The hope and promise of technology to improve governance was on display at last week’s Personal Democracy Forum 2010. So too were the technologies created to make those hopes a reality. Some were not yet in beta, others had been in use for over a year; some had official presentations, others were mentioned as asides. Here is a rundown of the applications that were discussed.
Cited in the “Digital Divide” panel, Frontline SMS was described as “mobile phones to save the world, used for sending pictures of diseases to doctors far away…”
From the site: FrontlineSMS is the complete text messaging solution for the non-profit sector. FrontlineSMS turns a laptop – or desktop – computer and a mobile phone or modem into a two-way group messaging hub. Since it works anywhere there’s a mobile signal, it doesn’t need the Internet, a major advantage for many grassroots NGOs. Once you have the software running on your computer, you can send messages to wide groups of people, and collect responses to any questions or surveys you might want to run, all via text message.
Lets people schedule associated Meetups all over the world for free. Create a topic you’d like to meet up about, and everyone else around the world can either join you or schedule their own Meetup on that topic. Message boards and tweets allow you to discuss scheduling with other interested parties. Examples:
Huff Post Green fans scheduled 329 Meetups all over the world to brainstorm ideas for fixing the BP oil spill
- HuffPostGreen – 329 Meetups around the country have been scheduled to brainstorm ideas for fixing the BP oil spill June 8, after the Huffington Post putu up the idea on Meetup Everywhere.
- Shakira – Fans have organized 89 flash mobs around the world to dance Shakira’s Waka Waka dance in support of 1GOAL: Education for All.
- NY Road Runners – 61 groups in 5 continents are using Meetup Everythere to find each other and train together before coming to NYC for the Marathon.
Citizens around the world report non-emergency issues; civil servants who monitor the feed can get them fixed. You can even generate a widget showing unresolved issues, enabling you or your site visitors to monitor your municipality’s progress. Government, media, and community groups can set up their own pages to monitor problems being reported (and resolved) within their purview.
A platform, incubated by Aspen Institute, for bringing together volunteers and the NGOs who need them. Its partnership with Monster.com is expected to drive more than 32 million volunteers to the site. The thinking is that, once you volunteer you’re hooked. The funnel of participation they envision goes like this:
- Your time
- Your friends
- Your money
Website (in alpha phase) that asks visitors what they’d do if they ran the world, then takes their answers and translates them into “tangible, do-able microactions that anyone and everyone can do”– sort of like making a project plan out of a mission statement.
The Piryx “The Social Giving Platform” is a platform connecting donors to causes, helping member causes to “develop a more intimate relationship with donors.” Once they get to the website, the average donor conversion rate is 11%, says Tom Serres, CEO and co-founder.
Visible Vote lets people see how well their elected officials match their own values.
From the site: Visible Vote is the first and only application to allow you to cast your virtual vote and then notify your representatives of your position weekly. Visible Vote also monitors how often your Congressmen vote in alignment with you and the people they represent.
In Microsoft’s words, its free Townhall is “software that allows you to easily create a destination for folks to voice opinions, identify problems, offer solutions and come together around common interests and concerns.” It lets people express their opinions and organizations collect data about them.
Citizens post questions they want their political candidates to answer, and vote up or down the importance of all submitted questions are to them. Candidates then have the chance to answer posted questions via text or video. Only Ohio and Pennsylvania are active in this early stage.
U.S.- based social network platform for all things politics. Citizens can find the candidates who align with their views and values, see where they really stand on the issues, learn more about the issues, and discuss with others like themselves. Politicians and organizations can reach voters highly targeted because of the information they’ve entered in the system.
Civicovideo streams events for remote viewing and archiving, including concurrent social media feeds, supplemental documents, and indexing.
London-based Civico covered and archived the event. The firm video streams events for remote viewing and archiving. According to the site it offers these features:
- Fully contextualized and indexed with speaker names, agenda items and auto jump points.
- Access documents, presentations, pictures or data relevant to the meeting
- Integration with social media platforms (e.g. Twitter), everyday web-based tools, feedback forums, questions, polls, surveys and consultations.
- Measured audience and engagement statistics
Combines video chat with video watching so users can watch content together and talk about it.
Election Mall + Campaign Cloud
Allows campaigns to apply everything Obama did in one place: website, fundraising, organization tools, email, phone, ads, tasking, calendars, GOTV. Pay-for-use model, so it’s meant to be affordable to candidates from the local level to President. For use in U.S. and international campaigns, candidate and issue advocacy. Open API so long as you use the Microsoft Cloud, so it can work with Drupal or other environments.
Platform for creating a campaign website for as little as $1,000. Pulls together the candidate’s social media feeds, making the campaign distributable. Andy Pariser, reviewing the idea, said it was a good idea for statewide office where money was more scarce; not enough customizability or innovation for a major campaign.
Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Data Tool
Working with the Center for Responsive Politics and Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Sunlight Foundation has combined several disparate databases and made them available via API to developers seeking to explore relationships between fundraising, lobbying, and elected officials, for example. Non-technical people can access the data with the organization’s Transparency Data tool and download it for investigation or create widgets from it for visual distribution. Some Poliwidgets can be viewed on OpenSecrets.org.
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Were additional apps mentioned in the panels you attended? Let me know of any I missed, below.