Zach Miners in ComputerWorld: “Twitter users reacted fast to the explosions that ripped through the Boston Marathon Monday, but the incident also revealed how social media can only be so reliable in such situations. Twitter spread news of the blasts quickly and was a useful communications tool for public authorities such as the Boston police and the marathon organizers. But information on social media sites can also be questionable or just plain inaccurate, noted Greg Sterling, senior analyst with Opus Research…
The Boston Police Department’s Twitter log showed a positive side of social media. It was updated minute by minute in the aftermath of the bombings, often with instructions about which areas to avoid, or information about where the most police officers might be stationed.
There was also misinformation, however. A report was circulated quickly on Twitter that police had shut down cellphone service in Boston to prevent detonation of further blasts, though it ultimately turned out to be inaccurate, according to network operators.
Others had nefarious intentions. At one point, a Twitter account with the handle @_BostonMarathon was promising to donate US$1 to victims of the blast for every one of its tweets that was retweeted. Users soon called it out as a fake, noting the real Twitter account for the Boston Marathon was @BostonMarathon.”
See also: Google’s Person Finder
Machine-to-Machine Communications – Connecting Billions of Devices: “This document examines the future of machine-to-machine communication (M2M), with a particular focus on mobile wireless networks. M2M devices are defined, in this paper, as those that are actively communicating using wired and wireless networks, are not computers in the traditional sense and are using the Internet in some form or another. While, at the global level, there are currently around five billion devices connected to mobile networks, this may by some estimates increase to 50 billion by the end of the decade. The report provides examples of some of the uses to which M2M is being put today and its potential to enhance economic and social development. It concludes that to achieve these benefits, however, changes to telecommunication policy and regulatory frameworks may be required. Some of the main areas that will need to be evaluated, and implications of M2M assessed, include: opening access to mobile wholesale markets for firms not providing public telecommunication services; numbering policy; frequency policy; privacy and security; and access to public sector information.”
NextGov story: “Some of the same social media analyses that have helped Google and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spot warning signs of a flu outbreak could be used to detect the rumblings of violent conflict before it begins, scholars said in a paper released this week.
Kenyan officials used essentially this system to track hate speech on Facebook, blogs and Twitter in advance of that nation’s 2013 presidential election, which brought Uhuru Kenyatta to power.
Similar efforts to track Syrian social media have been able to identify ceasefire violations within 15 minutes of when they occur, according to the paper on New Technology and the Prevention of Violence and Conflict prepared by the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Programme and the International Peace Institute and presented at the United States Institute of Peace Friday.”
New York Times profile of a new crowdsourced service: “Watsi, which started last August, lets people donate as little as $5 toward low-cost, high-impact medical treatment for patients in third-world countries. The procedures range from relatively simple ones like fixing a broken limb to more complicated surgery — say, to remove an eye tumor. But the treatments generally have a high likelihood of success and don’t involve multiple operations or long-term care… Watsi represents the next generation of charities dependent on online donors, evolving the model started by sites like Kiva. With just a few mouse clicks, Kiva users, say, are able to lend money to a restaurant owner in the Philippines — and to examine her loan proposal and repayment schedule, to read about her and see her photograph.”
Jina Moore in the Columbia Journalism Review on the fifth “Envision” conference, convened by the UN’s Department of Public Information, the Independent Film Project, and Social Good Summit Partners: “These days, there’s lots of interest among the do-gooding world—nonprofits or NGOs, private foundations and public agencies—in how to use media. Partners in Health, to name just one big public health player, regularly uses videos and storytelling in its fundraising campaigns and on its website. So Envision’s focus on getting storytellers to understand and raise awareness about public health issues isn’t exactly new. The question is, is it useful?”
