Civic Tech Monthly, May 2015

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

As always we’d love to see you at the OpenAustralia Foundation Sydney Pub Meet next Tuesday if you’re in town.

If you’d like to help us out by passing this on, the sign up link is If you have any feedback or ideas please get in touch. We’re always keen to hear them.

News and Notes


¡Hola! to everyone over in Madrid for AlaveteliCon 2015. For the rest of us, we can check out all the fun they’ve been having at the conference on Freedom of Information technologies with #alaveteli15 on twitter. There’s lots of interesting news and links—we just learnt that by Ukrainian law FOI requests must be answered in 5 days! We’re looking forward to hearing more about what went down in the coming weeks.

“I find politics inaccessible”: User testing voter advice apps

Francis Irving, hacker on many great civic tech projects, takes 17 voter advice applications through some quick usability testing with a friend, in the lead up to the UK election. This is a great one for people building civic tech to get us to think hard about making relevant and useful tools.

Nouabook helps citizens communicate with Moroccan MPs through video

Nouabook launched in 2014 to help citizens and Moroccan MPs communicate directly in an open forum. Andrew G. Mandelbaum, one of the project founders, explains that many Moroccans use purely spoken language and don’t read, and that MPs often favour video over text based media. Responding to this context, the site now enables citizens to ask questions in video format.

This is another project built on the WriteIt Poplus component. It’s interesting to see how the project can adapt to citizen needs in different contexts. Hopefully these experiences can be used to improve the project for everyone.

re:publica: Europe’s biggest conference on internet and society

There are loads of fascinating presentations to watch from the re:public conference held in Berlin earlier this month. Sessions include deep discussion on security and human rights issues as well as philosophical interludes and practical application.

A year after Poplus was launched, the first million-user site, a project using the Popit and MapIt components, served over a million visitor in the lead up to the UK election. Because the code and data are open for reuse, it was also used as a data source in at least 20 other projects, including by Google. A huge congratulations to the Democracy Club team.

Join us at the CryptoParty in Sydney tomorrow evening

Giving citizens the means to protect their communications is an important part of empowering them to create the society they want. That’s why the OpenAustralia Foundation is a co-sponsor of the CryptoParty in Sydney tomorrow night hosted by Thoughtworks. Currently it looks like all seats are taken, but join up to the waiting list if you’re interested as space is sure to open up.

Sinar Project hosts online workshops in Openness, Freedom and civic tech development

Throughout May, Malaysia’s Sinar Project has hosted a series of online workshops on ‘Openness and Freedom’ to raise awareness in local communities. The final session on open government is on May 30th. You can watch the previous sessions on free culture and free and open source software and a supplementary session in two parts on the benefits of free software and collaborative software development. They’ve also hosted a live coding session to directly take a small group of developers through how Sinar Project uses MapIt and PopIt to connect people with their MPs.

Launch of Hong Kong’s first Freedom of Information portal

With the launch of people in Hong Kong can now easily make government information requests in the open. It’s powered by Alaveteli of course, the same open source software running Australia’s Right To Know.

Mixed Message in Australia’s Budget for Open Government

On the one hand, the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) has been given $100 million startup funding to make the Australian government’s front end a more rewarding experience for citizens. Going in the opposite direction, the government has not reinstated full funding to the Office of Australian Information Commissioner, effectively reducing the public’s ability to hold Government Agencies to account. Freedom of Information expert Peter Timmins describes the situation as “a step backward in the long journey towards transparent accountable government”.

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