Posts filed under ‘transparency’

It’s air quality, stupid.

November 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Join us at the Personal Democracy Forum, 2012!

On Thursday, May 31 we’ll be in the European Parliament, taking part in a captivating brainstorm on how tech – and tech-savvy citizens – are transforming governance, politics and civil society.

Why don’t you join us?

Now in its ninth year in the United States and its third year in Europe, the Personal Democracy Forum brings together top opinion leaders, politicians, technologists, and journalists from across the ideological spectrum to network and exchange ideas.

Next week’s event – Finding Europe’s Public Place – is set to put the impact of technology in Brussels under the spotlight, evaluating its role in the European institutions, diplomacy, lobbying and journalism.

Speakers will examine how interactive communications technologies are now being regularly deployed to address critical civic problems, and make governments more efficient, transparent, and accountable. They’ll also discuss whether these technologies are bringing Europe any closer to the as yet elusive public sphere.

Also on the agenda: the invaluable role social media has played in supporting democracy movements all over the world.

The Personal Democracy Forum invariably attracts highly distinguished guests – and this event is no exception. Ambassador William E. Kennard of the US Mission to the EU,  Facebook Europe’s Erika Mann and Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times are just a few of the speakers who’ll be sharing their insights on the day.

Register now to secure your place for this thought-provoking and invaluable event.

See you there!


May 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm 1 comment

Why the shortage of influential policy bloggers in Brussels?

Some people will tell you there are scores of influential policy bloggers in Brussels. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. There’s an active throng of smart and passionate Eurobloggers who write about the EU and a number of issues surrounding it. Most are aggregated on and many of them are influential: some are being treated in line with members of the press and even being mentioned by Commissioners.  But most influential Eurobloggers are individual citizens who write to raise awareness of issues they care about. They occasionally write about policies, but their primary aim is not to influence a policy area.

That’s the dividing line. An influential policy blogger is an authority on a policy area who has a professional interest in it. They represent an organisation – be it a single issue pressure group or a global corporation – that is one of many stakeholders on a set of policy areas and present that organisation’s positions in blog format. The level of expertise and relevance of the blog is such that it is read by all or at least most other relevant stakeholders including policy makers and key influencers. At this point, the blog can arguably be called an “influential policy blog” (although I’m not going to define influence scientifically.) How many are there in Brussels? Far fewer than I can count on one hand.

Why not? The old “policy makers don’t use the web” chestnut certainly won’t hold any longer. What’s more, it’s advocacy of the most open and transparent kind; and it allows organisations to move beyond purely focusing on key policy areas to engaging on broader issues and build relationships in the process. Plus the flexibility of the medium allows them to enhance their advocacy by producing an ongoing narrative in line with events rather than the “all your eggs in one basket” approach which face-to-face meetings or a one-off position paper demand.

So why the poor uptake? Three broad reasons, I’d say:

  1. Sometimes, the sensitive nature of their industry may force PA professionals’ hand. Fair enough, although I suspect they won’t be able to keep quiet forever.
  2. Other times, it’s just a question of sticking to what they know best – and frankly, who can blame them? It’s worked for years and blogging is both time-consuming and a little frightening. Presenting your views to the world rather than a narrow set of key stakeholders: why bother unless someone is twisting your arm?
  3. Communicators (internal and agency) haven’t done enough to help organisations make the shift. The basic sell is: this is not a fancy add-on but a basic publication tool which, used well, has the potential to improve your reach and influence. Too often, the sell has been tactical i.e. selling “blogging” per se as something near-revolutionary rather than what it can do. We for one are doing our best to change that, but it won’t happen overnight.

Over to you. Do you agree with the premise: are influential policy bloggers indeed far and few between in Brussels? Is that perhaps a good thing?! And the reasons I cite for the scarcity? Keen to hear your thoughts.


June 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm 15 comments

From Rome to Tehran: democracy goes online

In one of our last posts we helped you understanding the apparently complicated Italian political scenario (we hope we succeeded). Now, your burning passion for the Peninsula’s politics will find other tools to better follow what happens in the ‘boot’.

A brand new web site to track down Italian MPs’ activities in the national parliament was launched yesterday. The web site has been created by a non-profit organization (Openopolis) which already launched in the past two initiatives, one to identify your political positioning by answering a set of questions on different topics and the other one to provide a wide range of information on politicians.

