How can we become better citizens, more aware and involved? How can we exercise our right to vote in the most meaningful way? Over the past few months leading up to the Israeli elections, there has been no shortage of hotly contested issues that have been fiercely debated among candidates and the media. But citizens also want to have a say!
Elections always raise questions about citizenship and civic duty, so as the March 17 election nears, NoCamels is profiling five leading Israeli tech platforms that give citizens a voice, help people give back to their communities, and sometimes shift political activism from street rallies – to smartphones.
Elections 2015 App
The Israeli E-Gov Unit, a branch of government designed to improve the online interaction between the government and citizens, has developed a smartphone application in order to provide the public with up-to-date information on the upcoming elections.
The application, available only in Hebrew, which at its core is a basic information hub, provides background on each party and the names of candidates, their ideological platforms and general information. In addition, the app provides citizens with voting locations and on March 17 will generate real-time updates on the percentages of voters. By the end of voting, the public will be able to track real-time results and analysis by geographic distribution and by political party.
While the app doesn’t include much of an option for social interaction among users, it is an important step for the government to address the need for citizens to be connected to government through new media and receive accurate political information.
iVote is a non-profit mobile application that aims to capture public sentiment about political issues, combined with accurate voting information in order to spur Israeli participation in politics.
iVote allows you to anonymously indicate who you’ll vote for, watch election poll results based on your circle of friends (linked with Facebook), and influence your social circle by creating open discussions in a moderated, respectful online environment. By enabling the public to start open discussions and invite their friends to chime in, iVote is getting people to talk about the issues that matter to all citizens, allowing for different perspectives and opinions.
WePowerApp, which claims to be the world’s first citizens’ network, is taking political upheaval off the streets – and into the palm of your hand. The app is expected to launch within the next week, right after the Israeli elections, but its main purpose – allowing citizens to protest online – is hoping to create rich public discourse all over the world.
The platform is dedicated to both giving citizens a voice through mobile polling and to capturing public discourse in one place. WePower facilitates mobile polling on a plethora of political issues and moderates user-generated proposals to solve community problems. The goal is to enhance civic engagement through anonymous voting and unite individuals to come together to influence political leaders in a positive way.
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In the short term, WePower might help influence political decisions at the community level, such as what a city should do with a vacant parking lot, or whether the speed limit in a school zone should be reduced. In the long term, WePower aims to have a farther-reaching influence on tackling macro issues, such as economic policies or civil rights legislation.
In addition to political involvement, volunteering is another way to become involved in your society. Israeli web portal Goodnet – Gateway to Doing Good is an example of an online hub that connects people, organizations, and businesses to inspirational opportunities for “doing good.”
It’s similar to a news portal that showcases many forms of charity and volunteering activities. Founded by The Ted Arison Family Foundation, Goodnet features daily updated content, directories of the best organizations for volunteering, wellness, education, as well as videos and images of “good-doing” from around the world. Goodnet seems to be a powerful tool for connecting people looking for opportunities to volunteer in a specific field or for a specific cause.
One of the main challenges charitable organizations are facing is increasing donations. By streamlining online fundraising, Israel’s Give2gether improves donor participation rates and substantially helps to increase the total amount of money raised for charitable causes.
Developed in 2007, this platform is based on a decade of behavioral economics research and experiments on what makes people give, why people give online and what makes them inspire others. Give2gether’s software specifically bolsters online fundraising capabilities by providing the tools to launch customized campaigns, and use social media analytics to grow donor communities.
When technology meets politics
It’s still unclear how these platforms will compete with larger social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, or how they will moderate discussions in a respectful way. But it’s evident that technological advancements and the growing use of smartphones enable individuals from all over the world to join together and propel real change. Now that technology meets public engagement and philanthropy, many more people can become involved in their communities in a meaningful way.
Photos: Elizabeth Merriam/U.S. Navy, Beny Shlevich, avivi