June 23rd saw the soft launch of an innovative new tool that uses a Poplus Component as an integral part. It’s called Nouabook.ma and allows constituents in Morocco to contact their elected representatives, either through the website or while logged in to Facebook.
Nouabook is built on top of the WriteIt Poplus Component developed by Ciudadano Inteligente and connects into Facebook, one of the most used websites in Morocco. The group behind the site are SimSim-Participation Citoyenne and developer Tarik Nesh-Nash.
This is an exciting time for the whole Poplus network. The community has been going from strength to strength since the conference in April, and this tool, the first built by an external group using a Poplus Component, is a real sign that it is beginning to spread its wings.
And of course, because all Poplus Components are open-source, Nouabook is available for any other group to use! An exciting prospect as social media is such an important tool for communication in today’s society.
How did this project come about?
To decide the right approach, SimSim and Tarik conducted surveys of citizens throughout Morocco to find out how many had ever contacted their representatives. The results showed that of 80 respondents, 81% had never written to their representative. Yet 73% said that if it was easier to get in touch, they would be more likely to contact their representative, on issues ranging from public transport to security at Moroccan universities.
Couple this thirst for communication with the fact that Facebook is one of the most popular websites in Morocco , and the idea for Nouabook.ma was born.
Nouabook.ma (meaning “Your Deputies” in Moroccan Arabic, but also a reference to the well known Facebook) allows users to find their representative, read a profile on them including their roles and responsibilities, and see their activity in Parliament. Most crucially, it also allows users to publicly put questions directly to their representatives, who can respond equally publicly on the site. A user can submit a question either by filling in a short form, or uploading a short video. Other users can vote on their questions, meaning the representative can quickly see which questions are most important for their constituents and prioritise their answers. For those who have authorised it, the question is posted automatically to their Facebook page. By enabling users to easily share questions and responses on their own timeline, this helps to spread information beyond the boundaries of the original Nouabook.ma site.
The site is currently in Beta and a small group of very engaged hand-picked representatives have signed up for the site. Of these, there are 4 or 5 who are already getting very involved answering questions, which is a huge success for the site. Once the pilot phase is over, the hope is to extend the platform to cover the whole Moroccan Parliament, so keep your eyes peeled for news come the next Parliamentary session in October.
So far the site is only in French, but if you read French and want to give some feedback there’s a short form here which will help the team with their next stage of development. The site will soon be in Arabic as well.
Tablet Picture by ebayink courtesy of Flickr and the creative commons license.
On Wednesday we had our first community virtual hangout for Alaveteli. The idea of a drop-in virtual meeting was inspired by meeting community members in person over the last few months.
Louise visited AskTheEU in Madrid and mySociety’s International Team spent time with community members from Australia, Spain, Canada and many other countries at Transparency Camp. Henare’s session with David Cabo and Michael Morisy from MuckRock on FOIA at Transparency Camp provided an inspirational opportunity to talk more with the people running Alaveteli sites.
We wanted to have a regular time where we could share experiences of running FOI sites in general and installing the Alaveteli software in particular. Though everyone that joined was running an Alaveteli install, we’d love for people interested in running a site or who already run a site using different software to join future hangouts! Your experiences could shed light on issues that people might be having, and vice versa.
It was great to learn from groups in Romania, Canada, Norway, Australia and New Zealand. We had representatives from three new or fairly new installs as well as sites like Right To Know and FYI.Nz which have been running for a couple of years, each with their own stories of success and pinch points where things have been more difficult.
What did we learn?
First off, we have a great, open community that’s happy to discuss problems, suggest solutions and speak about what it’s like to run an FOI site in their countries. So thank you for that!
Despite differences in laws across the world, people do face similar issues in driving awareness of FOI and FOIA sites. People share ideas for positioning FOI sites came up such as using them to investigate specific issues that are current and getting a lot of press. For example the issue of detention logs in Australia (which you can see more of here and here) helped Right To Know raise more awareness of both the FOI law and the site. According to Henare:
“The news buzz made people realise they had FOI rights, which isn’t general knowledge in Australia. They started thinking “oh, I could put in a request about X””
The next hangout will be in around a month and we’re going to set an agenda to talk about different ways to increase usage and awareness of FOI sites, what has worked, and what hasn’t. All details will be posted on the google group, please join if you want to attend!
We also got some great feedback on places where we can support people launching and running an Alaveteli install – by making it easier to make a complete set of translations for a particular release of the software, and by making the process of upgrading to a new version easier in general. All this input is really useful to us, especially as we’re currently updating the documentation on Alaveteli.org to make it easier to get started.
Finally we touched on the alaveteli-users google group as a place where people can share their issues, stories and successes, and get input from other FOI practitioners. It’s useful for tapping into the expertise of teams in other timezones! This seemed like a pretty decent plan when it was mentioned, do let us know what you think!
