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15. October 2010 – 14:27 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)
Photo by ianfuller on Flickr
Greater Manchester Police have been using Twitter to demonstrate how many incidents are reported in a day, and showing the variety of things they have to deal with, according to this article on BBC News.
Interestingly, the justification for the project — in which the force tweeted every incident it was involved in over 24 hours – was not transparency per se, but to give an insight into what police officers do, and counter the public’s perception that policing is about “cops chasing robbers and locking them up”. So clearly it has a strong campaigning element it, in this case aimed at changing the indicators against which police performance is measured.
Is it acceptable for public bodies to determine which information to release according to the message that they would like to put out about themselves? Put in those terms, probably not. If we want people to be active participants in public services they need to have access to quite comprehensive information that is ready when they need it and not released only when it suits the public body concerned.
However, I think it is perfectly legitimate for public services to promote understanding of the realities that face them as this is fundamental to ensuring that political participation is meaningful and yields results that are useful to policy-makers (as Paul Johnston suggested in his speech at the PEP-NET Summit). Sites like theyworkforyou.com are great for promoting scrutiny of public officials (in TWFY’s case elected representatives), but anybody who is serious about making a contribution to public life needs to gain an understanding of the realities that public officials are up against, too. If they work for you, you have to be a decent manager and be realistic in the tasks you set them!
So yes, it’s fine for public services to do this kind of public awareness work; but it must go hand in hand with real transparency and always with an eye on how it can increase understanding of public service in a way that empowers citizens.
21. April 2010 – 11:37 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)
When we talk about transparency of government data we mostly mean data produced be government (in parliament etc.) which should be public and usable by NGOs and citizens alike. But there is another aspect of transparency which is discussed less often: How are governments using laws and power to request private data from companies and especially web-based companies like search engines and social networks?
Google published all requests for data and removal of content by governments in the second half 2009 on a website . The screenshot below shows the map on that site zoomed to Europe but there is data available for many other countries in the world.
Click to enlarge
Some example numbers: In Germany there where 458 requests for private data and 188 request for removal of content in the second half of 2009. Ten of the removal requests where aimed that the Blogger service and 70 at Youtube. Interestingly Google also publishes the rate of compliance with these requests – which in this case is 94.1%. In other countries there were much more requests: Brazil leads the chart with 3663. For China however no data is available – or as Google says: “Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time.“
This shows that there are other sides to government transparency than one might think about immediately. I hope other companies also publish this kind of data in such an accessible way so that we can hold our governments to task for extensive use of laws and power.
12. April 2010 – 11:29 by echo source
Today humanity is facing an enormous multi-crisis dilemma – creating an ever-growing complexity of interrelated local, regional and global problem-patterns. Political decision-makers have a hard job finding appropriate solutions and depend more and more on scientific advice . Leading advisers Martin Lees (Secretary General of the Club of Rome) and Karl-Henrik Robèrt (Founder of the Natural Step) have recently pointed out (in a personal conversation), that this incapability to come up with appropriate solutions has got systemic roots. Our institutions are built to cope with single issues within limited regional scopes, thus they are not apt to deal with such multi-crises-dilemma. Therefore, the generation and collection of information, its conversion into institutional knowledge and its use in decision-making processes have been recognized as crucial tasks .
From this point of view, our current multi-crisis-dilemma can be understood as a general crisis of today´s democracies, basically caused by its over-complexity and the lack of appropriate knowledge management systems based on the integration of collective knowledge.
It is now widely accepted, that only multi-stakeholder-inclusion can support our institutions with the necessary knowledge to face our challenges at stake. This requires a more networked approach of governance and a knowledge management based on public spaces for policy deliberation , .
But although the resulting frustration in the European population is manifested in decreasing voter turnouts on the one hand, and the use of ICT for eCampaigning and proactive action planning increases on the other hand, most eParticipation projects show quite a low citizen participation . To understand this paradox it would be important to have a closer look at the technical tools and socio-political concepts being used in today’s eParticipation.
