Links for last week

Here are the links from last week’s Information Program mailout, a weekly update of interesting information policy stories and features I help to compile. Posting delayed by trip to Gdansk.

New “Apps for Africa” project launched
A competition searching for “the best digital tools to address community challenges in areas ranging from healthcare to education and government transparency to election monitoring.” was launched on 1 July. The contest is open to residents of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, and the deadline for submitting entries is 31 August. The competition is being run by the US State Department, iHub Nairobi, Appfrica Labs and the Social Development Network.

Finland makes broadband a legal right
From the 1 July, access to broadband has become a legal right for citizens of Finland. A law enshrining the right was passed in October last year. As well as ensuring access to communications, the new right could have implications for future internet laws, for example laws passed to combat illicit filesharing on the ‘net.

US investigators to gain access to European bank records
After a stand-off between the European Parliament and the European Commission earlier this year over negotiations with the US to transfer large amounts of European bank records data across the Atlantic, MEPs have this week approved a new deal that will see US counter-terrorism investigators gain access to the records. In this report, human rights expert Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP warns that “the bulk transfer of information [must] be a transitional solution only. The EU must develop its own capacity to filter and extract data in Europe, obviating both worryingly large block handovers and an absurd reliance on the US to detect terrorists plotting on our territory.”

Wikipedia to embrace the semantic web?
Top officials at Wikipedia have made clear their ambition to make the crowd-sourced encyclopaedia compatible with the semantic web. “Semantic information already exists in Wikipedia, and people are already building on it,” says foundation deputy director Eric Möller. “Unfortunately, we’re not really helping, and they have to use extensive processing to do so.” Independent semantic web projects that build on Wikipedia data include DBPedia and Freebase.

Most “recycled” computers are not recycled
It’s possible that up to 80% of US e-waste is disposed of by labourers in China, Nigeria and elsewhere who work without safety protection for an unregulated and toxic industry. This in-depth report exposes the practices of fake computer recyclers in the developed world, and the harms those practices do to the people and environment of the developing world.

Peter Suber on the row between Nature publishing and the University of California
Peter Suber provides in-depth analysis and discussion points of the ongoing stand-off between Nature Publishing Group and the University of California in the latest edition of Open Access News: “NPG may be throwing away a marketing advantage decades in the making.”

Congress examines US investment in Chinese censorship
Rebecca MacKinnon relates her latest testimony to US lawmakers “the Chinese government has transferred much of the cost of censorship to the private sector. The American investment community has so far been willing to fund Chinese innovation in censorship technologies and systems without complaint or objection. Under such circumstances, Chinese industry leaders have little incentive and less encouragement to resist government demands that often contradict even China’s own laws and constitution.”

War in the fifth domain
This Economist feature risks conflating cyberwar, cybersecurity and cyberespionage, but it is nonetheless a good general overview of the risks and possibilities of a weaponised and contended information sphere.

The ACTA timeline
Michael Geist provides a natty and informative visualisation of negotiations and other events surrounding the controversial intellectual property enforcement treaty, ACTA.

What is data science?
This O’Reilly feature is a great introduction to the importance of data: “The question facing every company today, every startup, every non-profit, every project site that wants to attract a community, is how to use data effectively – not just their own data, but all the data that’s available and relevant.”

Spark Podcasts
The Spark podcast is a weekly radio show about technology and culture. “It’s not just technology for gearheads, it’s about the way technology affects our lives, and the world around us.” Their latest show includes items on predicting human behaviour and using iPhones to score baseball games, as well as a short interview with Nicholas Carr.

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