Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Free Wireless project in Tbilisi - "Tbilisi Loves You"

Map of Tbilisi

Your class case  “Wireless Philadelphia” reminded me about one project in Georgia, in particular in Tbilisi and I’d like to share this experience, of course I don’t have so much information as  we have in this case, but i think this it will be interesting for you.

In 2012 based on Tbilisi City Hall  decision has started ambition program – free WiFi Internet access in public spaces (the streets, squares, higher educational institutions, cars, buses and the subway). The project aimed freedom of communication; increase Internet literacy and access to information for both local residents and tourists.
For free Internet access it was enough to find a network, entitled “Tbilisi Loves You” and enter it without any restrictions.
 It should be mention that Wireless Internet was not designed for sending big files; customer was only able to check emails and social networks.
Some words about free wireless technical specifications: 
Wi-Fi was providing by  a special tool "Access Point".
The total maximum speed of wireless was 120 Mbps;
Each "Access Point" could cover  from 300 to 500 M/Ds;
  2 500 "Access Point" were  placed throughout the city;
 One person was able to use wireless with  speed 1-4 Mbps. 
From one Access Point at the same time could use WiFi up to 30 people.

Problems: security, low speed, limited number of costumer.

P.S. I don't know how does this project work now, or if it is still works, or who is paying for this service (unfortunately i couldn't font any official information from any government website) but I'm happy that it was GoG's one more attempt regarding Digital Government.

More information about other projects, which was implemented by Tbilisi City Hall you can access on http://georgiaabout.com


Nigeria is 54 years old! Hip Hip Hip! Hurray!!!
Keep us in your prayers while you celebrate with us.

Freedom in the mind, Faith in the words, Pride in our hearts &
Memories in our souls...
Join us as we salute, our nation on


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Are we living on a new era of citizen participation?

Internet, cell phones, social networking, messaging, WiFi hotspots - never before in history, we had experienced such a degree of connectivity. The information and communications technologies (ICTs) have triggered the development of a wide range of products and services that increase productivity and amplify our ability to interact. With an estimated 30% of smartphones on a base of 5.2 billion mobile phones, today ICT are an integral part of life for many of us, and in a non-distant future, we can anticipate that there will not be a person who is not part of this global network.

Social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp) and mobile technology (smart phones) are expanding and redefining interaction we have in our social circles. Those people, whom we can share stories, feelings, news and information with; are no longer limited to an event, geography or moment in time. Today, information comes and flows instantly from our global friend network, tracing our history on the "canvas" of social networks.

In the last 10 years we have seen how ICTs have transformed industries like entertainment, commerce, telephony, transportation, health and education; however, there is an area that is just beginning the transformation: the government and citizen participation.

In our role as citizens, we must be vigilant and drive evolution of citizen participation model and interaction with the government using ICT. Responsibility is on us to re-imagine the ways and mechanisms, in which we can build citizenship, promote participation and strengthen opportunities for collaboration and coordination between citizens and government.

Equipped with a data connection, all citizens are able to act in the comfort of our cell phone. People nowadays are sensor and nodes of a communication network with the ability to transmit, receive and process information in real time very nimbly.  This is a paradigm change. Technological advances are challenging traditional organizational structures to change from being independent 'silos' with little interaction within each other, to be organizations with multidisciplinary teams and cross-responsibility in the organization.  ICT are the enabler in this paradigm change.

Learning how innovative companies have evolved their work patterns and interaction with customers taking advantage of ICT, we must seek to renew the interaction model of the public sector to citizens to a more fluid and dynamic one.

Imagine the following situations in a context of digital citizen participation - What would we do differently,
  • If we could know the views, problems and challenges of each neighborhood of our community through performing a survey easily accessible from a mobile?
  • If citizens could be aware in real time of events that occur around us (e.g., emergencies, crime, poor public services)?
  • If we had a direct link and immediate answer to whom we report events that occur around us (e.g., emergencies, crime, poor public services)?
  • If we had a transparent collaborative space to express opinions regarding bills in Congress or vote in what areas executing local budget?
  • If we had the ability to quantitatively analyze the feeling and perceptions of citizens, and present them as info graphics?

