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Colombia's Festival on the Value of Data in Development

The Cartagena Data Festival has just wrapped up in Cartagena, Colombia. The festival is an international event committed to discussing data deployment for human development and related topics, like open data, data journalism, big data, and other analysis tools.

The festival, which ran from April 20 to April 22 and took place in downtown Cartagena, attracted more than 500 participants and reporters from around the world. Several groups played an organizing role, including the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Population Fund, the ODI Development ProgressCentro Europeo de Pensamiento Estratégico InternacionalAfrica Gathering, and others.

Archived webcast footage from the event is available online, and social media content about the festival can be found searching for the hashtag #data2015.

Cartagena Data Festival - Día 1 // Foto: Helkin René Díaz CEPEI, con autorización

Cartagena Data Festival, Day 1. Photo: Helkin René Díaz CEPEI, used permission

Caracas #SmartCityHack Proposes Solutions to People's Problems

The Venezuelan edition of the Hackathon Smart Cities took place in Caracas from 6 to 8 March, 2015. Don't you know what a hackathon is? If so, read this post!

The #SmartCityHack event was simultaneously organized in 27 cities by Global Datafest.

5 histories from behind  #SmartCityHack Caracas showing that where there is a will, there is a way

The Venezuelan edition, organized by SDI Innovation and Wayra accelerator, yielded positive results, serving as inspiration for innovative projects aiming to improve citizens’ quality of life. Estefanía Salazar, a Global Voices contributor, wrote a review of the event for the Spanish-language website Komunumo, highlighting some of these projects:

- CCSMoveOn: es un “Waze” del transporte público. Permite al usuario generar rutas con su teléfono inteligente, con la posibilidad de enviar alertas por SMS sobre posibles eventualidades.

- Compártelo: es un sistema de referencias para Pequeñas y Medianas Empresas basadas en recomendaciones cara a cara.

- Caracas CityCare: Conecta problemas urbanos con propuestas de solución en una misma interfaz.

- Favor x Favor: sistema para favorecer el intercambio gratuito de servicios y bienes entre vecinos de una comunidad.

- Identidad en Línea: sistema de nube para facilitar la difusión encriptada de información y procesamiento de documentación de usuarios de servicios públicos o privados.

- Iniciativa Yokoima: comunidad de intercambio de información y servicios interesados en la recuperación del río Yokoima en la ciudad de Upata (estado Bolívar) […]

- CCSMoveOn: “Waze” for public transport, allowing the user to generate routes using a smartphone, with the ability to send SMS alerts about possible eventualities.

- Share it: a reference system for small and medium-size businesses based on face-to-face recommendations.

- Caracas CityCare: Connects urban issues with proposed solutions in a single interface.

- Favor x Favor: a system that encourages free exchange of goods and services between community members.

- Online Identity: a cloud system to facilitate the spread of encrypted information and process public or private user’s documentation.

- Yokoima Initiative: an information and service exchange community aiming to recover the Yokoima River in the city of Upata (Bolivar state) […]

Iran's Minister of ICT Suggests Instagram Will Not Be (Completely) Blocked Until an Alternative Is Found

Page 15 of Shargh newspaper contained the headline: "The promises of the Minister of ICT to clear the problems of mobile social media.

Page 15 of Shargh newspaper contained the headline: “The promises of the Minister of ICT to clear the problems of mobile social media. Those responsible at the ministry are preparing a campaign.” Screenshot by author.

Iran's leading reformist newspaper, Shargh, ran an article this past Sunday entitled: “The promises of the Minister of ICT to clear the problems of mobile social media.” The focus of Iran's Minister of Information and Communication Technology Mahmoud Vaezi was the filtering status of popular mobile applications, with a particular focus on Instagram.

He told Shargh the following: 

اصلا نگران نباشید. تصمیم مشخص ما آن است که فعلا برنامای برای محدودیت فعالیت شبکهای اجتماعی موبایلی نداریم و قطعا زمانی این موضوع را اعلام خواهیم کرد که جایگزیهای مناسبی برای این شبکها در داخل کشور ایجاد شده باشد.

You should not be worried. Our policy is that we will not restrict the activities of any mobile social media, and when we do announce it, it will be when we find an alternative for this network inside the country.

The popularity of mobile applications has led to some directives from institutions outside of the current administration's hands, such as the Judiciary for filtering. Shargh noted:

بعد از چندیبار تذکر از سوی نهادهای بالادستی به وزارت ارتباطات مبنی بر ارائه برنامای جهت نظارت هرچه بیشتر بر محتوای این شبک ها، «فیلترینگ هوشمند» به عنوان اولویت برنامای دولت مطرح شد زیرا واعظی وزیر ارتباطات معتقد است تمام آنچه از طریق این شبکها منتشر مشود، شامل محتوای نامناسب نیست، بلکه نزدیک به 90درصد مطالبی که روی این شب ها قرار مگیرد، جزء محتوای پاک است.