Last week mySociety turned 10! And to start this blog we want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who sent photos, tweets and emails with birthday messages.
[iframe src=”https://www.mysociety.org/files/2013/12/happybirthday.html?” width=”100%” height=”300″]
With no further ado here are a selection of your lovely smiling faces. (There were a few of you so please check out all the pictures are on Flickr !!)
The team from KuvakaZim 🙂
The e-democracy.org team!
Hindol from WhyPoll
Daniel and Fabrizio from DATAuy
And all the rest of you. We appreciate your messages so very much.
As the last round up of the year, over the past month we’ve seen the launch of KuvakaZim, we’ve almost completed a Pombola site for South Africa and Alaveteli for Uganda (Launch is due for both of these sites in January). There are also versions of Alaveteli being worked on in Italy, Macedonia, Croatia and Bulgaria which are working towards launch in the first half of next year, so it’s been pretty busy.
As a side note Uganda have entered the AskYourGov site into the Making All Voices Count global innovation competition if you’re interested in taking a look and voting!
In FixMyStreet news, the team from DATAuy are also working with the local government in Montevideo on a FixMyStreet for Uruguay. We’re really excited to see this working because they’re also looking at mobilising the local offline communities. It will be a really interesting experiment and I can’t wait to see the site up and running.
Finally I wanted to say Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Frohliche Weihnachten, Sretan Bozic, Buon Natale and
أتمنى لكم عيد ميلاد مجيد
Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you get to spend some time with the people you love this holiday season! Happy Holidays!
Transparency, accountability and open government are huge themes for African citizens as the number of internet and mobile phone users jump up across the continent. People are connecting and realising that the internet provides them with a quick and easy way to engage with politics, be that via social media or citizen engagement websites.
One group have just launched a parliamentary monitoring platform for Zimbabwe using our Pombola platform. We helped them with the original set up, some small technical issues and some general platform advice, but KuvakaZim has only gotten to launch due to the huge dedication and work of its founders, Regina and Peter.
“The KuvakaZim project was born from a general concern regarding the accountability and activities of Zimbabwean Members of parliament and their duties in regard of their representative role,” Regina Dumba, lead volunteer of the project, tells the world in her press release.
“Many articles, books and studies have explored the issue of good governance in African countries and how it relates to transparency, accountability, and Government performance. Knowing the causes and effects of these plights, we believe it is now time for action in Africa and in Zimbabwe. Until we start putting words into action, only then can we rebuild our country.” She continues on the KuvakaZim blog.
Creating the site.
Regina, Cleopatra and Peter, who has been volunteering technical skills for the project, contacted mySociety in July after being inspired by Kenya’s Mzalendo. Since then they have been working tirelessly to gather MP data and information on constitutional rights, how democracy works in Zimbabwe, electoral law and political parties. The site now allows Zimbabweans to learn more about how their government works, as well as the duties of their MP and whether they are carrying these out. This has been especially timely because of the recent elections on July 31, 2013.
That’s not to say that the site has got to this stage without any hitches however..
It’s been difficult to find official boundary data for Zimbabwe, which means we haven’t yet managed to load an MP look up onto the site. The hope is that this will come in the future, along with other features such as Hansard and the potential to write to your politician.
Despite this the team have managed to gain some on the ground volunteer support and launch the site this week. If you want to learn more about KuvakaZim the check out their blog and their twitter stream. We’ll be following their progress too!
Image credits: Patola Connection by Whologwhy | Hands up by Pim Geerts | Bend in the Road by Andrew Ashton | All Creative Commons licensed photographs. Thank you for making your content creative commons.
11 months ago we put up a post offering free development time for people wanting to reuse our software.
Since then we’ve had loads of responses and helped a few dozen people take their first steps. But this week, in a short and succinct post, I wanted to remind you that this offer still stands.
There are some caveats.
In order to qualify, you must be a group or an individual who can show us that you have a desire to run online civic and democratic projects like FixMyStreet or WhatDoTheyKnow in the long term, and that you have access to some kind of web developer skills. You can be anywhere in the world bar the USA (apologies US people, our funding won’t cover your country 🙁 ).
What does commitment mean? Nothing impossible, but to make a project successful you will need a few things:
You need long-lasting enthusiasm. We’ll be looking to make sure that you understand the ongoing time and energy commitments a project like this will involve. The technical set up may be easy, but there is a lot of data that needs to be collected. There’s also awareness raising, user support and general love for the site that you’ll need to keep things going. Things start slowly…You have to give them attention to drive usage!
You may need access to a web developer – at least sometimes. While these kinds of sites do, to some extent, run themselves, some work will always be necessary to keep them running smoothly. And while our developers will help you get your site off the ground, you will need your own developer too, both at set-up, and as the site continues to run.
