Sunday, August 27, 2006

Government -- and extreme poverty. How are we doing?

I saw the following post on Atlantic Review

Foreign Policy Magazine writes:
Each year the Center for Global Development and FOREIGN POLICY look past the rhetoric to measure how rich-country governments are helping or hurting poor countries. How much aid are they giving? How high are their trade barriers against imports such as cotton from Mali or sugar from Brazil? Are they working to slow global warming? Are they making the world’s sea lanes safe for global trade?
The Netherlands wins this year's competition, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Germany ranks at the 9th place and the United States at the 13th. Japan lost again.
British Times two months ago, that little has improved since last year's G8 summit on Africa and the Make Poverty History campaign due to leadership failures and aid cuts:
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, is to chair an international group set up by Tony Blair to monitor pledges made to help Africa at last year’s G8 summit, the Prime Minister will announce today. Bob Geldof, the Live8 organiser, and President Obasanjo of Nigeria will also be on the Africa Progress Panel, which will be funded by Bill Gates.
The Atlantic Review wrote about the magnitude of poverty and a popular myth:
Around 29,000 under-fives die every day from causes that are easily prevented, such as diarrhoeal dehydration, acute respiratory infections, measles and malaria. According to a poll, most Americans believe that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

YouTube and UK E-Government

From Information Policy

Public service videos not quite as funny as other content... By Will Sturgeon

The UK government - long accused of being backwards on understanding tech issues - has come careering into the 21st century with a strategy that will see it use video-sharing sensation YouTube to spread public service messages.

However, while the government appears to understand the potential of the YouTube medium, its first two video offerings suggest it still has a way to go to make the content appealing. We don't expect the videos to surge to the top of the popularity chart just yet.

But the fact the government is embracing such channels at all is a sign of great progress, according to a Cabinet Office statement, which hailed the move as evidence the government is keeping pace with current consumer trends and "always looking at new ways to reach people with the things that they need to know".

Ian Dunmore, director of independent e-government body Public Sector Forums, branded the scheme a world first and said: "It's a ground-breaking move and one other governments might well follow.

"However, we don't expect the videos to surge to the top of the popularity chart just yet."

And he'd be right to manage people's expectations in that way.

At the time of writing one of the videos, entitled 'Sharing the Leadership Channel', had been viewed just 98 times - possibly a reflection of what viewers may consider a rather dry and dull format.

A second, video on 'Transformational government' appears to have enjoyed greater success following efforts to engage the viewers with something a little lighter and more visually stimulating.,39024667,39161665,00.htm

Monday, August 21, 2006

A New Approach to Property Assessment

The New York Times published a story about a new approach to real property tax assessment in Philadelphia. It poses a lot of questions -- but it shows how technology can be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of regular property re-assessments.

Read on...

and-- check out Pictometry (the provider used by Philadelphia) to see how it works.

Solar Power - and Energy 2.0

Here's a great post from O'Reilly Radar

In a conversation the other day, Ed Kummer of Disney made a really thought-provoking observation: the spread of solar energy units to homes and businesses is an analog to other forms of user-generated content, and the overall trend towards a two-way network. While it's possible to set up a solar system completely off the grid, most of the new customers feed power into the grid during sunlight hours, and draw from it when the daylight wanes. If we move to a solar power economy, it will be much more distributed and cooperative than the current one-way model.

It's fabulous to put the internet and Web 2.0 into a broader context, and to think about how the new network economics that we're seeing on the internet may be adopted in other fields. With VoIP, we're seeing the internet subsume the telephone network. With distributed solar, and the kinds of distributed energy monitoring technology that Adam wrote about the other day, will the internet model also colonize the power grid?

Hmmm... What was I saying about the internet as the network of networks?

Friday, August 18, 2006

What is Web 2.0

Thanks to a comment from Kelly --

Here is a great article and discussion about what web 2.0 really means.

Check it out, and tell us if you've found a government site that could be called 2.0.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Google Earth and Emergency Aid

Google Earth and Emergency Aid Permalink
By tim on August 16, 2006

According to an entry on, Google Earth just played a role in helping to target air drops of relief supplies in Gujarat, which was hit with serious flooding. The entry cites an Ahmedabad newspaper:

If [officials] could have struck upon this idea before, it would have helped many more people as carpet air-dropping of aid leads to lots of wastage. Using this tool, it was easy to identify buildings and other landmarks.

Sometimes people complain that Web 2.0 is just a consumer internet thing. But stories like this remind us that the increased intelligence available to ordinary people can have worldchanging consequences. In this particular case, it was two ordinary people who persuaded the air force to use Google Earth to better target their aid and rescue efforts.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Assessing Government's Response to Katrina

From Erik Bergrud at ICCE

GulfGov Reports

Based on data and information collected by a network of field researchers, a three-year study initiated by the Ford Foundation called “GulfGov Reports” assesses what happened to communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama after the devastating 2005 Katrina and Rita hurricanes.

The GulfGov Reports web site is hosted by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York, in conjunction with the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Wikipedia: The Hive

Marshall Poe published a great review of the Wikipedia project in the September Atlantic Monthly.

Wikipedia was built on assumptions that: 1) people are pre-disposed to collaborate and contribute to public good; and 2) you can facilitate these pre-dispositions by creating an open, trusting environment. Poe's article represents an assessment of the growth (and sustainablilty) of Wikipedia project.

Are the key assumptions valid? If adopted, how would these assumptions affect governance?