 Hisschemöller, Matthias: Participation as Knowledge Production and the Limits of Democracy; In: Maasen, S. & Weingart, P. 2005: Democratization of Expertise?: Exploring novel Forms of Scientific Advice in Political Decision-Making, Dordrecht, NL
 OECD 2003: The learning government: Introduction and draft results of the survey of knowledge management practice in Ministries, 27th session of Public Management Committee, 3-4th
 Blumler, J.G., Coleman, S. 2001: Realizing Democracy Online: A civic commons in Cyberspace, IPPR/Citizens Online Research Publications, No 2, Mar 2001
 Centeno, van Bavel, Burgelman 2005: A Prospective View of e-Government in the European Union, Electronic Journal of e-Government, Vol. 3, Issue 2, 59-66
 Millard, J.2009: eParticipation, European Journal of ePractice, No. 7, March 2009
This article is an extract from our paper for this years EDem conference in Krems.The whole paper will be published by the Austrian Computer Society under the titel „BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN BOTTOM-UP AND TOP-DOWN E-PARTICIPATION APPROACHES - E-PARTICIPATION AS ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP”
The EDem conference series is jointly organised by the Danube University Krems and the University of Economics and Business Administration, Vienna.
19. January 2010 – 23:52 by Civil College
A new interactive website of the previously introduced Rising Voices, the citizen media training initiative of Global Voices Online has just opened their new project’s website, which aims to map online technology projects, that promote transparency, political accountability and civic engagement in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, China and Central & Eastern Europe.
8 researchers in the next 3 month plans to document 32 case studies of the most innovative technology and transparency projects outside North America and Western Europe.
The team collaborates with well known, like minded mapping, discussion and toolset projects, such as ParticipateDB, Participedia, the International Association for Public Participation, the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, ePractice, MobileActive’s mDirectory, and LocalLabs.
The project both open for volunteer researchers and welcomes contributors.
The site is offering beside twitter and facebook services, podcast and seem to fill a needed gap, by the sponsorship of the OSI and the Omidyar Network.
12. November 2009 – 16:22 by Danish Technological Institute
Much focus has been on Web 2.0 technology as an enabler for wider dissemination, awareness raising and not least participation and transparency. It is therefore interesting to see that Web 2.0 technologies are being used in various ways for a range of purposes in this year’s 5th Ministerial eGovernment Conference, 18-20 November, in Malmö (Sweden) and 4th European eGovernment Awards.
Webcast of conference sessions
The plenary sessions and three of the parallel sessions at the Ministerial eGovernment Conference will be webcast live and on demand this year from the conference website www.egov2009.se. In addition the ceremony for the 4th European eGovernment Awards will most likely also be the subject of a webcast.
The programme is available on www.egov2009.se/programme
Twitter flies over Malmö 18-20 November
In addition to RSS feed, Twitter feed is available onthe Ministerial eGovernment Conference website www.egov2009.se. Participants are actively encourage to Twitter about the Informal Ministerial Meeting on eGovernment and the 5th Ministerial eGovernment Conference to use the hashtag #egov2009.
Online vote for European eGovernment Awards Public Prize
Following success of the first online vote in relation to the European eGovernment Awards 2007 in Lisbon (Portugal) the European Commission and the European eGovernment Awards Consortium decided early onto continue practicing what they preach. The objective has been to: increase the visibility and status of public sector ICT projects in Europe; encourage good practice exchange, and; to encourage active involvement and participating in the European eGovernment Awards by the epractice.eu and wider stakeholder communities.
The online voting for the European eGovernment Awards Public Prize was therefore launched late this summer and closed on 11 November at 18:00 CET. Members of the epractice.eu community have been able to vote for their favorite cases from among the 52 European eGovernment Awards 2009 finalists. The online vote is in addition to other ICT initiative by the awards consortium and the European Commission for a fully electronic submission process via www.epractice.eu and the remote evaluation of the received submissions by the jury in the first phase of the evaluation.
The voting is now closed but the 52 finalist cases remain published at ePractice.eu and are open to receive members’ comments. The winner of the Public Prize will be announced at the awards ceremony on 19 November at 18:30 – and likely to the subject of a webcast.
For the first time the European eGovernment Awards finalist are accessible online through a virtual exhibition. The virtual exhibition can be visited on www.expopolis.com (NB: for practical reasons you have to register). Naturally an electronic version of the conference exhibition catalogue will be available on www.epractice.eu/awardsmediakit as of 19 November when the Ministerial eGovernment Conference and Exhibition opens.
Ministerial tour of European eGovernment Awards Finalist stands
A ministerial tour of the European eGovernment Awards Finalists stands will take place on 18 November 2009 at the Ministerial eGovernment Conference and Exhibition.