If you don’t have access to a developer, or you’re an NGO that’s doing a wider project of which this could be a small part. We’re also happy to talk to you to see if we can still help! Either way, just fill in this form to get in touch and give us some information about your project!
Image credit: Building by bartb_pt from Flickr under the creative commons licence.
Though mySociety does not have a specific focus on women’s education our websites are still powerful tools for learning. Education doesn’t just take place in the classroom. Nor does it stop when you leave school, college or university. Websites like Mzalendo in Kenya help educate people about their politicians. They provide information about what their representatives have said in Parliament, about their political and work experience. This information can help Kenyan citizens to hold their elected representatives to account, and to understand more about the decisions that affect their lives.
Alaveteli is perhaps an even stronger example of this. Visiting an alaveteli website not only allows you to request information, it allows you to search through information others have requested and learn from it, potentially about topics you were unaware of before. We know that in the UK each request on WhatDoTheyKnow is read by an average of 20 people. And by having that information available publicly and allowing people to educate themselves about the actions of their government, it is easier for citizens to hold those in power to account.
It seems like a FixMyStreet site might not have a connection to education. But we think it does! At the most obvious level, FixMyStreet provides councils with information. They learn where problems are in their area and gain a deeper understanding of the issues that concern their citizens. This flow of information is not just one way though. Residents that use the site suddenly find they can take ownership of the problems in their local area, and get them resolved. At times, governments – local or national – can appear to be vast and distant. By using something like FixMyStreet residents can begin to see the practical role they can play in improving their own lives. This is a very important thing to learn.
Our sites are being set up and used by people of every gender, all over the world. This is an amazing thing and one we wholly support. Access to tools for learning should not be restricted dependent on race, class, gender, religion or ethnicity. The opportunity to learn should be open to all.
The world knows Malala Yousafzai. General Ban Ki Moon said it best when he said “When the Taliban shot Malala, they showed what they feared most: a girl with a book.” Because information and education give women, and everyone else in the world, the knowledge to stand up and say “This is not right.”, to make their lives better and to take a stand for a more open, free society.
That’s one of the reasons we create the websites we create, to help people educate themselves to gain knowledge and skills which can start the process of making their societies more open, transparent and participative.
Happy International day of the Girl.
The International team are taking over a Wednesday mySociety meet up!
As you know, there is a large OGP event happening in London at the end of October. There are also a number of fringe events happening, some of which we’ll be attending, and one of which we’ll be running!
Every Wednesday mySociety holds a meet up at the Mozilla Space in London. On the evening of October 30th we are hosting a slightly larger event and want to invite anyone who is in town for OGP as well as anyone who wants to attend from London or the UK.
As always we’ll provide Pizza and Beer, as well as a range of other snacks and nibbles. We’d love it if anyone wanted to do a short lightening talk about something they’re working on. This would be really informal, no presentations, just a quick, snappy “Here’s my project, here’s why I think it’s important, here’s how you can get involved.” If that interests you, please email me at email@example.com so I know you’ll be there and be talking.
Most of all we want to meet more people from all over the world working on different projects around open data, civic engagement, social inclusion, transparency and accountability and other such topics.
We’ll be there from 6pm to 9pm, though the Mozilla space is open to anyone working on an “open project” – anything open source, open data etc – from 2:30pm. If you’re not going to be available until later in the evening, never fear! We’ll head to The Chandos, a pub just down the road, from 9pm onwards.
This is one of many events that is a part of Global Transparency Week, please do check out what else is going on!
Hope to see you there!
September 28th is International Right to Know Day. 11 years ago a number of international Freedom of Information organisations and activists came together in Bulgaria and created the FOI Advocates Network. This network works to promote peoples’ right to access to information and open and transparent governance, and as a focus for the campaign on Right to Information, September 28th was named International Right to Know day.
Humans are a fairly sociable species, large numbers of us interact and share information on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, Instagram on a daily basis. Before the advent of the internet we shared information through SMS, phone calls and before that, through letters and face-to-face conversations. We share ideas through books, lessons and discussions. Access to information is important because it facilitates this freedom of expression and sharing.
Information is important. It allows us to make good decisions based on what we know or have found out. If that access to information is blocked, decisions people make will be faulty because they simply cannot know all the facts. For example, if you didn’t have access to information on how the current government was implementing their promises, how could you make a good decision on whether to vote for them come the next election?
Access to information is also important for educating people and helping them improve their own lives. TuDerechoASaber.es is a great example of a group of people creating a platform with the aim to make information accessible to the general public. Though there is no Right To Information law in Spain, it hasn’t stopped David Cabo curating a successful site. The beauty of which is that there is a record of every time the government refuses to reply. The hope is that this will eventually spur a change in the law, while educating people about their rights and helping them improve their knowledge.
Finally, without information being shared, would there have been revolution in the Arab world? When people have access to information about the situation in other countries, they are more likely to stand up and do something. Be that standing up to help people somewhere else, or standing up to change something where they are.
