tv The Communicators CSPAN November 27, 2010 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
talks about the controversial firing of commentator juan williams and challenges facing npr in the future. >> "the communicators" is on location. our topic this week is open government and telecommunications policy. here is our lineup. first up is david eaves from vancouver, camera. it will be talking about how the canadian government uses technology to create more access to government. after him, stacy donohue, an investment director. her foundation invests in technology to increase access to government were applied. and finally we will talk with ory okolloh. she uses her blog to increase
access an awareness of politics in africa. first up, david eaves. what did you do in vancouver? >> open government is this idea that we can have better access to decision making, to information, and to the machinery of government. citizens are more informed and better able to impact decisions that influence their community and try to create services and help themselves, rather than just relying on government. >> how this technology help that? >> a lot of governments have always strived to be open, and right from the beginning there was this notion that we are going to print and share everything. in canada, there has been a strong history of trying to open
up government as well. technology has changed how we can do that. we live in an era where we are able to transmit huge quantities of information to citizens who are interested. the real question is, how do we not overwhelm them before we get the affirmation to them to make it real for them and do whatever they want with it. >> you called for vancouver to think like the west. what did you mean by that? >> if you look at how the internet works, and his conversation is going on where really anybody can comen. they can leverage the work that other people have done. if you write of blog, i can comment and build and create my own thoughts and leverage on what you have done. i can essentially take your coat and go and build something different and better -- take
your code. that is what makes innovation happen on the web. the question is, how can we take that exciting process, and what can we learn from it and apply it to government? we have huge opportunities to learn about what the web has done. >> how connected is vancouver? >> it is a very blessed city. we have a huge software industry, huge video game makers in vancouver. a lot of the innovations around video on the internet took place early on in vancouver. i would say it is a very connected city. people that really understand the opportunity of the web. >> what is the government support of broadbent expansion in canada? >> in canada, that is a great question.
it is a big country, but canada is more sparsely populated. you have to think of the united states with one-tenth the number of people. there is a huge distance between towns. broadband isn't -- is an enormous question in canada. this has been a longstanding issue. the government plays a relatively active role in how to get rod bent into the communities. they will sometimes have investment requirements -- how to get broadband into the communities. originally, each province -- i grew up in a country where each province had its own telescope.
telco. its own stelc >> how much is spent annually on communications policies? >> i know enough to be dangerous, so why should be careful, and i do not know specific numbers on how much they spend. >> we have had an ongoing debate that has increased here in this country on the issue of privacy and online privacy, a telecommunications policy. where is the debate in canada on that issue? >> we have a government agent who is tasked with nothing but thinking of privacy. not just in government, but
citizens and how we want to manage that information. also they look at private industry and say, what are the industry practices going on, what does that mean for industry? they are an advocate for issues of privacy. they are very aggressive, especially in dealing with the social networks. they are very concerned and very aggressive, advocating for the interest of the community. >> is vancouver won big hot spot? >> no, there is not a municipal hot spots in vancouver. i don't know of a single city in canada that has that. there may be one, but i know that montreal and toronto have had efforts of people coming
together to try to create one big city white hot spot. there are a patchwork groups working on it. >> in a recent column, you quoted john gilmore. what does that mean? >> when you are trying to access something on the internet, one of the great things about the internet, because it is decentralized, there are usually multiple routes to get to information. if one route is blocked, the internet will try to found it tried to find other ways around it to get to that information. it treats it as a problem and trust to see if it can get around the problem. i used that quote in a very
specific context. one of the things i see happening, the freedom of information requests -- they take not just days but months to actually get the data you have asked for. in a world of google, a workable of my generation and younger are used to getting information -- and the average length of a google search takes milliseconds. when you are young canadian who has to wait months to get access to information from the government, or even days, they look at the way the government operates and the way it shares information, and they do not see that as an acceptable operating parameter. we need to reduce it by days or weeks. you have to be thinking
radically differently about this problem. you need to completely collapsed this time line. if you want to have a citizenship that is active and engaged, and to increase the number of people who are interested in what government is doing. i think we can do better. >> what is the access to the federal government in canada online? >> in the united states -- that is a large question so i am going to focus in on what people here are most excited about, which is open data. that is the work we have been doing in vancouver. here you have governments that are starting to think about how they can share vast quantities of information with citizens. they are looking at the databases that have internally and saying how can we share that? not just documents, but actually
the raw data itself. people may be able to do interesting things with that. what i see going on at the municipal level, there is real interest in this. it is partly because things are so close to citizens, and they have so few resources, they are interested in any opportunity to share information with them, because the demand is always right in the politician's face at all times. at the federal level, it has been much slower. something is going to happen on the horizon, but we are ready to make years behind. how much for the binary going to slip? >> what are you doing down here at the gov2.0 conference? >> i am very interested in what open government means pro- government going to change.
