August 2009 E-Democracy News — Hot Topics

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Hot Topics – June – August 2009

Editor’s Pick: Elections and Activism in Iran

It was a busy summer of citizen involvement in public affairs in Iran – from Twitter-based coverage of protests, to rallies organized via social media, to the elections – online tools were a key part of all of it.

Among the many lessons learned through this experience is the blunt reality of the time lag in the traditional news sources that cover international affairs. Peter Cochrane blogged that some sources’ reports were 12 hours behind bloggers, but the mainstream media tended to be more detailed and accurate in its accounts. Cochrane also noted efforts by the Iranian government to control messages coming from Iran, which led to even more blogs and tweets. Cochrane also makes some interesting judgments about how technology has truly changed societies throughout the world.

Politics Online in its Weekly NetPulse (June 12, 2009) pointed to the use of text messages, Facebook, and other social media to organize young supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

For those wishing to follow the events online and find post-election analysis, the new generation of Internet tools created some really useful resources.

For more, either check out this really long Wikipedia entry or do a Google search for bloggers who discussed the Iranian election.

It’s a brave new world out there.

City of San Francisco launches data site

On Aug. 19, the city of San Francisco launched a new site that provides greater access to city data. According to a press release, the site ( is initially offering about 100 datasets, which the city hopes developers and other technology experts work with the data and create mashups and other applications.

The site includes information from a range of city departments, including the police, public works, and municipal transit departments.

According to the release, “ is part of a larger Open Gov Initiative for the City and County of San Francisco, which focuses on open data, open participation and open source. The City’s effort to improve access to government data has already led to the creation of new software applications. Earlier this summer, the Department of Environment released recycling data that was used by a third party to create EcoFinder, an iPhone application that helps residents recycle based on their location.”

Estonian voters ‘cast ballots’ online

According to the World eDemocracy Forum, Estonia was the only EU country to allow Internet voting, during the June European Parliament elections. More than 58,000 voters used e-voting, or about 15 percent. The option was presented to them as a supplement to traditional voting.

What’s up with Apps – Pittsburgh creates iPhone application for citizen complaints

The City of Pittsburgh received a lot of attention recently for creating a iPhone application to receive citizen complaints about matters from potholes to graffiti. The application allows users to snap a photo of a nuisance and send it to the city via the 311 system. Some coverage cited a few glitches with the iBurgh system, but its creators hope the application will lead to other technology partnerships.

Other cities developing iPhone applications include London, New York, Boston and Kansas City.

Read more about the iBurgh on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette site.

New Zealand Inland Revenue department accepts comments online

The Dominion Post reports that the Inland Revenue department recently sponsored a forum for comments on proposals to change aspects of the departments student loan scheme. The forum drew about 4,500 visitors from 33 countries.

The Post asks whether this is part of a larger strategy on the department’s behalf to sponsor more e-democracy-style activities. Read more on the Post website.

OpenCongress reveals revamped site

The site rolled out a new organization scheme and several new features in late July. According to an announcement from the site, new features include the ability to email members directly, information about members’ votes, personal bill tracking, and additional data.

Best practices for ‘open government data’

Joshua Tauberer recently posted a best practices guide for governments in making government data more publicly accessible. The document is intended for web managers, and government web developers.

South Korea, U.S. weathers cyberattacks

The World E-Democracy Forum raises the issue of cyber security in the wake of the concentrated attacks from infected computers to various governments, including South Korea and the United States, that were reported in mid-July. The post notes that no major damage occurred as a result of the attacks, nor was any confidential data compromised.

But the post implies that with so many critical aspects of government functions reliant on these technologies, a call to renewed vigilance may be in order.

E-Democracy in Italy: Brand Politics

Our friend and Board Member, Dan Jellinek posts about a project to adjust how a corporate software application can be used by policymakers to better understand public perceptions and influence. Paolo Mosconi of ActValue Consulting developed the “Reputation Manager,” which helps organizations manage their brands. And another aspect of the tool provides greater analysis of social media channels and how that can change strategies to manage brands.
Applicable to politicians? Read the full story at E-government Bulletin.

New report available on potential of online engagement

Public Agenda’s Center for Advancement in Public Engagement has posted a report on how various approaches to using online tools for public engagement are working locally and nationally.

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