interested, here’s the list of participants in that Expo from the press release, this time with links to the relevant organizations or news coverage, where such websites are not available:

An Illustrative List of Exhibitors and Roundtable Participants:

· Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana (Workers and Peasants Strength Union – MKSS) is an organization that fights against government corruption and creates channels for citizens to oversee their local governments. Its leader, Aruna Roy, is best known as a prominent leader of the Right to Information movement in India which led to Parliament’s passage of the Right to Information Act in 2005, which has empowered millions of ordinary Indians.

· Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) is a New Delhi based citizen’s group with a mandate to promote accountability and transparency in government functioning. SNS’s key activities have been to promote the use of the Right to Information Act (RTI) by training citizens, particularly women in slum areas, to use the RTI and on the functioning of the government in areas such as rations, civic works, education and social welfare schemes. More recently, SNS has used the RTI to collect information on the performance of elected representatives and develop report cards.

· Janaagraha is a Bangalore-based NGO that works with citizens and government to change the quality of life in India’s cities and towns, focusing on urban infrastructure and citizen engagement with public institutions, including volunteerism. They also recently launched an exciting initiative called IPAIDABRIBE.com, a web platform for where people who have been asked for or ever had to pay a bribe are encouraged to share their experiences (after only 2 months, it gets 30,000 hits per day).

· The Hunger Project (THP) is a global organization committed to ending hunger. In India, it is committed to ignite and sustain the leadership spirit of women elected to local village councils (panchayats). THP works in 13 states of India, including Maharashtra (where Mumbai is located). By partnering with more than 90 civil society organizations, THP has worked with and supported the leadership of more than 60,000 elected women representatives.

· ASER uses simple tools to empower people nationwide to test their children’s math and reading abilities, and then hold local government accountable to outcomes. With this data, ASER creates the Annual Status of Education Report, which surveys literacy in 570 districts and 700,000 children of India with citizen participation. Each year 25,000 volunteers donate 4 days of their time to gather the data for this report.

· PRS Legislative Research (PRS) works with Members of Parliament (MPs) across party lines to provide research support on legislative and policy issues. Its aim is to complement the base of knowledge and expertise that already exists in government, citizens groups, businesses, and other research institutions. PRS also enables citizens to track the progress of legislative and policy reforms through an on-line portal.

· The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) works on building fair and transparent electoral and political processes in India. ADR has organized Citizen Election Watch for all major elections and discloses candidate background information in a timely manner, including through SMS technology, to the media and the public, helping them to make informed voting choices.

The takeaway for government – or any organization, for that matter – is that blogs and the Web offer new opportunities to share information, create more surface area to expose ideas to citizens and create conversations. If official accounts of new partnerships or events consist of plaintext press releases, lack a website or a post on the most prominent government blog in the world fails to include images, video or relevant links, that opportunity is being neglected.