There will be a number of events happening around the world to celebrate International Right to Know Day. The Philippines are having a social media and in person event called #LightUp4FOI, lighting candles in front of their House of Representatives in Manila “to symbolise (their) desire to have a government where information is illuminated and made accessible to all citizens”. The hope is that this will help push through an FOI bill in the Philippines. In Ukraine, a local NGO are screening a documentary about the road to the 2011 Access to Information Law called Open Access. In Liberia the FOI Network has organised a parade through the streets of Fishtown City followed by a radio talk show then a CSO vs Government Officials football match. You can find information about these events, and more, on this google map.
Whatever you are doing, Happy Right to Know day!
As I mentioned on my last blog Dave and I spent this week in Geneva at OKCon.
This was my first time at OKCon and it was great to see a number of familiar faces from both OGP events and AbreLatAm. Though this was definitely a conference, unlike the Latin American unconference, there was still that feeling of being able to walk up to people and easily start chatting about the projects you’re working on. I’ve been inspired by New Zealand (and their idea of open government data as the new “business as usual”), awed by UNHCR (with their open data for humanitarian crises) and discussed the risks of people getting involved in tech for transparency movements in closed countries.
One session we attended was hosted by Code For Europe. It’s an organisation based on the Code for America example and we listened with interest to their approach, and defense when asked questions by skeptics. Their main challenge to the workshop attendees? Instead of trying to solve a huge national level problem and failing thanks to government bureaucracy, find one Civil Servant or MP that has a great idea and work with them. And in fact, some of mySociety’s best known platforms were started before we had any buy-in from the government, but knowing we had support from a few key people.
We made some great new friends, and caught up with DATAuy. Dave helped them set up FixMyStreet for Montevideo right there at the conference. This was a pretty amazing moment for us because it proved that the platforms, especially the Amazon EC2 hosted ones, really can be set up in less than a day! Don’t forget Dave is working on improving the documentation for this so if you are setting it up, please do fill in our survey.
For me, the most inspiring talk came from Jay Naidoo. He spoke about young people using technology and the internet to fight corruption as digital warriors bringing a “tsunami of hope”. The dream is that these young people can get information into the hands of the communities that can use it to hold their leaders to account. The ideal would be that we create a world free of corruption, where aid money and NGO initiatives get to those that need it most, and moreover that once it arrives, people understand how and why to use it – all because they have access to that information. You can read his blog about the talk here.
The next big event we’ll be at is OGP in London at the end of October, though we’re hoping to speak at some of the surrounding events as part of Transparency Week. Please do get in touch with us if you’re coming to OGP and want to meet up! We’d love to see you! Plus, you could join our Meet up on the 30th October and meet some mySociety staff!
OKCon main room photo by Arnaud Velten | Other photos by Jen
In a break from tradition, I’m going to start this blog with an appeal.
We on the international team at mySociety are trying to improve the install process and documentation for all of our internationalised websites. Since we built the original sites, we’re not the best people to ask on what needs to be improved, as I’m sure you understand. If you’re interested in helping us out doing this I’ve created two surveys, you’ll find them at the end of this post! Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can ask you a few questions. On to other exciting things…
In site news we are working on Alaveteli sites for Uganda and Italy. Both of these should be finished and ready for launch soon, thanks to our developers and of course our partners for showing interest.
We’ve also been helping set up a FixMyStreet site in Cape Verde and a demo FixMyStreet site for Whypoll in India. While these two sites are being installed on mySociety’s servers, three people from Singapore and two people from South Africa are also working on FixMyStreet for their countries, as self installs.
And in Pombola news we are helping with websites in South Africa, Zimbabwe and are hoping to work with a team in Malawi.
But these are just the most recent sites! People are working on sites in Uruguay, Bosnia, Croatia, Italy and a number of other countries. Follow our twitter @mysocietyintl to find out more.
We’d love to help you set up your own site, or just give you advice on why sites like these can be useful. Send me an email at email@example.com to find out how!
15th to 19th September – OKCon, Geneva (Jen and Dave)
27th to 28th September – OverTheAir, Bletchley Park (Dave)
30th Sept to 3rd October – African Entrepreneurship Summit, Mauritius (Paul)
25th to 27th October – Mozfest, London (Dave)
30th October to 1st November – OGP London (Paul and Jen)
27th to 29th November – World Forum for Democracy, Strasbourg (Jen)
Please do drop by and say hello!
By the way, if you are hosting a conference and want us to come along and speak (for free! We don’t charge, and a lot of the time we try to pay our own way!) please drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org . We love to connect with new people and would be delighted to be involved!
One more thing, as a p.s. Hopefully these “What we’ve been up to” updates will soon come to you in video format! Be kind to me if the first one is awkward!