In the purest sense, the transformer reach of ICT applied in this new technological age, is to complement the traditional system of "representative democracy" - where the voice of the citizen is limited to their vote during an election - to evolve into a system of "direct democracy" - where the daily expressions of citizen participation are manifested in a space of continuous, fluid and dynamic collaboration.

Statistics derived from Mary Meeker, Internet Trends 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Partnerships for big data. Is there transparency and e-democracy involved?

I found this article, http://www.app.com/story/news/local/new-jersey/2014/09/26/state-readies-big-data-passage-bill/16300267/ on the recent creation of an opportunity for a “Big Data” environment and thought how applicable this would be to our continuing discussions on transparency, e-democracy and cyber security. The article speaks of a collaboration, “between academia, government and industry” in an effort to create a “one stop home” for a colossal amount of data. This collection also refers to the ability to store information obtained through cameras and “social media”. The promise implied in this venture is the, “The NJBDA will increase public and private access to advanced cyber infrastructure”. How accessible this will become to the public and to what extant the individual user will be able to utilize this configuration is yet to be explained. With the implied “open” or public access, I would inquire as to how cyber security will be implemented? Also, what data will not be available to the public?
The consortium spoke of in this article will enable all major stakeholders of data collection and utilization to have input into the design, policy, procedures, and consumption of information.  “The New Jersey Big Data Alliance (NJBDA) was established by the Rutgers Office of Research and Economic Development and the Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute to catalyze the collaboration among New Jersey government, academia and industry that will enable all parties to address the significant and immediate challenges posed by the proliferation of data sources and the resultant deluge of digital data in a strategic and coordinated manner.  This unprecedented alliance brings together universities and colleges from across the state, and has the overarching goals of identifying common challenges and areas of synergy, developing joint programs, and ultimately nucleating an effective alliance that will increase our research competitiveness and drive economic development in New Jersey.” (www.njbigdata.org)  it is hopeful that this alliance will be able to capture large amounts of information that can then be made available to the citizenry of this country. This effort could lead a pathway to increased transparency and e-democracy that can benefit all that have access to the information.
There is inspiration to be gained through this venture. There is progressive forethought going into this bill.  The statement in the article, “Unlike the other states, we are not state-mandated in our creation. We came together as fellow academics volunteering and partnering. In our state, we do not have the financial resources to do this alone.” There is promise that, with the utilization of academic minds and resources, the scales will tip toward a more democratic and transparent environment.  There is always skepticism around the government’s ability to obtain and retain large amounts of data. The usefulness of this program to the everyday citizen will be determined through the transparency level and its alignment with the democratic principles.
The State of New Jersey is a driving force for this legislation. Their effort may be primarily driven for the creation of a more friendly and competitive economic environment for the state. However, the concept involved could prove to be very beneficial to all. All skepticism should not be placed only on the economic value. With all data collection there are always capitol opportunities that can be seized and exploited.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Democracy is an Opportunity of Development

If the government is established based on the value of “democracy” it means that there are a lot of controversial argues and disputes regarding its obligations towards equality, rights protection and restrictions for the sake of moral and ethical principles and security issues.

What is the main principle of democracy? I would argue, that the main principle or purpose is to frame policy, which is equally acceptable for everybody.

Another question arise, does it possible or realistic to find common values and/or common understand regarding issues, which are equally acceptable or respected for everybody? When these argue arise it means that we as a society are separated into two main groups: “majority” and “minority”.

And another question appears after, should Democratic government be guided only by majority’s values, and especially when it causes discrimination of minorities. Hence, every government faces problem of “choice”, but democracy requires: prudency, argumentations and value’s explanations regarding “choice”. Thus any decision of government is ruled by “choice”.

Democratic government has two main functions: set restrictions and ensure freedom (for the sake of “rule of law”). Considering above said, one’s restriction means freedom for other, and VS one’s freedom means restriction for other.

Democracy avenue is an area where “values” and “responsibilities” are competitors. Society has sense of competition itself, when  “traditional values” (stereotypes and stigma) and  “modern values” (liberty and equality) aren’t harmonized.