The new portal will help discovering, for example, that MP Antonio Caglione (Partito Democratico), is at the bottom of the attendance rate list (only 11.33% of sessions attended) and Furio Colombo (PD again) is the most rebellious MP, voting 394 times against the indications of his party. Berlusconi’s MPs are the most reliable in terms of presence and 16 of them are above the 99% threshold.

As you know this is not the first tool of this kind that was launched in a European country and it just show how the Internet is becoming an increasingly used tool by both politicians – FH digital survey docet – and voters or the society as a whole, all over Europe. People need and want the information that traditional media is not able to provide: a few minutes after the launch of the web site, visitors started receiving messages saying that the server was slowed down because of the massive traffic.

Digital democracy or e-democracy is not the future anymore, it is the present. An example? The protests in Tehran: with the government obscuring the telecom network, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube compensate the spread out of information and someone already defined this ‘ the first digital revolution’.


June 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

Digital, ascendant hand in hand with the Parliament

The FT’s EU-watcher Tony Barber wrote a insightful comment that I’m willing to bet many people missed because it appeared online only and over the Easter holiday weekend, when most EUrocrats and assorted hangers-on depart for family or sunny locales.

Tony takes a look from outside the bubbling pot of frogs and notes how the power relationships are shifting among the Commission, Parliament and Council. It’s worth reading the full comment for his analysis.

His conclusion: “Love it or loathe it, the parliament is increasingly the place to turn to understand what drives the EU.

This has many implications for public affairs, but the most significant is the increasing importance of digital communications.

As MEPs use blogs, Twitter and Facebook more to communicate, and Google, Wikipedia and online data sources more to inform their policy positions, it is essential for people who work with the elected officials to communicate to them in a way that they understand.

Along with the Parliament, digital public affairs is also ‘in the ascendant’.

April 14, 2009 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment

What happened at 12:01pm yesterday?

The first blog post appeared at the White House blog on the Obama administration’s


I wonder who drew the short straw and had to stay back in the office to throw the huge lever that changed the websites?

A quick change from the Bush to the Obama website

A quick change from the Bush to the Obama website

January 21, 2009 at 10:15 am 3 comments

More EU “web streaming services”

In our excitement about Europarl TV, we missed the re-launch of the EPP-ED internet video station at It is a slick new platform.

As the EPP-ED points out in its press release, “EPP-ED TV first broadcast via the internet in June 2007”, making it the old man on the block as it just beat the Commission’s EUTube out of the blocks.

The Socialists and ALDE group have not progressed from providing the infrequent link to a YouTube video of an MEP’s speech or a scintillating press conference.

The Commission’s EU Tube continues to churn out slightly humorous, professionally-produced videos with racy-for-a-governmental-organisation sexual references. Last Wednesday, Make Love, Not CO2 joined the list. In just 33 seconds, one learns that turning off the TV when not in the room, taking showers instead of baths, towel-drying instead of blow-drying hair, covering pots with lids, riding bikes instead of driving SUVs, enjoying quiet candle-lit ambiance instead of blasting music leads to… a nice romantic dinner instead of a date leaving in frustration.

Magical Mike

September 22, 2008 at 6:22 pm 2 comments

Harvard Political Review and Politics 2.0

Good to see the Harvard Political Review’s online edition turning its attention to the impact of digital on politics.

Interesting point raised in the article – does the use of digital in campaigning encourage undue focus on senstionalist and controversial issues (i.e. misspeaking Clintons, Obama’s pastor etc) at the expense of discussion about substantive policy issues?

August 6, 2008 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

A whistle too far

The EU’s most prominent whistleblower – Dutch MEP Paul van Buitenen – was in the news again this week after he gave the EU’s anti-fraud office (Olaf) the names of two MEPs he believes have been involved in expenses fraud.

Van Buitenen says one of the two is a former MEP, while the other is still serving. To be honest I’m not sure this is a revelation to anyone and no way as dramatic as van Buitenen’s previous whistle blowing efforts (check out his Wikipedia entry which gives a full description). My gut reaction is “only two!!”. Remember those MEPs of the past who have run for EP office simply to benefit from immunity and avoid prosecution back home for various financial misdemeanours. Now doubt we’ll see more of these shady types in next year’s election lists.

But how does such a transparency-obsessed MEP use of digital to communicate his message? A cursory look at his website suggests that he follows his clear mantra of complete openness. Check out his blog which gives a step-by-step update of what he is up to. Moreover, my guess is that he is one of few MEPs to publish complete details of his income online.

But then again could we expect anything less from an MEP who has the following quote by Albert Einstein plastered across his site:

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

April 18, 2008 at 6:30 pm 2 comments

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