N.Y.’s Vaccine Websites Weren’t Working. He Built a New One for $50.


Sharon Otterman at New York Times: “Huge Ma, a 31-year-old software engineer for Airbnb, was stunned when he tried to make a coronavirus vaccine appointment for his mother in early January and saw that there were dozens of websites to check, each with its own sign-up protocol. The city and state appointment systems were completely distinct.

“There has to be a better way,” he said he remembered thinking.

So, he developed one. In less than two weeks, he launched TurboVax, a free website that compiles availability from the three main city and state New York vaccine systems and sends the information in real time to Twitter. It cost Mr. Ma less than $50 to build, yet it offers an easier way to spot appointments than the city and state’s official systems do.

“It’s sort of become a challenge to myself, to prove what one person with time and a little motivation can do,” he said last week. “This wasn’t a priority for governments, which was unfortunate. But everyone has a role to play in the pandemic, and I’m just doing the very little that I can to make it a little bit easier.”

Supply shortages and problems with access to vaccination appointments have been some of the barriers to the equitable distribution of the vaccine in New York City and across the United States, officials have acknowledged….(More)”.

Mechanisms of power inscription into IT governance: Lessons from two national digital identity systems


Paper by Rony Medaglia, Ben Eaton, Jonas Hedman, and Edgar A. Whitley: “Establishing IT governance arrangements is a deeply political process, where relationships of power play a crucial role. While the importance of power relationships is widely acknowledged in IS literature, specific mechanisms whereby the consequences of power relationships affect IT governance arrangements are still under‐researched. This study investigates the way power relationships are inscribed in the governance of digital identity systems in Denmark and the United Kingdom, where public and private actors are involved. Drawing on the theoretical lens of circuits of power, we contribute to research on the role of power in IT governance by identifying two distinct mechanisms of power inscription into IT governance: power cultivation and power limitation….(More)“.

Digital Age Samaritans


Paper by Zachary D. Kaufman: “Modern technology enables people to view, document, and share evidence of crimes contemporaneously or soon after commission. Electronic transmission of this material — including through social media and mobile devices — raises legal, moral, and practical questions about spectators’ responsibilities. In the digital age, will these actors be bystanders or upstanders? What role can and should the law play in shaping their behavior?

This Article argues that certain witnesses who are not physically present at the scene of a crime should be held criminally accountable for failing to report specified violent offenses. Focusing on rape, police brutality, and other misconduct, this Article demonstrates that recent technological innovations create new opportunities and challenges to pursue justice and accountability. Such culpability centers on “Bad Samaritan laws”: statutes that impose a legal duty to assist others in peril through intervening directly (also known as “the duty to rescue”) or notifying authorities (also known as “the duty to report”). However, many of these antiquated laws arguably apply only to witnesses who are physically present, which limits their potential effectiveness today.

Not all virtual witnesses should be subject to liability. To consider which categories of actors may warrant criminal punishment, this Article introduces a novel typology of bystanders and upstanders in the digital age. This typology draws on an original case study of the first known sexual crime livestreamed in the United States by a third party, which more than 700 people viewed. Harnessing insights from that case study and other episodes, the Article recommends that legislators should modernize, refine, and proliferate Bad Samaritan laws and that law enforcement should enforce these statutes or leverage them to obtain witness testimony. To that end, the Article proposes a model duty-to-report statute that includes features such as applicability to virtual presence and reasoned exemptions for noncompliance….(More)”.

Looking to Learn from African Civic Tech Initiatives


About: “The African Civic Tech Case Studies is a project aimed at building and creatively disseminating an aggregation of African case studies on civic tech practices and lessons from various contexts with the aim of promoting sustainable urban development by providing a platform for peer learning and collaboration. The case studies were identified based on thematic areas that included: urbanisation and cities, partnerships with government, supporting livelihoods and entrepreneurship, strengthening voice and inclusion, food security, threats to democracy, gender issues and creative industries. The project identified a rich array of initiatives which all offer interesting insight into what the growing civic tech movement is offering and how.