Society is on the way of modernization of values towards the democracy requirements, thus democracy government should have continuous effort of stimulation and building “modern values” based on principle of rule of law without discrimination of personal liberty and equality. On the other hand, government has decision-making responsibility, if governor’s decision is mistaken society neglects authority, thus democracy is ruled by majorities’ values and prudent public opinion.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Does Cybersecurity affect E-Governance?

If you look around in our class you see an overwhelming dominance of laptops with a shining logo of my favorite fruit that someone apparently had one bite of. The operating system on those machines is considered to be very secure. "Why you'll love a Mac: We don't get PC viruses.". When I asked everyone in class to raise their hands if anyone had installed an anti-virus software I didn't see a single hand. To give you an idea why you SHOULD care about security although you consider your Macbook safe, let's make this more interactive here:

1) Press "cmd" and "space" simultaneously and type in "Terminal"

2) Copy and paste this text into the window that popped up: env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c 'echo DigGov14YourMacisaffected'

What does the outcome tell you? If you can read "DigGov14YourMacisaffected" then Congratulations, you just successfully tested your system for the so called "Shellshock Bash Bug".  I don't want to go too much into the technological details here, but I could theoretically take control of your Macbook (I won't don't do that, but I can't promise for other people out there) and do things you don't want to imagine. To get a sense of the dimensions here, just read through "Worse than Heartbleed? Today's Bash bug could break security for years", "Shellshock: The 'Bash Bug' That Could Be Worse Than Heartbleed", "Hackers Are Already Using the Shellshock Bug to Launch Botnet Attacks" or use #shellshockbug on Twitter.

So does Cybersecurity affect E-Governance? In my opinion, yes it does. Digital and political leaders should always be aware of the fact that the cyber realm is closer to the Wild West than to a safe children's playground. A digitally more open government will always face trade-off decisions in terms of openness and vulnerabilities or the abuse of open data. Just imagine the consequences of manipulated data sets that serve as basis for political decisions.

Should Cybersecurity prevent political leaders from expanding E-Governance? I hope it does not. Although one can imagine many examples that illustrate the dangers of a stronger connected world between citizens and their governments, they should always look at the net benefit from doing so. And there are at least as many examples that exemplify why everyone would profit from such a world.

I can't provide an answer on the macro level, but I can tell you what you can do on a micro level (and your Macbook):

1) Install Firefox, because it "is designed by Mozilla, a global community working together to keep the Web open, public and accessible to all". It is considered to be one of the safest, fastest and most adjustable browsers. You will need it for the following browser addons.

2) Install Adblock Plus to "surf the web without annoying [and dangerous] ads", HTTPS Everywhere to "encrypt your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure" and watch the video on Ghostery to tell you why you should prevent big companies from tracking everything you do (and buy) on the internet. You can also install NoScript, which is considered to be the most effective way to secure your browser, as it prevents flash plugins to auto-run, which pose one of the biggest threats when surfing the internet. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that the latter is not very easy to use and takes some time to get familiar with.

3) Install Sophos Mac Antivirus, a free anti-virus software for Macs, that protects you from "all threats, even those designed for Windows".

All the software mentioned is for free and if you have any questions feel free to ask me in next week's class!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Design Principles

Last week, our class topic was about usability and for this week, it was about transparency. These two topics have deep connection. Transparency of digital government is based on usability. If government website doesn’t have enough usability, people would not be able to access to government information and services. I found the 10 Design principles of UK government digital service. It is very simple but crucial. In their site, we can see a few examples of each principle, so it is easy to understand how this principles work.

1. Start with needs* (* user needs not government needs)
2. Do less
3. Design with data
4. Do the hard work to make it simple
5. Iterate. Then iterate again.
6. Build for inclusion
7. Understand context
8. Build digital services, not websites
9. Be consistent, not uniform
10. Make things open: it makes things better

I think UK government website is greatly user-friendly because most of the government services are in one site. Therefore, people can search government services by topics not by department or division that provides it. In addition, most of departments have same design.  According to this website, the process of making it is by continually doing a user test. The easier the website is the more users it gets. On the other hand, in Japan, each ministry and agency has each website with different designs. Before taking this class, I had never imagined that government can create one-stop service website including all government departments. The Principle #1 is very important not only for making digital services but also all to achieve tasks and to prioritize the needs of the users.