Finalist country fact sheets
To enhance the promotion of the European eGovernment Awards Finalists 2009 17 country factsheets from those European countries from which finalists have been selected for the European eGovernment Awards 2009. The factsheets are published in English but will be made available in the relevant national languages in the beginning of November. The fact sheets are available with other dissemination material on www.epractice.eu/en/awardsmediakit
News and background
Danish Technological Institute/Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen – European eGovernment Awards Consortium Partner
21. July 2009 – 01:23 by openpolis
Rome, July 2009
After promoting different projects on e-democracy and e-partecipation in Italy (openpolis.it, voisietequi.it), the openpolis association, a spin off of the DEPP association, has officially presented to the public a new web application wholly dedicated to the monitoring of the italian Parliament: https://www.openparlamento.it.
This is the first of a series of three articles in which we describe some of the relevant features of the web application.
In this first article we describe the application, its vision and why, in our opinion, it can help build a base of informed citizenship and improve the democratic process.
The other two articles will focus on two particular instruments of the application, discussing various interesting aspects related to them that brought quite an array of reactions from the public.
openparlamento.it is a rather complex web application, where citizens can gather detailed informations on the proceedings of the acts presented by the elected officials at national level.
It allows one to follow an act in its path across the two perfectly symmetrical chambers (La Camera and Il Senato), from its presentation as a proposal, to its final approval.
It tracks all the votations, highlighting rebel voters. It tracks who presented an act, and wether as a first-signer or a co-signer. It also tracks speeches of officials on given acts.
Access to textual documents related to an act is easy and documents can be emended by users online, using an innovative shared comments system (eMend), that allows discussions on a particular act to take place.
Users can describe the acts, using their own words, in a wiki subsystem, acts are ratable and commentable, too.
All acts are tagged with consistent arguments by an editorial board, and that allows to know what’s going on and who’s doing what in relation to a subject.
An event-handling subsystem allows the generation of news. Whenever an act is presented, it moves towards approval or refusal, a votation takes place, someone gives a speech or anything worth noticing happens, news are generated. A dedicated web page and a customized daily e-mail, containing just the news related to those acts, politicians or arguments monitored by the user, allows him/her to follow almost in real time what’s going on.
Monitoring arguments is the most remarkable activity. Being time- and resources-consuming it is also not for free, though. A payment model is being discussed with the users during this free-demo phase, and we hope to come to reasonable commercial terms.
openparlamento.it sits on the shoulders of giants, those giants being TheyWorkForYou and OpenCongress.
The idea of materializing all the principles regarding the transparency of elected officials’ activities into a live web site was what we grabbed from those projects.
In Italy, public scrutiny is invoked as a distant and impossible principle. It is left to the official media and it is usually strongly biased, especially when it comes to the political arena.
We wanted to build a place on the web where citizens could inform themselves, controlling the activities of elected officials in the national parliament.
We asked ourselves: what if citizens could comment, rate and describe with their own words the acts presented by their representatives at La Camera and Il Senato? What if people could vote these acts so you can compare elected officials’ and citizens’ votes in the same context?
More than that, we wanted to give the public a tool that could help to understand a bit better what’s being done in the parliament and who’s doing what, and to possibly jump in the process, too. Uncensored.
That is one of the pillars of powerful lobbying: to know the real connections between the informations.
And that’s what we wanted the project to be: just a block of a series of tools that allowed for an improved relation between the represented and the representatives.
to be continued …
18. May 2009 – 11:05 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)
It is generally accepted that availability of public and parliament data in standardized formats like XML helps to increase transparency. Websites like Recovery.gov, which gives detailed information about the use of public funds to strengthen the economy in the USA, have been praised for being great examples of this kind of transparency increase, but are set up and managed by government organisations. But data availability does not mean but itself that this data is accessible to ordinary citizens in every case. Even though organisations and programmers may be able to make use and sense of data presented in a very rigid and standardized way and make it accessible to the public, ordinary citizens might be overwhelmed and unable to put the data to real use. Last weekend a new platform has been launched which may be the definite answer to this problem.
Read the rest of this entry »
8. April 2009 – 23:55 by Civil College
The USA is having a hot period of reforming the government through web2.0 and participatory models – it has become quite obvious during the last times. It does also mean, that NGO’s are helping to find the best policy through various means.
The leader of IT and transparency mashups, the Sunlight Foundation’s president, Elen Miller has collected the results in the official SunlightFoundationBlog of the mentioned Government2.0 Camp, which has been held in a Barcampstyle.
The video and the 10 points can be found below – the post is here!
Ten Measures for Transparency Success from Gov 2.0 on Vimeo.
1. Open data: The federal government should make all data searchable, findable and accessible.
2. Disclose spending data: The government should disclose how it is spending taxpayer dollars, who is spending it and how it’s being spent.
3. Procurement data: How does the government decide where the money is getting spent, who gets it, how they are spending it and how can we measure success.
