Civic Tech Monthly, March 2015

Welcome to the second edition of Civic Tech Monthly, our selection of what’s new and interesting in the last month of Civic Tech in Australia and around the world.

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News & Notes

Update on the fate of the Office of Australian Information Commissioner

Peter Timmins has published an update on whether or not the OAIC, the independent Federal office overseeing Freedom of Information, Privacy and information policy, will be abolished. This follows discussions at Senate Estimates in late February.

New inequality data by location on KnowYourPlace

Rosie Williams reflects on World Open Data Day and announces the new inequality data on KnowYourPlace in the always interesting Croaky Heath Blog. Rosie spoke about working on this project in our interview last month.

Quickly find video of speeches in Parliament

Some exciting news about the Federal Parliamentary website. You can now quickly find the video footage for speeches in Federal Parliament. Hansard now has a link to ‘Watch ParlView Video’ next to each transcript. It appears that only speeches since the start of 2014 have this feature so far.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have this on as well?

A local They Vote For You for Redlands, QLD

Residents of Redlands, Queensland are pushing for greater transparency in local council voting. Redlands 2030, a community group publishing civic information and news for Redland locals, present a case for open local democracy and explain their council’s current position. They collated all the votes of the current councillors and are now looking for help to publish them in a more accessible form.

Help open the NSW register of MP interests

Nick Evershed and The Guardian’s datablog are enticing their NSW readers to help investigate the state’s register of pecuniary interests. They’re using technology to crowdsource transcriptions , changing the form in which this data is available to the public, to one which is open to search, scrutiny and analysis. Neither parliament nor politicians have previously shown any interest in making this data accessible and usable.

This is another exciting development following January’s #nswvotes meetup!

This nifty combination of citizens, journalists and technology fundamentally changes the power balance. It’s a blend of political story, instruction, motivation and invitation to act.

Sobanukirwa launched in Rwanda

Rwandans can now request government information through Sobanukirwa. This is the 19th international deployment of Alaveteli, the software also running Australia’s Right To Know. There’s one partially successfully request so far, for the “Health care location details for facilities in Rwanda”.

UK Parliament Digital Democracy report

The UK Parliament’s Digital Democracy Commission released Open up!, a report into how “Parliament could use digital technology to work more effectively and in a way that people expect in the modern world”. The presentation of the report is a device agnostic website with lots of video and illustration. Check out the opening Key targets and recommendations.

Changes to our PlanningAlerts API

PlanningAlerts is introducing API keys for all users of the PlanningAlerts API. From the 1st of June 2015 it will become mandatory to use an API key. Never fear, it’s easy to get started. The blog post contains the instructions you need.

Scrape javascript heavy sites using

Matthew from the OpenAustralia Foundation came up against some tricky anti-scraping technology this month (which is additionally a big accessibility problem). To overcome these blockers he added PhantomJS support to Now everyone can scrape javascript heavy sites, and get more structured data from the web. Go forth and scrape!

The Poplus Component Integration toolkit

Associazione Openpolis (Italy) have launched an early version of Poplus Component Integration Toolkit to help python developers mash up data from different Poplus components. The project received a Poplus Grant in 2014.

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