After a few warnings given to government by higher authorities, the ministry decided to use smart filtering, which will be the priority in the government’s program to monitor social networks, because [Minister for ICT] Vaezi believes all the materials published by these networks are not bad. Close to 90% of the materials publicized on these networks are clean materials.

Current smart filtering of Instagram pages means Iran-based mobile users are blocked from viewing selected pages.

Following the publication of this post, one Internet researcher, Amir Rashidi noted the Minister's statement regarding no viable ‘alternatives’ is a political form of appeasement between hardline elements (such as in the judiciary) and those who support more Internet freedom (such as the Rouhani administration). As noted in the Tweet below by researcher Nariman Gharib, Lenzor exists as a local Iranian alternative to Instagram.

@maasalan there is an alternative right now in Iran. Lenzor

— Nariman Gharib (@ListenToUs) April 12, 2015

@maasalan @ListenToUs i think “alternative” is just an excuse for him to keep hardliner away from blocking those apps

— Amir Rashidi (@Ammir) April 12, 2015

 

How a Celebrity's Facebook Check-In Brought Down a Brigade in Taiwan

The snapshot of Janet Lee's Facebook check-in at the 601 Air Cavalry Brigade with Apache. She said, 'We are visiting the Apache helicopters, and the boys are crazy and screaming! This is so cool!'

The snapshot of Janet Lee's Facebook check-in at the 601 Air Cavalry Brigade with Apache. She said, ‘We are visiting the Apache helicopters, and the boys are crazy and screaming! This is so cool!’

On March 29, Taiwanese celebrity Janet Lee, along with some other people, was brought to see AH-64E Apache helicopters, the latest model of Apache attack helicopters.

These Apache helicopters were delivered to Taiwan in 2013, as part of a $6.4 billion arms deal with the U.S. signed in 2008.

After Lee posted several photos of her posing with the helicopters on Facebook, the Republic of China Army was criticized for letting unauthorized people enter the off-limits zone, where sensitive technology information is stored.

The scandal has led to the sacking of 18 military officials as of April 11. Ten of them belong to the 601 Air Cavalry Brigade.

Netizens made fun of the incident by comparing Janet Lee with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. All of them have taken on armies single-handedly, but while the guys did that in the movies, Janet Lee crushed a real life brigade with her Facebook check-in.

Meet Mexico's Crowdfunding Campaign Against Censorship and Bots

Foto de loquesigue.net y utilizada con permiso.

Photo from loquesigue.net, used with permission. 

The Mexican groups #YoSoyRed and #loQueSigue have organized a crowdfunding campaign to develop an open-source software that monitors and identify bots used by the Mexican government to influence public opinion and trends in Twitter.

The presentation included some harsh criticism of the groups responsible for the bot nets:

A quien usa esos bots no le gusta la libre información y el libre intercambio de ideas. Tampoco le gusta que el mundo sepa lo que ocurre en México. […] ¿Qué pasaría si aparte de actuar en masa contra los bots pudiéramos difundir masivamente y en segundos todo aquello que pretenden censurar través de un super medio que conecte a todos los medios libres existentes y blogs?

Whoever uses these bots does not like free information and the free exchange of ideas. Nor would they like the world to know what happens in Mexico. […] What if there were a way (other than using bots) to spread widely and instantly everything the authorities wish to censor through a super medium that connects all existing free media and blogs?

Two examples of how bots can endanger human lives and change trends in social networks are #1DMX and the most recent #Yasequenoaplauden. 

The following video explains how the hashtag #YaSeQueNoAplauden, a criticism of the Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, disappeared among the trends on Twitter despite its 133,462 tweets. By comparison, the visible topic trends #MeDesmoronoComoElPAN and #MePasóEnElMetro, according to Topsy, had only 13,411 and 3,046 tweets, respectively. The video suggests that attacks employing bots caused the disappearance of the #YaSeQueNoAplauden hashtag from Twitter trending topics in Mexico and worldwide.

People from LadoB talked to Alberto Escorcia, the developer behind the crowdfunding project, who says the proposed software “would have the ability to analyze millions of messages and could also measure various parameters such as speed trends and its geographical origin.”

Así, en lugar de actuar cuando ya está el el HT creado podemos actuar antes de que surja con una algoritmo de respuesta inmediata que leyendo en tiempo real todos los tweets de México detecte cuando un grupo de bots se está formando.

