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About

Introduction

Digital technologies are opening up new opportunities while introducing novel challenges for established civil society organizations in Latin America. At the same time a new generation of activists are starting to use their media and networking savvy to launch activism campaigns that were once limited to the sphere of traditional NGOs. This blog aims to document and evaluate the use of technology and information by Latin American civil society, and help narrow the divide between the influential “digerati” and more experienced public advocacy groups.

Each week we publish a case study and accompanying video podcast that looks in-depth at a new organization and a particular project or campaign they are working on. In addition to weekly case studies, we also feature regular reviews of new websites, tools, events, and organizations that use technology to improve the effectiveness of civil society in Latin America.

Support

This project is made possible thanks to the support of the Latin America Program and Information Program of Open Society Foundations. The observations, opinions, and suggestions published on the website do not necessarily reflect those of either program, or Open Society Foundations as a whole. We know that we’ll get some things wrong, and we hope that our readers will help us improve over time.

People

This project is managed by David Sasaki. That’s me. My experience with new media in Latin America dates back to 2003 when I became a contributor to MTYBlogs.com, one of Mexico’s first citizen media communities. From 2005 – 2010 I worked at Global Voices, first as Latin America Regional Editor and then as Director of Rising Voices, where I managed a portfolio of small-scale projects around the developing world that use citizen media to effect social change. During the first half of 2010 I directed research at the Technology for Transparency Network, a collaborative research mapping of technology projects that aim to promote transparency, accountability, & civic engagement around the world. I am the author of “Introduction to Global Citizen Media” and frequently speak about technology, journalism, and civil society at international events.

Juan Arellano is translator, co-author and collaborator. Based in Peru, he also blogs at Globalizado, Global Voices, and Periodismo Ciudadano.

If you would like to get involved in this project, please do get in touch. We are actively seeking volunteer writers, researchers, and translators to help increase and improve our coverage of technology and civil society in Latin America.

What is Civic Information?

Civic information refers to all information that belongs in the public sphere. That is, information that should be freely accessible by all citizens. The allocation of tax-payer money toward agricultural subsidies is one example of civic information that should be made available to all citizens, but so too is the basic geographic information which enables websites like OpenStreetMap to create maps of our communities. Civic information is also characterized by the fact that it is freely accessible online. For example, when Google partnered with the Pew Center on States to create a database of all polling stations in the United States, they published the database online so that anyone can create a tool or visualization of the information.

Increasingly, civil society organizations are becoming the custodians of civic information. With the aid of technology they frequently act as a middle layer between government agencies that collect data and citizens that want to easily access the data in order to stay informed and hold their governments accountable. This blog will focus on the rise of civic information in Latin America and the development of tools and strategies around that information to promote social change.

Narrowing the Technology/NGO Divide

Civil society organizations often do not have the resources or technical expertise to research and implement new technologies in order to improve their management and communication of information. We will use LinkedIn’s Groups feature to build a directory of technical consultants and digital media trainers based around Latin America to work with civil society organizations to help them improve their information management and communication using online tools. If you are a technical consultant or digital media trainer based in Latin America and interested in joining the network, please do send us a message expressing your interest and describing your experience.

If you have suggestions of interesting individuals and organizations that we should feature, please get in touch. Though this website will document the work of all types of civil society organizations, it is especially focused on the following topics:

This is meant to be a fully participatory and collaborative project. Please do leave your comments and feedback on posts, and help us spread the word about the project. If you have any question or concerns – or if you’d simply like to grab a cup of coffee over the next few months – please do get in touch. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes podcast directory.