Government Systems

We found that civic tech initiatives are steadily infused as tools to advance and shape governance systems across the continent. These tools range from mobile applications to web data portals responding to various issues such as corruption, food security, and women development to name just a few. A good example is Sema, an SMS chatbot that facilitates feedback about public institutions and public service delivery in Uganda.

Tracka is another great example, demonstrating how citizens are using technology to engage government. Tracka is a platform designed to enable citizens to follow up on government budgets and projects in their respective communities to enhance service delivery by the Nigerian government at all levels.

Voice and Inclusion

While these civic tech innovations responded to a variety of issues, innovations addressing voice and inclusion emerged prominently across the regions. The increasing demand for these citizen feedback platforms can be attributed to the lack of transparent citizen-government engagement in most of the African democracies. An example to this is Yogera, a tool from Uganda used to report service delivery issues with the aim of reaching out to government officials and giving a voice to the citizens. Odekro, a platform from Ghana, is another example that responds to voice and inclusion by informing and empowering Ghanaian citizens on the work of parliament through open data analysis. South Africa also has a similar civic engagement platform called GovChat that enables citizens to engage with their voted government officials.

It is important to note that not all civic tech in Africa is focused on government issues though; entrepreneurial exploits responding to the prominent agricultural sector in the continent were also occupying the civic tech space. Two great examples are Farmerline, an organisation helping West African farmers by connecting them to markets and financial institutions using their mobile app Mergdata, and in East Africa there is m-Omulimisa, an enterprise that leverages technology to improve access to agriculture related services for farmers….(More)”.

Civic Technologies: Research, Practice and Open Challenges


Paper by Pablo Aragon, Adriana Alvarado Garcia, Christopher A. Le Dantec, Claudia Flores-Saviaga, and Jorge Saldivar: “Over the last years, civic technology projects have emerged around the world to advance open government and community action. Although Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) communities have shown a growing interest in researching issues around civic technologies, yet most research still focuses on projects from the Global North. The goal of this workshop is, therefore, to advance CSCW research by raising awareness for the ongoing challenges and open questions around civic technology by bridging the gap between researchers and practitioners from different regions.

The workshop will be organized around three central topics: (1) discuss how the local context and infrastructure affect the design, implementation, adoption, and maintenance of civic technology; (2) identify key elements of the configuration of trust among government, citizenry, and local organizations and how these elements change depending on the sociopolitical context where community engagement takes place; (3) discover what methods and strategies are best suited for conducting research on civic technologies in different contexts. These core topics will be covered across sessions that will initiate in-depth discussions and, thereby, stimulate collaboration between the CSCW research community and practitioners of civic technologies from both Global North and South….(More)”.

The Politics of Social Media Manipulation


(Open Access) Book edited by Richard Rogers and Sabine Niederer: “Disinformation and so-called fake news are contemporary phenomena with rich histories. Disinformation, or the willful introduction of false information for the purposes of causing harm, recalls infamous foreign interference operations in national media systems. Outcries over fake news, or dubious stories with the trappings of news, have coincided with the introduction of new media technologies that disrupt the publication, distribution and consumption of news — from the so-called rumour-mongering broadsheets centuries ago to the blogosphere recently. Designating a news organization as fake, or <i>der Lügenpresse</i>, has a darker history, associated with authoritarian regimes or populist bombast diminishing the reputation of ‘elite media’ and the value of inconvenient truths. In a series of empirical studies, using digital methods and data journalism, the authors inquire into the extent to which social media have enabled the penetration of foreign disinformation operations, the widespread publication and spread of dubious content as well as extreme commentators with considerable followings attacking mainstream media as fake….(More)”

Google launches new tool to help cities stay cool


Article by Justine Calma: “Google unveiled a tool today that could help cities keep their residents cool by mapping out where trees are needed most. Cities tend to be warmer than surrounding areas because buildings and asphalt trap heat. An easy way to cool metropolitan areas down is to plant more trees in neighborhoods where they’re sparse.

