Categories
Politics Projects & Ideas

What do they know

Some european democracies have transparency laws, usually called Freedom of Information laws, that force the public institutions to answer the questions citizens ask them about their work and the data they generate. Sometimes, though, the same public institutions make it difficult to make information requests, by obscuring the process or the possibility to do so.

What do they know is a website that allows citizens in the UK to browse through Freedom of Information requests and make their own to all british public institutions.

You choose the public authority that you would like information from, then write a brief note describing what you want to know. We then send your request to the public authority. Any response they make is automatically published on the website for you and anyone else to find and read.

Under Freedom of Information (FOI) law, they have to respond. The response will either contain the information you want, or give a valid legal reason why it must be kept confidential.

What do they know is an open source project made by the non for-profit organization mySociety, which has developed other projects on accountability of the public institutions, like FixMyStreet.

If you want to participate, you can contribute as a volunteer, either with time or money, to the project.

Categories
Education Intellectual Property Projects & Ideas

Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation is an english non-for-profit organization whose objective is to promote open knowledge, defined as:

Any content, information or data that people are free to use, re-use and redistribute — without any legal, technological or social restriction. The main principles are:

  1. Free and open access to the material
  2. Freedom to redistribute the material
  3. Freedom to reuse the material
  4. No restriction of the above based on who someone is (e.g. their nationality) or their field of endeavour (e.g. commercial or non-commercial)

The main purpose seems to be to apply to culture and knowledge the same principles that were developed for free and open source software. To achieve their objectives they work on several projects, a couple of which revolve around the idea of open data and open government too. Some of their projects are:

If you want to participate, they are very open to suggestions, proposals for new projects and, of course, donations. You can also take a look at the tasks list on their wiki.

Categories
Politics Projects & Ideas

Parlio

Parlamentary political activity usually has two sides in the modern democracies of the west. On the first side, you get the visual, staged dramatization, ready for night news consumption, of the debates and arguments between the most prominent political representatives. On the other, there are all the bureocracy rituals, anchored in the nineteenth century foundation of this particular way of embodying political action.

Making this rituals of power more understandable for citizens, quantifying them and exposing lazyness and contradictions of politicians are some of the objectives of Parlio. They focus their activity on the Basque Parliament, the legislative body of the Basque Country autonomous community of Spain. In their own words:

We take the data from the Basque Parliament’s official site and we bring it to the people in a much more user friendly way, so we can really know what the politicians are doing… and what they are not.

However, as usual in public service websites in Spain, where there is no access to information law (the largest EU country without that law, according to Access-Info), the data in the Basque Parliament official website is not provided in a standard format and is not easily re-usable by third parties. Parlio, then, has also the secondary function of translating that data to structured formats, where mashups and other web 2.0 magic trickery takes place. The ruby module that scraps the content out of the Basque Parliament website is avaliable here with a MIT license, so you can, too gather the data for your own purposes. It seems that the whole Parlio website, also in Ruby, will be open sourced at some point. The whole Parlio website has been also open sourced (updated 7.12.09).

In fact, Parlio is funded by Pro Bono Publico, a spanish open association that promotes the use of free and open standards, data and technological platforms in the public institutions. They are looking for designers and developers with any level of expertise to help them shape other projects around public institutions and transparency.

This project was submitted through the front page form by Ana Malagon, one of the developers of Parlio.

Categories
Economy Politics Projects & Ideas

Follow the money

You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the fuck it’s gonna take you.
Detective Lester Freamon.

The European Union is one of the most cryptic and opaque political insitutions, much more than some of the governments and states that is comprised of. That opacity includes the European Union budget, its subsidies, and how and to whom this money is distributed, which is very hard for citizens to understand.

Some journalists, transparency NGOs and analysts have started Follow The Money, to shed some light in the way money is spent and given by european institutions. This site builds upon the work of farmsubsidy.org, which used laws of access to information and new transparency rules on financial regulation in the EU to report on who was getting the farm subsidies money.

FollowTheMoney.eu aims to make it easier for European citizens to understand the EU budget: how it gets decided, where the money comes from and how it is spent. FollowTheMoney.eu comes from journalists, researchers and activists who want to make the European Union work in a more transparent and accountable way.

The team has released a companion to farmsubsidy.org, called fishsubsidy.org. This time, obviously, the focus is on money granted to fishing industries.

You can find issues where some action is needed, as well as events to attend and participate in the front page of Follow The Money. If you are really into transparency and budgetting and want to get involved with this project, you can find more about becoming part of the team in the about page.

This project was found via Furilo.

Categories
News & Media Projects & Ideas

Knowmore.org

Knowmore.org is a site that gathers information on corporations and their products, in order for people to have better and informed choices.

We are a grassroots, web-based community dedicated to chronicling and resisting corporate attacks on democracy, worker’s and human rights, fair trade, business ethics and the environment. Our shared goal of a more informed and conscious consumer is being accomplished via this website: a vast database of easily searchable corporate and political info designed to aid responsible citizens, progressive thinkers and activists.

Ethical Consumerism is an important movement toward corporate reform, through which individuals recognize their own role in systems of oppression, and take personal steps toward resistance and positive change.

They site rates the performance of a company in five different areas or issues: workers’ rights, human rights, environment, political influence and business ethics.  Knowmore was conceived and founded by independent hip hop artists B. Dolan and Sage Francis.

Find how you can participate in this project.