Civic Tech Monthly, April 2015

Welcome to the third edition of Civic Tech Monthly. Below you’ll find news and notes about civic tech from Australia and around the world.

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As always a special reminder for readers in Sydney: don’t forget to sign up for the OpenAustralia Foundation Sydney Pub Meet next Tuesday. We’d love to see you there.

News and Notes

The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference 2015

mySociety hosted the first international conference on research and civic tech in March. The event focused on how we can measure the impact of civic tech, what the current research is telling us and how civic hackers can improve their projects with research. Check out the videos, slides and other resources.

Luke from the OpenAustralia Foundation team went over and gave a workshop on some of the questions that small developer teams have approaching research. Luke wrote up a blog post with some of his take-aways.

1000 entries to the Knight News Challenge

The Knight News Challenge offers journalism, media and civic engagement projects a share in $3 million to realise their proposals. The latest challenge asks “How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections?” Entries have closed but there are loads of interesting ideas to inspire a project of your own.

Members of the Poplus Federation proposed a 6 country partnership to extend YouNextMP to Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Scotland, and Minnesota. There’s also an entry in the top 45 to create ElectionLeaflets.org International, which mentions our very own ElectionLeaflets.org.au.

Right To Know is now in the ACT and on your phone

This month we’ve been making big improvements to our Freedom of Information project, Right To Know. So far you’ve only been able to request information from the Federal Government but now you’re also able to request information from the ACT Government using Right to Know. We’ve also made big changes to the design of the project so that it’s much more usable from mobiles. It should be much easier to read request exchanges and even make requests no matter what device you use.

Al Jazeera doco on civic tech and DIY open science

A 15 minute documentary about citizens in Louisiana, US getting together to collect the evidence of their environment’s health using open source tools. It’s a great example of using tech to support civic action and how simple tools can be shared and reused in different situations. In the piece you see community workshops where people make tools, collect data and discuss what they plan to do with it.

NSW Pecuniary Interest Register now transcribed and searchable

It’s popped up in every edition so far, but the efforts to improve access to NSW MP’s register of interests just keep on coming. The Guardian’s call for their readers to help transcribe the register has been answered! Nick Evershed and Todd Moore have now published the results for download and access online. Well done and thanks to everyone who got involved in the project, particularly at our #nswvotes Pub Meet where the idea emerged.

Not Just For Folks Who Code

Kate Garklavs shares reasons and ideas to get people who don’t code involved in civic hacking events. One of the highlights of our 2014 They Vote For You Hackfest was the advice of Parliamentary staff who attended and explained the path of bills through parliament.

If you’re someone who would like to be involved in civic tech projects but doesn’t code and you’re in Sydney, we’d love to see you at our monthly pub meet.

Does the data make a difference?

Working on civic tech projects often involves working with government datasets of varying quality—if you can even find them. In this post Rosie Williams details the usefulness of different datasets she’s been working with around the distribution of funding to community groups.

Free lesson plans for civic tech and citizenship in schools

The UK’s Citizenship Foundation and mySociety have twelve lesson plans for you, including interactive activities, worksheets and background materials. The lessons aim to explain why and how students should take an active role in democracy, and how they can use civic tech tools as one way to get involved.

Americans’ Views on Open Government Data

Pew Research Center have published the “first national survey that seeks to benchmark public sentiment about the government initiatives that use data to cultivate the public square.” The report covers a range of questions on how citizens think about government data including whether they think it will improve services or accountability. Peter Timmins asked if research like this is being done in Australia? Is it being done anywhere else in the world?

Fantasy Frontbench

A different perspective on exploring the positions and backgrounds of MPs developed in the lead up to the UK election. Fantasy Frontbench uses data from They Work For You and Public Whip. We’d love to see someone adapt their site to work with OpenAustralia.org.au and They Vote For You in Australia.

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