Google’s new Tree Canopy Lab uses aerial imagery and Google’s AI to figure out where every tree is in a city. Tree Canopy Lab puts that information on an interactive map along with additional data on which neighborhoods are more densely populated and are more vulnerable to high temperatures. The hope is that planting new trees in these areas could help cities adapt to a warming world and save lives during heat waves.

Google piloted Tree Canopy Lab in Los Angeles. Data on hundreds more cities is on the way, the company says. City planners interested in using the tool in the future can reach out to Google through a form it posted along with today’s announcement.

“We’ll be able to really home in on where the best strategic investment will be in terms of addressing that urban heat,” says Rachel Malarich, Los Angeles’ first city forest officer.

Google claims that its new tool can save cities like Los Angeles time when it comes to taking inventory of their trees. That’s often done by sending people to survey each block. Los Angeles has also used LIDAR technology to map their urban forest in the past, which uses a laser sensor to detect the trees — but that process was expensive and slow, according to Malarich. Google’s new service, on the other hand, is free to use and will be updated regularly using images the company already takes by plane for Google Maps….(More)”.

unBail


About: “The criminal legal system is a maze of laws, language, and unwritten rules that lawyers are trained to maneuver to represent defendants.

However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 27% of county public defender’s offices meet national caseload recommendations for cases per attorney, meaning that most public defenders are overworked, leaving their clients underrepresented.

Defendants must complete an estimated 200 discrete tasks during their legal proceeding. This leaves them overwhelmed, lost, and profoundly disadvantaged while attempting to navigate the system….

We have… created a product that acts as the trusted advisor for defendants and their families as they navigate the criminal legal system. We aim to deliver valuable and relevant legal information (but not legal advice) to the user in plain language, empowering them to advocate for themselves and proactively plan for the future and access social services if necessary. The user is also encouraged to give feedback on their experience at each step of the process in the hope that this can be used to improve the system….(More)”

Cyber Republic


Book by George Zarkadakis: “Around the world, liberal democracies are in crisis. Citizens have lost faith in their government; right-wing nationalist movements frame the political debate. At the same time, economic inequality is increasing dramatically; digital technologies have created a new class of super-rich entrepreneurs. Automation threatens to transform the free economy into a zero-sum game in which capital wins and labor loses. But is this digital dystopia inevitable? In Cyber Republic, George Zarkadakis presents an alternative, outlining a plan for using technology to make liberal democracies more inclusive and the digital economy more equitable. Cyber Republic is no less than a guide for the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution and the post-pandemic world.

Zarkadakis, an expert on technology and management, explains how artificial intelligence, together with intelligent robotics, sophisticated sensors, communication networks, and big data, will fundamentally reshape the global economy; a new “intelligent machine age” will force us to adopt new forms of economic and political organization. He envisions a future liberal democracy in which intelligent machines facilitate citizen assemblies, helping to extend citizen rights, and blockchains and cryptoeconomics enable new forms of democratic governance and business collaboration. Moreover, the same technologies can be applied to scientific research and technological innovation. We need not fear automation, Zarkadakis argues; in a post-work future, intelligent machines can collaborate with humans to achieve the human goals of inclusivity and equality….(More)”.

Which Side of History?: How Technology Is Reshaping Democracy and Our Lives


Book by Common Sense: “…collection of essential essays, provocative perspectives, and calls to action that challenge the status quo, and that could—if we are willing to listen—redefine our relationship with technology….The onset of the coronavirus pandemic brought cascading crises and a deeper dependency on technology to keep us connected—but at a cost. We’re using tech for work, education, health care, essential services, and fun. That same technology is spreading misinformation and threatening free and open democracies. It’s widening the gap between rich and poor, taxing our emotional capacities and mental health, and creating social inequities by leaving behind those of us who are underserved and under-connected…(More)”.