by Guest blogger, Mariana Leyton
Photo courtesy of Flickr by Jason Howle
In follow up to our first posting of Apps for Development here are five additional apps that can improve our interactions with governments. These apps are tools for civil society and governments to share knowledge in an efficient and transparent way and encourage participation in our democracies. The apps are not ranked by quality but rather to show the different types of solutions and leverage that apps can provide citizens.
With that said, we hope this list serves to inspire new apps rather than just recognize these selected.
6. Open Spending (Open Knowledge, United Kingdom)
This platform is an open database for centralized public financial information, a community of users who examine it, and a series of open resources for visualizing and analyzing it. In short, this site, allows any user to download or create and share data visualizations of public expenditure across 72 countries through 923 data sets.
Open Spending is on this list not only because of its usability and reach, but also because its ultimate goal is to complete a single, global database where you can see and compare government expenditures. Along this goal, the project also proposes a standardization of public spending data, as well as a series of guides to help journalists identify patterns of tax evasion, tools for understand public spending, and other resources. In addition, thanks to this tool’s open architecture and API, others can use it as a database to build or derive other websites and tools.
7. Panela de Pressao (Nossas Cidades – Our Cities, Brazil)
Using this online application, which in English means “pressure cooker”, citizens in several Brazilian cities that make up the Nossas Cidades network can raise issues to get support from the community and directly impart pressure to politicians and authorities to bring about change. Any citizen can generate a campaign explaining a problem and presenting the position using text, video or photos, and then share it online making it easy for others to email or call the people they want to push for change. This app is on this list because it’s been particularly successful in crowdsourcing signatures for petitions from Brazilian citizens.
8. POPLUS (Ciudadano Inteligente, Chile and My Society, United Kingdom)
Poplus offers components that perform very specific tasks (e.g., show searchable transcripts, save and publish lists of people, assigning a geographic point to the local government) that can be used in social applications all around the world. They seek to be as generic and universal as possible so that they can be reused without restrictions related to language, political system or legislature.
Poplus is on this list because of its goal of working globally and collaboratively in civic technology. The basic idea of sharing “components” with high specificity—if successful—can be applied to many different fields related (or not) to civic technology. Perhaps before long, the governments of the region, or across the globe, can use this same concept to unite the various initiatives of Public Software they are pursuing.
9. POR MI BARRIO (For my neighborhood; Data, Uruguay)
There are dozens of applications that allow citizens to place demands of the city on a map and Por Mi Barrio is an evolution of one of the most successful and popular ones, Fix My Street. However, this one introduces a much deeper and unprecedented integration with local government systems. Each report entered through Por Mi Barrio, automatically generates a new Record in the Single Claims System in the Municipality of Montevideo. From there, all users can follow each report until it’s been solved (and while it isn’t), allowing them not only to obtain solutions but to also understand their role in a broader process, while letting the local government show their work in detail.
This initiative is on this list because of the way in which it was implemented. The DATA team did not build the tool in a vacuum: it integrated the municipality and its process completely, it trained citizens through various workshops across the city, and it designed an interface specifically for Montevideo users. On top of that, the application collects data rigorously and releases it as open data directly and through the government’s open data repository.
10. VOZ DATA (La Nación Data, Argentina)
VozData is an open collaboration platform that, unlike other applications of data journalism, does not focus in data visualization, but in transforming public documents (usually published as PDF documents) into open computer readable data, capable of being analyzed and published. It is the newspaper readers who, through this tool, read the documents and fill short forms with key data and confirm data uploaded by other users.
VozData is on this list because of its success using a crowdsourcing tool to open public data in a way that greatly lowers the access barrier to collaboration through a user-friendly system while being transparent about the process and the data quality. It has had great impact on its users, who have collaborated on over 1,600 documents, and has been a tool for collaboration among civil society groups who work on legislative issues and demand “liberated” data.
You can read more about these apps by downloading the eBook 10 apps for Development. And if you want to keep up with new applications of ICTs that make governments more efficient and more participatory in our region, follow YoGobierno.Org on Facebook or Twitter.
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