Weekly Roundup 5/3/17

Your Weekly Update on Technology, Democracy, & Cool Things
USA Facts

As we start up the weekly roundup after a break, we’ll be grabbing some news from the past few weeks. One significant event that happened in that period was the launch of USAFacts, an effort led by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that seeks to provide comprehensive and accessible data on what the U.S. government is doing. The site copies the model of company transparency and shareholder reports, collecting publicly available government statistics in one place and compiling them into easy-to-read reports and interactive charts. Sharing some of the same principles as participatory budgeting, the project aims to give average citizens an easy way to see where their tax dollars are going. Equally important is a section that attempts to give an idea of how effective programs are by providing statistics on outcomes loosely related to government spending. To contextualize all of this information, the site also contains data on some general U.S. demographic trends.

The website is quite timely, launching in a period when people on both sides of the political spectrum criticize various media outlets as biased or misleading and express a desire for more straightforward facts presented without any angle or slant. Indeed the biggest obstacle has not been that this information wasn’t out there, but that it was too spread out and out of context for most casual observers to gather and make sense of it. It remains to be seen how widely USAFacts will catch on, but it puts one more resource out there for people to turn to. It’s also still in its infancy, and looking around the site there’s plenty of room for expansion. Still, it’s a good response to the current political climate and even just a quick browse on the site teaches you a lot about the government’s spending - take a look at it yourself here!

Tech News:
Singapore seeks to increase the usage of latest tech with its Smart Nation initiative
Elon Musk aims to create brain-implant chips with new company Neuralink
Court authorizes FBI to mass hack infected devices to remove botnet
Device under development that can instantly translate 80 spoken languages
Lawsuit claims Confide app used by White House staff is not secure
Facebook lays out a strategy for combating fake news

Civic Tech:
Google launches “Internet Citizens” workshop aiming to educate UK youth on harmful internet culture
Africa’s internet registry proposes denying government domain to countries that block the internet
Turkey blocks access to Wikipedia
Analysis on Cameroon’s internet blockage
IETF introduces special error message identifying webpages censored by governments
US Digital Service is trying to find its footing under the new administration