The Blog — civil society
The Personal Democracy Forum conference came to an end on Friday, capping off two-days full of talks about the role of technology in Latin American politics. Around 400 activists joined with people from technology companies in the 30 story Telefonica building in Santiago, Chile, making for a great opportunity to discover some of the most innovative projects and campaigns happening throughout the region. Here are some highlights.
The location is appropriate: Latin America is sometimes called a laboratory for democracy, and Chile is in many ways representative of this. The current president, Sebastian Pinera, is the first conservative to win an election since 1958 - in between then and now the country has seen a coup and 16 years of dictatorship - and January's democratic turnover of parties was seen by many as signaling the end of Chile’s drawn-out transition away from dictatorship into a fully consolidated democracy. Both events are likely to be chock full of people from Chile's growing civil society sector.
The two day long PDF conference will be organized according to 5 main buckets: political mobilization, transparency, how new technologies can influence economic development, the new public sphere, and examples of projects that are employing new technologies to address concerns at a local level. It'll bring together activists, NGOs and tech experts from around the region, as well as 16 promising young people attending on Google scholarships for a series of panels and breakout sessions that will hopefully lead to some fruitful collaborations.
Immediately following PDF is Tech@State and the kick-off of Civil Society 2.0, an "initiative to create a self-sustaining movement to connect social good organizations with technology based tools and volunteers to help raise digital literacy and increase their impact in the 21st century." Here activists and tech experts will present their projects and breakout into smaller conversations covering everything from civic engagement to climate change to disaster response.
Map of Freedom in Asia for 2010 From Freedom House; Green represents free, yellow partly free and purple not free. U.S. Places Bet on Indian Civil Society
The news coming out of Obama's visit to India has mainly covered his pressure on the Indian government to denounce its neighbors' human rights abuses. But, in a post on the White House blog, Samantha Power highlights a different strategy for fostering democracy in the region. She emphasizes the potential of civil society groups, rather than the government, to open up society throughout Asia:
"India may well become a kind of "city on the hill" that other countries look to for lessons on not only how to pull millions of people out of poverty, but also on how to strengthen democratic accountability...If Indian civil society groups should choose to share their experiences with citizens and NGOs in countries that have only recently embarked on their democratic journeys, the dividend will be profound...In support of this effort, we announced at today's expo an initial commitment of approximately $1m to support the work of Indian civil society in sharing their best practices abroad."
The Indian government has been less than eager to put pressure on neighboring countries (the weekend's elections in Burma are an apt example), so targeting civil society in an effort to see regional change may actually be more fruitful.
Corruption in India has roots that are as deep and entrenched as they are wide-reaching. From governance and elections to the provision of basic services, they touch nearly all aspects of Indian society. So what if a platform, teamed with local NGOs, could successfully connect citizen reports of misconduct to people with the time and resources to address it?
Kiirti is a "technology platform to enable collection and aggregation of governance issues through phone, sms, email and the web. It provides tools to track the issues and, where applicable, forward them to the right authorities for resolution." The Indian organization is similar to SeeClickFix, founded on the East Coast of the U.S., which lets "citizens help themselves" by pointing to problems in their community and then communicating with public officials and other citizens to find solutions to these problems. While the SeeClickFix platform is technically global, try entering any city in India (let alone a rural town) and you won't find many reports. That's where Kiirti and the anti-corruption NGO 5th Pillar have a leg up.
Editor's Note: The U.S.State Department* has convened a two day long event as part of its Tech@State initiative and we'll be posting summaries of the individual talks at Movements.org. Are you at the event? Get in touch to share a blog post.
Today, the U.S. State Department* held its third Tech@State event focusing on a program that they call "Civil Society 2.0." The goal of this initiative is “to assist non-governmental (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in using new digital tools and technologies to increase the reach and impact of their work.” Today’s event was the first in a series of convenings that State will be holding to bring together technologists, CSOs, and those who interface between the two groups. Participants hope to learn more about the challenges CSOs face and how the tech community can help. Here are some highlights of thoughts shared and points made by this morning's speakers, including Alec Ross of the Office of the Secretary of State, Brian Gallagher of United Way, Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media, and Beth Kanter, co-author of The "Networked Nonprofit."
The new HarassMap project that hopes to crowdsource reports of sexual harassment in Egypt has received much media attention lately. The idea for creating a platform to crowdsource reports of sexual harassment and the desire to bring sexual harassment to the forefront of conversations has, however, been in the works for a number of years.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with Rebecca Chiao, one of the lead organizers behind the HarassMap initiative, about the origins of the initiative, and her team's plans to ensure its success.
The obvious challenge of engaging a large amount of young people with a social issue lies in in grabbing their attentions.
That’s why Yo Propongo stands out. Their initiative to sweep the Mexican capital's universities for realistic solutions to social ills grew out of an online nightlife guide, into a platform for youth to propose real solutions to a series of social problems. Yo Propongo began 6 months ago when it announced that the first social problem at hand would be drunk driving, and today is the last day to suggest proposals. How succesful will they be in getting policymakers and experts in the capital to listen to, and act on, the large quantity of suggestions that have been offered up by Mexican university students?
Enough is Enough, a Coalition of Nigerian Youth Groups, Protesting Government Corruption Nigerian Elections: Will the Benefits of Social Media Outweigh Its Risks?
The date for presidential elections in Nigeria has been repeatedly pushed back, a list of confirmed candidates remained elusive up until last month, and an accurate voter roll is still nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, Nigerian civil society is gearing up to play an important role in the 2011 elections. The prevalence of technology has increased significantly since the 2007 contest, and campaigners plan to use social media—which is used widely both on PCs and mobiles—to its fullest. But in a country with severe divisions along religious and ethnic lines, how can they ensure that their efforts to get out the vote will also promote peaceful elections?
In Egypt, the strategic use of social media platforms has brought new life to campaigns bringing attention to social and political issues. How are platforms like Facebook and blogs amplifying activists' voices and mobilizing Egyptians to the streets? We've put together an update on protest campaigns in the country.
Six years after the Orange Revolution negated fraudulent elections and changed the balance of power in Kiev, are we seeing a rollback to autocracy in Ukraine? Recent attacks on press freedoms and today’s court ruling transferring power away from parliament and toward the presidency suggest that this might be the case.
Where’s the Orange Revolution now?