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Government Elections Technology Development Economy

To the Victors Go the Foils

Graffiti showing a ballot box
Many countries are holding elections in 2012, but governments are struggling to keep up with their peoples' expectations (Photo: david drexler/flickr)

NEW YORK – A surprising number of elections and political transitions is scheduled to occur over the coming months. An incomplete list includes Russia, China, France, the United States, Egypt, Mexico, and South Korea.

At first glance, these countries have little in common. Some are well-established democracies; some are authoritarian systems; and others are somewhere in between. Yet, for all of their differences, these governments – and the individuals who will lead them – face many of the same challenges. Three stand out.

The first is that no country is entirely its own master. In today’s world, no country enjoys total autonomy or independence. To one degree or another, all depend on access to foreign markets to sell their manufactured goods, agricultural products, resources, or services – or to supply them. None can eliminate economic competition with others over access to third-country markets. Many countries require capital inflows to finance investment or official debt. Global supply and demand largely set oil and gas prices. Economic interdependence and the vulnerability associated with it is an inescapable fact of contemporary life.

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Elections Internet

Pirating Lessons

A pirate flag
Full speed ahead. Photo: Scott Vandehey/flickr.

Nomen est omen; the pirates have taken Berlin by storm. Although SPD’s Klaus Wowereit was comfortably re-elected as Berlin’s mayor, the strong showing of Germany’s newest addition to a state parliament has taken many by surprise. The pirate party, dedicated to free information and privacy protection, has won 8.9% of the votes. By comparison, the FDP – a junior partner in Angela Merkel’s government – has been completely kicked out.

Though concerned about the results, most established parties shrug the events off as a form of political protest, and describe the party as anything from ‘non-serious’ to ‘meaningless’. Unfortunately, they’re missing what Berlin’s youth has been trying to say.

Freedom of information and privacy issues on the net affect many voters directly. For a long time, Germany’s elite has been ignoring the important role of the internet in many of its citizens’ lives. When they finally touched upon the issue, it made ‘Generation Net’ worry even more. To internet activists, the prospects of telecommunications data retention felt like a 2.0 version of 1984.

Of course some of the party’s demands seem extreme, and their leaders still have to prove that they are committed to playing a constructive role in day-to-day politics. But whatever the future holds: instead of belittling the pirates, the bigger parties had better work out their own positions on a complex issue that concerns far more than 8.9% of the electorate.

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Shape the ISN’s Future



Access to information is no longer the main problem. Today’s challenge is managing the information that’s out there. For almost two decades, the ISN has been dedicated to promote information management and knowledge sharing in the area of international relations and security. We are striving to integrate original current affairs analysis with existing background publications and policy briefs. We offer you a wealth of free, high-quality information services, but we know that we don’t always present it in the best way possible. That’s where we need your help.

We are curious to hear which services you use, which regions and topics you’re interested in, which new services you’d like us to provide and how we can make our website more user-friendly. Please take a few minutes and give us your feedback on how we can improve. We highly appreciate your opinion.

 

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Filtering the ISN to fit your needs – Find Information

Find information

With over thirty thousand content objects in a variety of formats, the ISN holds a vast repository of data on international security research. But how do find what you’re looking for?

To enable you to locate articles, publications or podcasts for your specific area of interest, the ISN provides a filtering tool called “Find information”. The “Find information” box is located on the top right of the ISN website. First, select the most important criterion for your research, either subject or region. After clicking on your item of choice, you are presented with the topmost level of region or subject matter. To narrow down your research area, you can choose a more focused region in the tree view in the left pane. In the example below, we first chose “Africa” as a region and then narrowed the search to “Southern Africa”.

Easily filter by regions
Define the main criteria for your search and easily enhance the filtering.

You could also narrow down the region even further. e.g. by choosing Angola or Comoros, but we will leave this for now and turn to the second filtering option, by subject. The subject tree is right above the region tree in the left pane. Clicking on a subject now will add this filter to the already selected region.

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Technology Internet

Disaster Relief 2.0

Disaster Relief 2.0“The 2010 Haiti earthquake response will be remembered as the moment when the level of access to mobile and online communication enabled a kind of collective intelligence to emerge.”

Last week, The UN Foundation, the Vodafone Foundation and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a report on the future of information sharing in humanitarian emergencies. The paper examines the role of volunteer and technical communities (dubbed “V&TCs”) in providing information to aid agencies on the ground.

Paradoxically, aid workers in Haiti last year faced two opposite problems. At first, they lacked the most basic sources of information – even the UN offices had been destroyed and many employees had perished. In no time, internet communities mobilized to fill the gap, collecting data online, from satellite images or from SMS.

But then, established humanitarian institutions – and especially UN agencies – had no procedure in place to integrate such masses of external information, and overstretched aid workers soon faced a state of information overload.

Some NGOs focussing on information services in emergencies existed before the Haiti earthquake (e.g. MapAction, Télécoms Sans Frontières, Sahana). According to the report, the earthquake triggered a boom last year. Some of the key V&TCs involved in Haiti it mentions are OpenStreetMap, CrisisMappers, Crisis Commons, the 4636 Alliance and Ushahidi.

Disaster Relief 2.0” raises several issues regarding the management of information in international emergencies, especially with a view to better exploiting the potential of V&TCs. From the established humanitarian system’s point of view, reliability and professionalism are core values that can be problematic in loosely organized volunteer communities.

On the other hand, those communities have the potential to help solve the current humanitarian system’s “data silos” problem. Coordinated by OCHA, humanitarian relief is organized around clusters (shelter, health,  nutrition, etc…). According to the report, proprietary information systems and individual standards are major impediments to the exchange of data between those clusters and with actors external to the system such as V&CTs.

The arrival of these internet communities on the scene is likely to make the silos crumble. They will bring their open source and semantic web philosophies, hopefully fostering the development of open standards and structured data. Humanitarian aid 2.0 is on its way, hold on!