Larry Summers in the Financial Times: “The great mistake of the gridlock theorists is to suppose that all progress comes from legislation and that more legislation consistently represents more progress. While these are seen as years of gridlock, consider what has happened in the past five years…None of this is to say that the US does not face huge challenges. But these are not due to structural obstacles. They are about finding solutions to problems such as rising inequality and climate change – where we do not quite know the way forward. This is not a problem of gridlock – it is a problem of vision.”
Paper by M Mueller, A Schmidt, B Kuerbis in International Studies Review: “This paper asks whether the Internet’s heavy reliance on nonhierarchical, networked forms of governance is compatible with growing concerns about cyber-security from traditional state actors. Networked governance is defined as a semipermanent, voluntary negotiation system that allows interdependent actors to opt for collaboration or unilateral action in the absence of an overarching authority. Two case studies—Internet routing security and the response to a large-scale botnet known as Conficker—show the prevalence of networked governance on the Internet and provide insight into its strengths and limitations. The paper concludes that both cases raise doubts about the claim that introducing security concerns into Internet governance necessarily leads to more hierarchy and/or a greater role for governments.”
Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times , reviewing the new book of film academic Stephen Apkon called The Age of the Image , argues that “The written word is becoming the language of a scholarly establishment”:
“Until recently, it was the essence of statesmanship, scholarship and justice to purge strong emotion from our deliberations. Images today, though, are so plentiful and sharp that they dominate our thought processes. Although Mr Apkon relishes the immediacy of YouTube, he fears that political advertisers will soon be able to craft stories around “hidden mental hungers”, easily manipulating voters.
Citizens tend to think about voting in one of two ways. First, you base your vote on your identity. You are a farmer, so you choose the candidate best disposed towards farmers. The second theory is that you vote on arguments, independent of identity. You believe a sales tax should replace income tax, so you vote for the candidate who shares that opinion. But today’s image-based communication has little to do with identity or arguments. It has to do with the lowest-common-denominator traits that mark you as a human animal.”
Peter Ludlow, professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, in the New York Times: “Hacktivists, roughly speaking, are individuals who redeploy and repurpose technology for social causes….For some reason, it seems that the government considers hackers who are out to line their pockets less of a threat than those who are trying to make a political point….The law, as interpreted by the prosecutors, makes it a felony to use a computer system for “unintended” applications, or even violate a terms-of-service agreement. That would theoretically make a felon out of anyone who lied about their age or weight on Match.com…In a world in which nearly everyone is technically a felon, we rely on the good judgment of prosecutors to decide who should be targets and how hard the law should come down on them. We have thus entered a legal reality not so different from that faced by Socrates when the Thirty Tyrants ruled Athens, and it is a dangerous one. When everyone is guilty of something, those most harshly prosecuted tend to be the ones that are challenging the established order, poking fun at the authorities, speaking truth to power — in other words, the gadflies of our society.”
From Development Gateway on their “Vision for Citizen Engagement”: “As governments become more open they are producing more open data about their activities. Yet open data is just a “gateway drug” toward more participatory governance. We need to focus on the ecosystem that surrounds such tools to get citizens “hooked” on the power of open data to effect the changes that are relevant to their day-to-day challenges…. The key to Open Data adoption is relevance and context. What data will citizens find relevant? And how they will use that relevant data to improve their lives?…
We believe that an informed and engaged citizenry and civil society, using the tools of Open Data, can improve development outcomes in partnership with their governments.
To find out what matters to citizens, civil society, technologists, and governments, we need to bring them together in “safe” public venues where they can identify development challenges and create lasting solutions together face-to-face. For citizens, governments, and civil society, this can be traditional community centers like libraries, schools, universities and places of worship.
For technologists, co-working spaces like the “Hubs” and “Labs” that are emerging around the world are bringing excitement and attention to development challenges. DG took a slightly different approach than others. We reinvented our working environment, opening up our office space and inviting over sixteen other organizations to form the new OpenGov Hub. With almost daily events mixing citizens, governments, and civil society with technologists, we are beginning to see significant increased collaboration and innovation.”