News: Can Geeks Save the UN?

Information is power. But in the UN, the information is so dispersed, so full of bureaucratic slang that its information is virtually inaccessible. We can sit, bitch and whine about it all, or we can do something about it.

A small group, describing themselves as "civil hackers", decided to make a change. They have a track record of achieving their goal too: they helped 2 million people tracking their MPs' voting records via the site and through, got the EU to publish full subsidy data.

They set up, an attempt to shed light on the inner workings of the UN.

How? The UN has for some time made copies of its resolutions and other information online at, but like a lot of government initiatives the data published is hardly reusable in any meaningful way. URLs are not persistent, and data formats are not open. The group around Julian Todd, in Liverpool is laboriously scraping the data out of the site and republishing it with persistent URLs.

The next technical step is to import the XML data they have now into a relational database with a new front end and create tools for action - the UN equivalent of

Will this effort by itself fix the UN? Even the team themselves don't think so exactly. But they do think shedding the sunlight of the web on the institution will increase transparency and therefore accountability. (Full)

Picture courtesy Source: The Road Daily


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