4. Open portal for public request for information: There should be a central repository for all Freedom of Information Act requests that are public to that people can see in real time when the requests come in, how fast the government responds to them.
5. Distributed data: The government should make sure it builds redundancy in their system so that data is not held in just one location, but held in multiple places in case of a disaster, terrorist attack or some other reason where the data is damaged. Redundancy would guarantee government could rebuild the data for future use.
6. Open meetings: Government meetings should be open to the public so that citizens can tell who is trying to influence government. All schedules should be published as soon as they happen so that people can see who is meeting with whom and who is trying to influence whom.
7. Open government research: Currently, when government conducts research, it usually does not report the data it collects until the project is finished. Government should report its research data while its being collected in beta form. This would be a measure of transparency and would change the relationship that people have to government research as it is being collected.
8. Collection transparency: Government should disclose how it is collecting information, for whom are they collecting the data, and why is it relevant. The public should have the ability to judge whether or not it valuable to them, and giving them the ability to comment on it.
9. Allowing the public to speak directly to the president: Recently, we saw the president participate in something called “Open for Questions,” where he gave the public access to ask questions. This allowed him to burst his bubble and be in touch with the American public directly is another measure of transparency.
10. Searchable, crawl able and accessible data: If the government were to make all data searchable, crawl able and accessible we would go along way in realizing all the goals presented at the Gov 2.0 Camp.
I have to say, this is for the USA. But how about the EU?
What do we have from here? I assume, not much – the recently adopted transparency initiative is really weak – this means, that there is a significant need to have an entity, that draws the light into data formats, standardization and citizen requirements. In this continent, this is a hard stuff. Since we have many organizations, from Mysociety to Transparency International, and the cooperation, the common project developments has just been started recently.
But how do we feel inside ourselves, as a group of people, who already know, how important transparency is for real e-participation?
What kind of transparency do the e-participation players require here- keeping in mind, that real, non-e and e-participation can only based on real and accurate information- the basis of accountability and transparency.
(get some inspiration at https://www.sunlightlabs.com/ , EU related issue here, Transparency on Euractive)
11. February 2009 – 11:36 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)
On first glance both transparency of political processes and the privacy of the individual citizen are valuable goods and should be achieved alongside each other. The technologies of new media can help to advance both of these goals: Government data can be provided in a structured way to increase transparency and citizens can protest against oppressive regimes and reduce the danger of getting prosecuted by using online communication tools. But the advancements in one of the two fields can also drastically harm the other – increased transparency can diminish privacy and vice versa.
To illustrate this I would like to point out one example. The campaigns for and against the unfortunately passed Proposition 8, banning same sex marriage in the State of California, were fuelled by a large number of donors giving just a few to tens of thousands dollars to both campaigns. As a means to improve transparency of such processes the list of donors for and against the proposition are publicized in a machine readable way on a government website. With this data and the many open and free services available on the web it is easy to setup the website eightmaps.com which shows all persons donating for the proposition and therefore against same sex marriage with their name, address, employer, position and the sum they contributed on which date. This could be seen as an attack on the privacy of those persons and not surprisingly many those, whose data is exposed on in such an accessible way, are not too happy about it.
At this point the question is what we can do if two of the most important concepts of a free and open society are in conflict with each other. One way of copping with the situation would be to follow David Brin who argues that we do not have to be too concerned about the loss of privacy as long as transparency goes in all directions and nobody is except from it. Even for the political sphere (let alone the commercial) this approach seems to be unrealistic – What would this perfect transparency be and why should all individuals be able to agree on favouring transparency over privacy in Brins “happy panopticon”? From my point of view we will have to find a balance between both goals – the right to privacy and the need for transparency in a democracy, but we also have to keep in mind that we participate in the political process as citizens who do not only bear rights but also responsibilities.
11. June 2008 – 16:24 by Danish Technological Institute
To consult the Australian public, strengthen the participatory process and outcome Kevin Rudd (Australian Prime Minister) announced in February 2008 an Australia 2020 Summit to help shape a long term strategy for the nation’s future – a strategy requiring long-term commitment and responses beyond the usual electoral cycle. In this connection more then 1000 opinion makers and citizens were invited to give their opinion and provide their input to help shape a long term strategy for the Australia’s future. More then 3600 persons and interest organisations submitted in excess of 8800 suggestions for evaluation and discussion culminating in the Australia 2020 Summit in Canberra 19-20 April this year.
The summit and consultation process focused on ten areas deemed critical for Australia’s future i.e.: Read the rest of this entry »