a lot of people are interested in the citizen side, but people do not seem to be talking that much about how the role of the public servant is going to change. the skills that will make a public servant successful are going to change. the process they used and the way they view their jobs is going to change. >> that was david eaves in vancouver, canada. next up, stacy donohue. what is your network? >> it is a philanthropic investment firm that was founded on the principle that every individual has the power to make a difference. it was founded by the founder of ebay. my job is director of investment.
i focus on government transparency. >> if your investing in government openness, what are you investing in? >> we invest in both for-profit and nonprofit companies that are focused on creating technology platforms to make data available to citizens of government activities, in order for citizens to hold government accountable. some might foundation is one of our core entities. they do a number of things -- sunlight foundation. they create open date applications on government data, as well as advocates the work to promote open government. >> why are you investing in these? they are not necessarily moneymakers. >> we feel very strongly in the importance of open government and having citizens have access to information in order to promote democracy. >> what about the availability
of technology and broadband? is that something else to look at? >> technology is very core of what we look at. it is technology that amplifies and magnifies the impact that individuals can have in promoting democracy and getting involved in government. >> besides the u.s., do you invest other places? >> we did. we invest in africa, east and west africa as well as india. we just opened an office there. >> what are some of the roadblocks or hardships that you are finding in other countries that may not have as much access to technology as we have here in the states? >> there are obviously a lot of differences between the technology that is available here and some other countries around the world. in africa, mobile penetration far outweighs typical on-line use, and we are focused on
organizations that use live mobile technologies so that the most people possible and have access to those. >> when you invest in africa, for example, where does your money go? >> we have grants with an on- line platform that allows crown resources -- it started in kenya but it now as a platform that is used all over the world, including a mapping the subway strike in london. >> how you know if you have been successful in your investments? >> we look at reach, engagement, and policy influence of the organization's work with. for every organization is different. because we are focused on technology, looking at things like unique users of websites.
we also look at engagement of citizens or even engagement of government. we work with some organizations that actually work with government to enhance their transparency. we really want the engagement to be both from the demand side from citizens as well as from the supply side in government. >> do you have unlimited funds? >> no, we do not have unlimited funds, but we are very focused on deploying funds to scalable platforms so that even small amounts of money can be invested to have large impact. we do michael finance. one of our -- we do micro finance. >> is that technology based as well? >> is not technology based -- we are starting to look at mobile platforms. >> what has been the response of the u.s. government and some of
the foreign governments to your investment? >> i think governments throughout the world in the u.s. and elsewhere want to promote openness. they want to do the best job they can for their citizens. they do not always have the tools or are battling difficulties internally to get these things done. we look to work with organizations that are not just pushing government, but also working with government, so that everyone can work together to get information to the public. >> stacy donohue, thank you. >> ory okolloh, we just talked with stacy donohue, and she mentioned it your group. >> it is that open platform that
allows reporting on events by e- mail, voice, twitter, and those events are then visualized on a map, so you can get a sense of what is happening in where. is been useful in crisis situations but also for election monitoring. the word means testimony. >> why did you co-founded, and when? >> it came out of the post election ballots in kenya in 2007. there was a lot of media's self- censorship as the violence broke out. there was a sense of people not knowing what was going on. >> what happened in kenya in 2007? >> the election was essentially
rigged, or there was an issue with the results that were announced and how they were announced. the violence broke out partly in protest of the election results, but there were a lot of underlying issues. it was almost a civil conflict that broke up. a lot of people were being displaced or killed. it was something that took the country by surprise, because elections are very hotly contested, but no one thought it would be possible in this day and age with the technology and everyone watching the results as they were trickling in.