So, instead of acting when the HT is already created, we can act before it emerges with an immediate response algorithm that reads in real time all the tweets from Mexico and detects when a group of bots is being formed.

If you enjoy online freedom of information, remember to contribute to Escorcia's project #YoSoyRed and #loQueSigue.

Protecting Personal Data in Argentina Is a Work in Progress

Cloud Computing - Photo by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Cloud Computing – Photo by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

In an article for online magazine Digital Rights: Latin America & The Caribbean, No.21Argentinean lawyer Valeria Milanés explains that even though the United States is a world leader in data processing, it does not have legislation for the protection of personal data. The US is also considered to have “an inadequate level of protection in relationship to national and international standards.”

Unfortunately, in North America and other countries, the evolution of technology has outpaced the development of legal regimes intended to govern their use. Milanés explains the case of Argentina and mentions National Directorate for Personal Data Protection and the Law of Personal Data, D.N.P.D.P., (Laws 25.326 and 26.343), which is among the “most advanced on the issue of data protection.” The problems lie in its implementation:

…en 2012, y luego de doce años de funcionamiento, la D.N.P.D.P. tenía registradas 20.000 bases de datos, contra 1.600.000 que tenía registradas a la misma fecha y en similar plazo la Agencia Española de Protección de Datos.

…in 2012, after twelve years in service, the D.N.P.D.P. had registered 20,000 databases, compared with 1,600,000 databases registered by that date and within the same period with the Spanish Data Protection Agency.

Milanés says that cloud computing presents new challenges:

…las grandes empresas multinacionales prestadoras de los servicios de nube pública se caracterizan por utilizar contratos de adhesión, que por lo general no contienen las especificaciones requeridas en la ley 25.326 y en los que hasta la ley aplicable y jurisdicción prefijada corresponde al país en los que estas empresas tienen sus domicilios legales –por lo general, ciudades de Estados Unidos–. Es más, inclusive los servidores en los que se almacena la información pueden no encontrarse en Argentina.

…large multinational public cloud service providers are known for using adhesion contracts, which generally do not contain specifications established by Law 25.326 and in which the applicable law and predetermined jurisdiction are that of the country where these companies are legally domiciled, mainly US cities. Furthermore, even the servers that store the information are sometimes not in Argentina.

Thus, the Argentinean experience is no different from other countries in the region, who despite having laws protecting the personal data of individuals and corporations still have a long way to go.

Milanés concludes that the issue needs “actions towards effective implementation and compliance with current laws and adoption of responsible and sound business practices to allow, to the extent possible, for personal data privacy and security guarantees to be preserved.”

Finally, a Mobile App for Geolocated News in Latin America

FACTICO is the first mobile media designed in Latin America to geolocate information. But, what is app all about?

FACTICO es la aplicación de noticias e información más innovadora y atractiva de América Latina. Nuestras notas son compactas y fáciles de leer, y todos nuestros contenidos están georreferenciados. La información más importante del día y los mejores eventos están en FACTICO.

FACTICO is the most innovative and attractive app of news and information in Latin America. Our news are compact and easy to read, and all our contents are georeferenced. The most important news of the day and the best events are at FACTICO.

Bellow there is an example of how FACTICO Mexico works:

Everything happens in Mexico City. We provide the map, you provide the passion. 

In their manifest,o the creators of FACTICP state who they are and what they expect:

Somos lxs que creímos la promesa de la pluralidad en los medios y terminamos viendo la censura explícita y velada. Pero aprendimos a hackear el problema […]

Somos lxs que hemos salido a las calles a observar, a documentar lo que pasa en esta región del mundo poco entendida. Y por eso sabemos que no estamos solos.

Somos lxs que estamos cansados de las “historias oficiales”, de las declaraciones sin sustancia y de los replicadores del discurso que no cuestionan, que no preguntan.

Somos lxs que no aceptamos que se nos diga “ustedes no existen; sus ideas no importan; bajen la voz.”

Estamos aquí. Existimos.

Y estamos diciendo algo.

 Porque nunca como hoy ha existido más gente conectada, con ansias de conocer, saber y cambiar la manera de hacer las cosas.

Porque trabajamos e innovamos en red. Colaboramos. Mapeamos. Documentamos. Observamos. Damos contexto. Y no dejamos de experimentar.

We are the ones who believed in the promise ofmedia plurality and ended up seeing explicit and veiled censorship. But we learned to hack the problem […]

We are the ones who went out into the streets to observe, to document what happens in this poorly understood part of the world. And it is for that reason that we know we are not alone.

