Tom Simonite in MIT Technology Review: “…as Facebook’s user base continues to expand, a growing proportion of its users think of it quite differently, as a luxury brand, badge of status, and or even a place to make a little extra money. That’s due to the rapid growth in the number of Facebook users signing on from developing countries, a trend underscored by news from the company today that more than 100 million people use a mobile app the company makes for feature phones…
Little research has been done on Facebook’s growth in developing countries (and a lot would be needed to capture even some of the diversity included under the blanket term “developing world”). Two small, recent studies of Kenyan Facebook users in poor areas by Susan Wyche of Michigan State University are among the first to be published, and they provide some interesting insights.
One of Wyche’s ethnographic studies took place in rural Internet cafes, where the researchers were told that “Facebook is a luxury,” only to be indulged if someone had money to spare (here’s a PDF of Wyche’s paper). When study participants thought about social networking, the challenges of low bandwidth and sometimes unreliable electricity supplies were foremost in their minds.
The barriers of cost and infrastructure associated with Facebook led people in another community Wyche and colleagues visited, a slum of Nairobi, to see the service as for more than just socializing. They used it—with mixed success—as a way to make a little money, look for jobs, market themselves, and seek remittances from friends and family overseas. (This reminded me of a recent report on people in Kuwait using Instagram to sell things and run retail businesses.)…
Should it want to, Facebook could even become a powerful tool for efforts to improve the lives of people in poor areas, where the site is gaining traction. The company has already dabbled with using social engineering to boost organ donations in the U.S. (see “Thank God for Facebook: When Platforms Proselytize”). There’s no shortage of similar experiments that could be run in places with more fundamental health problems, where Facebook’s status as a luxury could make it very influential.”
The Physics arXiv Blog “We’ve all experienced the sense of being familiar with somebody without knowing their name or even having spoken to them. These so-called “familiar strangers” are the people we see every day on the bus on the way to work, in the sandwich shop at lunchtime, or in the local restaurant or supermarket in the evening.
These people are the bedrock of society and a rich source of social potential as neighbours, friends, or even lovers.
But while many researchers have studied the network of intentional links between individuals—using mobile-phone records, for example—little work has been on these unintentional links, which form a kind of hidden social network.
Today, that changes thanks to the work of Lijun Sun at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore and a few pals who have analysed the passive interactions between 3 million residents on Singapore’s bus network (about 55 per cent of the city’s population). ”This is the first time that such a large network of encounters has been identied and analyzed,” they say.
The results are a fascinating insight into this hidden network of familiar strangers and the effects it has on people….
Perhaps the most interesting result involves the way this hidden network knits society together. Lijun and co say that the data hints that the connections between familiar strangers grows stronger over time. So seeing each other more often increases the chances that familiar strangers will become socially connected.
That’s a fascinating insight into the hidden social network in which we are all embedded. It’s important because it has implications for our understanding of the way things like epidemics can spread through cities.
Perhaps a more interesting is the insight it gives into how links form within communities and how these can strengthened. With the widespread adoption of smart cards on transport systems throughout the world, this kind of study can easily be repeated in many cities, which may help to tease apart some of the factors that make them so different.”
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1301.5979: Understanding Metropolitan Patterns of Daily Encounters
Press Release: “Knight Foundation today named eight projects as winners of the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov, awarding the recipients more than $3.2 million for their ideas.
The projects will provide new tools and approaches to improve the way people and governments interact. They tackle a range of issues from making it easier to open a local business to creating a simulator that helps citizens visualize the impact of public policies on communities….
Each of the winning projects offers a solution to a real-world need. They include:
Civic Insight: Providing up-to-date information on vacant properties so that communities can find ways to make tangible improvements to local spaces;
OpenCounter: Making it easier for residents to register and create new businesses by building open source software that governments can use to simplify the process;
Open Gov for the Rest of Us: Providing residents in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago with the tools to access and demand better data around issues important to them, like housing and education;
Outline.com: Launching a public policy simulator that helps people visualize the impact that public policies like health care reform and school budget changes might have on local economies and communities;
Oyez Project: Making state and appellate court documents freely available and useful to journalists, scholars and the public, by providing straightforward summaries of decisions, free audio recordings and more;
Procur.io: Making government contract bidding more transparent by simplifying the way smaller companies bid on government work;
GitMachines: Supporting government innovation by creating tools and servers that meet government regulations, so that developers can easily build and adopt new technology;
Plan in a Box: Making it easier to discover information about local planning projects, by creating a tool that governments and contractors can use to easily create websites with updates that also allow public input into the process.