and so this sort of outburst was really unexpected. a lot of people did not know how to react to that, including the media. there was also concern because we have had clashes after elections before that works swept away as minimal clashes. there was concern that once the conflict was resolved, the government might try to blow it over and say everything is resolved and now we are back to peace. we wanted to keep track of the story, and also as a record so that even if the government wants to squash the report, there is a record somewhere on the internet of what happened. >> where you when you founded ushahidi? >> a blog 0 lot about kenyan
politics. the transition into the violent, and i found myself reporting what was going on. i opened up my blog for comments, as a knowledge getting hundreds of comments. >> how to people find you? >> a lot of people, a lot of journalists using the suit spread reports to the media. i one person in an apartment with no advertising, if i could have access to this kind of
information, what else can be out there? what else are we missing about what is going on? that is our group of us got together and how it was born. one of the first critical decisions we took, when we started in kenya we did not really know what we were doing. it was just ideas to get people telling their stories and sort of witnessing. once we realize there is a lot of interest in this, then the public violence broke out in south ever go few months later and they wanted to use our code to cover the violence going on in south africa. the next time there is a crisis,
we would not have to build it from scratch. the elections in india, 11 on, mozambique, brazil, venezuela, to set up for citizens to report on issues leading up to election day itself. it could be used for a number of crisis situations. in haiti and chilly, and the floods in pakistan, civil society members in pakistan are using it to share information with humanitarian agencies. not just for crisis situations and political events. we can track problems with metro in washington d.c. the bbc does used as yesterday's
report on the strike in london, so we are being used all over the world. >> how much independent news is there about african politics, in your view? is the media pretty independent? >> it depends. it is hard to generalize. kenya is pretty independent. we have almost 100 radio stations, big and small, several newspapers. it is no different from anywhere else in the world, with advertising. it is quite open. very little government intervention. >> you grew up in nairobi. you have a law degree from harvard and an undergraduate degree in political science from the university of pittsburg. how did you get technology involved?
>> by accident, i think. when i was in law school, i was essentially a group be -- there was a group that studies the intersection between law, politics, and technology. we were thinking, what can we not do this in kenya, and why we are not taking advantage of this new space being developed. the problems were certain fundamental things, like skype and wifi were illegal in kenya. no one could tell me why.
it was not a broad conspiracy to shut down the internet, it was just regulation, and you needed to know the right people and convince someone that actually there is no threat to national security. the spectrum was allocated to the army like 30 years ago. you had to have a whole conversation around getting that spectrum back. it had negative implications at that time. if you are starting point is banning skype and voice-over ip, clearly it is possible to get a lot of things right. the policies have changed dramatically. there is still long way to go in terms of infrastructure and
regulations protecting consumers, but as far as just things opening up, it has changed dramatically. >> what are you doing here at the gov2.0 summit in washington d.c.? >> i have been speaking about the initiatives and opening up the powerful technology to allowed citizens to speak and engage. >> is that a non-profit? >> it is still a nonprofit. also is just a great opportunity to share ideas and see what the cutting edge is going on as far as the open space. >> what are you living in johannesburg and not in nairobi? >> i have an apartment in johannesburg. i pay my dues.
>> thank you for being on "the communicators." that wraps up this week here at the gov2.0 summit. this episode and any other from the past is available at c- span.org. thanks for being with us. >> tonight, a discussion with the president and ceo of national public radio. vivian schiller talks about the future of public radio and addresses the recent firing of juan williams. >> back on october 20, we terminated the contract of one of our contractor, part-time news analyst named juan williams. i suspect everyone in the room has heard about this particular
incident. he was a contractor who was a part-time news analyst and we terminated his contract under the terms of the agreement. the circumstances around that were unique. there was a lot of chatter about the reasons that we did it. you did not hear this from me. there are a lot of assumptions made about all we did it and what happened. the fact is, all i will say, because it is not my practice nor is it appropriate to get into personnel decisions, so i will say that the circumstances were unique. there was a series of incidents over time. these are all things that i said before, and so we terminated his contract. that is all i want to say specifically about the matter. certainly you know that what followed was really a tsunami of media attention and opinion and a lot of commentary, all over the map.
did we expected to be quite that large? i think it is fair to say we did not. npr is an organization that makes mistakes, and i take full responsibility for that. our staff did not meet with juan williams in person, and that was a mistake. i think we left our stations and some of our supporters without the tools and information they need to be able to address it with their constituents. those things were certainly a mistake. i think there is a general consensus that this likely would that happen anyway, but there is a change -- a call among the deficit reductions