We are the ones who are tired of “official stories”, of insubstantial statements and of echo chambers that don't question speech. 

We are the ones who do not accept being told “you do not exist, your ideas do not matter, lower your voices.”

We are here. We exist. And we are saying something. Because there have never been so many people connected as today, wanting to know, to find out and to change the way of doing things.

Because we work and innovate online. Collaborate. Map. Document. Observe. Provide context. And we do not stop to experiment.

Keep up with news about the app via the hashtag #FacticoTeAcerca (FACTICO brings you closer), and download the app here, available for Android and iOS.

Voting Underway in Kenya Blog Awards 2015

The voting phase of the Kenyan Blog Awards is ongoing and will continue until April 30, 2015:

The Kenyan Blog Awards seeks to reward bloggers that post on a regular basis, have great and useful content, are creative and innovative. These awards represent BAKE’s efforts in the promotion of quality content creation. Organizer The Kenyan Blog Awards are an initiative of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE). BAKE is a community organization that represents a group of Kenyan online content creators and that seeks to empower online content creation and improve the quality of content created on the web.

Are Zuckerberg and Internet.org Genuinely Good for Panama?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took advantage of his invitation to attend the Summit of the Americas in Panama City and met with his CEO counterparts in the region to promote Internet.org, a partnership he initiated between big business, non-profit organizations, and communities, the goal of which is to connect more people to the Internet.

Many media outlets are reporting the announcement made jointly by Zuckerberg and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela that, thanks to Internet.org, Panamanians will now have free access to the Internet. According to the Spanish daily El País, the aim is to “facilitate free access to essential services related to health, safety, transportation and education. The project's implementation has the support of the government.”

But Richard Armuelles, writing for El Blog de Machinarium021, opines that the news may not be as good as it's cracked up to be. According to Armuelles, the public is being sold the “erroneous idea that all Internet will be free in a given country, which is not true. Only certain services that have formed partnerships with Facebook will benefit from this initiative, so my dear fellow blogger or local entrepreneur, you will still have to pay for users to have access to your website.” He adds that:

esto rompe la neutralidad de la web. desde hace mucho tiempo, fundaciones como Mozilla hablan de lo peligroso que es una web en donde no tengamos igualdad de oportunidades. Básicamente, esto no es diferente a un carrier que da “data gratis”, para navegar en Facebook y Whatsapp, haciendo que sea imposible una libre competencia.

this conflicts with net neutrality. For a while now, companies like Mozilla have talked about the dangers of a Web in which users don't enjoy equality of opportunity. Basically, this is no different from a carrier who provides “free data” so users can navigate on Facebook and WhatsApp, making a free market impossible.

Richard also argues that business interests are being served under the guise of providing charity, concluding that:

Internet.org en Panamá es todo menos beneficioso. Resuelve un problema de conectividad, pero a un precio mayor y lamentablemente sin muchas soluciones que realmente sean neutrales y justas para todos.

Internet.org in Panama may be many things but it is no free lunch. It solves a connectivity problem, but at a higher price and unfortunately without the kind of solutions that are truly neutral and equitable for everyone.

Bolivia to Host First International Community Radio and Free Software Conference

The first international conference on community radio and free software will be held in Cochabama, Bolivia from June 11-13, 2015. So far, the community radio stations from Spanish-speaking countries that have confirmed their assistance are: Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, and of course, the host, Bolivia. 

The preliminary agenda includes a forum discussing the advances taking place in Latin America regarding free software, telecommunication legislation, and a migration plan. There will also be workshops and simultaneous talks on free software tools such as Shamatari, Ardour, Audacity, and Creative Commons, amongst others. 

Several websites, such as Radios Libres (Free Radio Stations) and Corresponsales del Pueblo (The People's Correspondents), have helped to spread the information found on the official site, liberaturadio.org, while others have stepped up to the task of getting communities to attend the event, such as the Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones de Venezuela, Conatel (National Commission of Telecommunications of Venezuela), which in addition underlines its support for these initiatives: 

En Venezuela las emisoras de radio comunitarias también cuentan con apoyo para su independencia. En enero de 2015 fue lanzada otra aplicación libre ideal para medios comunitarios: Shatamari 15.01., que tiene 260 aplicaciones preinstaladas y configuradas para trabajar en medios digitales, audiovisuales, automatización de emisoras radiales y medios impresos.

Twitter users also began to spread the word of the event to others as well as to motivate internet users and community radio stations to meet up at the conference. 

Sign up starts on April 1; for more information, visit the event's official page at liberaturadio.org

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