Now in its sixth year, the Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas. Past News Challenge winners have created a lasting impact. They include: DocumentCloud, which analyzes and annotates public documents – turning them into data; Tools for OpenStreetMap, which makes it easier to contribute to the editable map of the world; and Safecast, which helps people measure air quality and became the leading provider of pollution data following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
For more, visit newschallenge.org and follow #newschallenge on Twitter.
Martin Tisné, Director of Policy at Omidyar Network, in The Telegraph: “Trust in government has rarely been at a lower ebb. Citizens in developed and developing countries alike feel increasingly disconnected from the political process and their political leaders. They complain of having too little influence over decisions, too little access to government information and too little control over their own data.
In such an environment, suspicion and anger can erupt as we have seen across the world, most recently in Istanbul’s Taksim square.
At the same time, governments are operating in very challenging circumstances. They have to meet rising expectations from their citizens with, thanks to the impact of the global financial crisis, often severely reduced revenues. They also face a whole range of pressures which will make bridging this gap ever more difficult. There has never been a greater need for open and honest dialogue.
There is no single answer to these concerns. But it is clear that opening up government data must be a major element of the answer. Open data has enormous potential to drive economic growth and spread prosperity. It improves accountability, strengthens governance, builds trust and drives innovation in both the private sector and the delivery of key public services.
There are already many examples from around the world that these benefits are already being delivered. In the UK, Mastodon C
, a start-up incubated by the Open Data Institute
, used open data on prescriptions by GPs to show that the NHS could have saved over £200 million by prescribing generic drugs instead of their more expensive patented equivalents.
In India, the technology platform I Paid A Bribe enables citizens to publicly log whenever they have been shaken down for a bribe. In Mexico, Compara Tu Escuela (Check Your School) empowers parents by providing them directly with information on school performance.
We all benefit as citizens and consumers, as economies and societies, if we get this right. It is why the expected decision by the G8 countries to adopt an Open Data Charter at the G8 summit in Lough Erne is so important.”
Philip Howard in The Atlantic: “Everyone in Turkey can tell a story about how they turned on the TV hoping for news about current events, but found game shows, beauty pageants, and nature documentaries. Even Erdogan’s devotees know that the state-run news programs are grindingly uncritical. The pall of media control even has an impact on foreign broadcasters like CNN, which aired a penguin documentary within Turkey while its international broadcasters covered the clashes. Even when the country’s newspapers and broadcasters began reporting on the crisis, they spun the story as being violent and local to Istanbul. Another friend, who attended the protests on Saturday, said “you see misinformation on Twitter. But social media has played a corrective role to faults in the other available media.” On the days he joined in, he was part of peaceful demonstrations, and he found the Twitter streams telling stories about how the protests were country-wide and mostly nonviolent.
These days, Turks find themselves caught in the crossfire between highly politicized media organizations, so it is not surprising that when people want news they trust their own networks. The country has a dedicated community of startups designing apps, building games and generating content for the country’s rapidly growing population of internet and mobile phone users. Half of the country’s 75 million people are under 30. Half of Turkish citizens are online, and they are Facebook’s seventh largest national audience. Government ministers and strategists do have Twitter accounts, but they still tend to treat social media as a broadcast tool, a way of pushing their perspectives out to followers. Erdogan has a twitter account with more than 2.5 million followers, but recently opined that “This thing called social media is a curse on societies”….
This isn’t just happening in Turkey: In moments of political and military crisis, people want to control their media and connect with family and friends. And ruling elites respond by investing in broadcast media and censoring and surveilling digital networks. So the battles between political elites who use broadcast media and the activists who use digital media are raging in other parts of the world, as well.”
Atlantic Cities: “Colab, a Brazilian mobile application designed to encourage better citizenship, is the winner of the 2013 AppMyCity! Prize for the year’s best urban app.
The app’s five founders, Bruno Aracaty, Gustavo Maia, Paulo Pandolfi, Josemando Sobral and Vitor Guedes, from Recife and São Paulo, claimed the $5,000 prize last week at the annual New Cities Summit in São Paulo. Colab competed against two other finalists, BuzzJourney, from Kfar-Saba, Israel, and PublicStuff, from New York City. All three finalists presented their project to the international audience at the New Cities Summit. The audience then voted to determine the winner.
Colab utilizes photos and geolocation to connect citizens to cities based on three pillars of interaction: reporting daily urban issues; elaborating on and proposing new projects and solutions; and evaluating public services….
In total, the New Cities Foundation received 98 submissions for the AppMyCity! Prize 2013. A panel of judges chose the finalists out of ten semi-finalists, based on ability to create widespread impact and helpful user interface”
A Glossary of Ideas from the BMW Guggenheim Lab—New York, Berlin, and Mumbai : “Over the past two years, the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile urban laboratory centered around the topic of life in cities today, has offered free programs and workshops and implemented urban projects in New York City (August 3–October 16, 2011), Berlin (June 15–July 29, 2012), and Mumbai (December 9–January 20, 2013). Created as a resource, 100 Urban Trends aims to identify the most talked-about trends in urban thinking, as they were discussed in these three venues. Each individual glossary offers 100 contextualized definitions that apply to the way we understand, design, and live in cities.
Integral to 100 Urban Trends is the concept of cities as “idea makers.” In cities, people come together, share their thoughts and common interests, and generate the ideas that shape our world. Dense, growing cities have been and continue to be the catalyst for human progress, powered by daily proximity among their citizens as much as anything else. Despite some of the drawbacks of such massive urban centers, they may well embody the future for human life. Today’s cities are competing to attract more people; greater urban density can mean more conflict, but it can also produce a greater diversity of viewpoints and more opportunity for positive change.
In recent years, there has been an unequivocal shift in the study of cities. Urban thinking, whether related to architecture or urbanism, has become dramatically less focused on infrastructure, and more on the ultimate goal and reason for the existence of cities — that is, the well-being of the people that inhabit them and constitute their very soul and essence. “Cluster,” “concentrate,” and “collaborate” seem to have become the three big Cs of urban thinking of late — but that story is not new. Clustering, searching for a concentration of people, and finding ways to collaborate have been part of the human experience since prehistoric times. Then, as now, people gathered in search of protection, conviviality, and exchange.”
David Talbot in MIT Technology Review: ” New platforms for fact-checking and reputation scoring aim to better channel social media’s power in the wake of a disaster…Researchers from the Masdar Institute of Technology and the Qatar Computer Research Institute plan to launch Verily, a platform that aims to verify social media information, in a beta version this summer. Verily aims to enlist people in collecting and analyzing evidence to confirm or debunk reports. As an incentive, it will award reputation points—or dings—to its contributors.
Verily will join services like Storyful that use various manual and technical means to fact-check viral information, and apps such as Swift River that, among other things, let people set up filters on social media to provide more weight to trusted users in the torrent of posts following major events…Reputation scoring has worked well for e-commerce sites like eBay and Amazon and could help to clean up social media reports in some situations.
Washington Post: “Analyses of hundreds of documented data breaches found that hackers affiliated with the Chinese government were by far the most energetic and successful cyberspies in the world last year, according to a report to be issued Tuesday by government and industry investigators.
Although hackers with financial motives are the most common source of data breaches worldwide, China dominated the category of state-affiliated cyber-espionage of intellectual property, said the 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report. The report was issued by Verizon’s RISK Team and 18 partners, including officials from the United States and several foreign governments.
Of 120 incidents of government cyber-espionage detailed in the report, 96 percent came from China; the source of the other 4 percent was unknown, it said.”
Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman and former CEO. and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas in the WSJ: “…While technology has great potential to bring about change, there is a dark side to the digital revolution that is too often ignored. There is a turbulent transition ahead for autocratic regimes as more of their citizens come online, but technology doesn’t just help the good guys pushing for democratic reform—it can also provide powerful new tools for dictators to suppress dissent.
Fifty-seven percent of the world’s population still lives under some sort of autocratic regime. In the span of a decade, the world’s autocracies will go from having a minority of their citizens online to a majority. From Tehran to Beijing, autocrats are building the technology and training the personnel to suppress democratic dissent, often with the help of Western companies….
Dictators and autocrats in the years to come will attempt to build all-encompassing surveillance states, and they will have unprecedented technologies with which to do so. But they can never succeed completely. Dissidents will build tunnels out and bridges across. Citizens will have more ways to fight back than ever before—some of them anonymous, some courageously public.
The digital revolution will continue. For all the complications this revolution brings, no country is worse off because of the Internet. And with five billion people set to join us online in the coming decades—perhaps someday even the Pyongyang traffic police and the students in the Potemkin computer lab we visited in North Korea among them—the digital future can be bright indeed, despite its dark side.”
See also: “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business,