“It has been said, and with good reason, that while society has entered the digital era politics has remained analog. If democratic institutions used the new communication technologies as instruments of dialogue, and not for mere propaganda, they would breathe fresh air into their operations. And that would more effectively bring them in tune with all parts of society.”
When you think of Afghanistan, what thoughts come to mind—suicide attacks, insurgency, women wearing burkas, the Taliban, or probably, dusty dirt roads? These images, while still relevant in much of the country, often miss exciting development happening in another side of Afghanistan, the side where Afghans are beginning to engage in dialogues and exchanging ideas about data and development. Opening up data provides access and availability, universal participation and further enables the reuse of data in a transparent and innovative manner in the search for development solutions. Sounds nice, but what does this mean in the context of Afghanistan?
Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012
Originally published on April 9, 2012
The emerging concept of “Open Development” has become a topic of keen interest to citizens, policy makers, and development practitioners alike.
Opening data to enhance transparency, accountability and development outcomes sounds great. However, two main issues remain unclear: Openness for whom? And openness for what?
Two weeks ago, I participated in a fascinating panel, entitled ‘Does Openness Enhance Development?’ at the ICTD2012 Conference in Atlanta. At the center of the discussion were the following issues: (i) what do we mean by open development? (ii) Can openness close the ‘accountability loop’ between citizens, governments and international donors? (iii) Can openness lead to a more inclusive development? (iv) What is truly open and what not? and (v) What are the main barriers to opening up the development process?
Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012
Originally published on May 29, 2012
A common theme in the field of open government refers to the use of technologies as a means to foster citizen engagement. A closer examination, however, shows that most initiatives facilitated by information and communication technologies (ICT) have been characterized by low levels of citizen engagement.
In Brazil, the state of Rio Grande do Sul stands out as an exception. For instance, in a recent web-based policy crowdsourcing initiative supported by the ICT4Gov Program of the World Bank Institute (WBI) and the Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA), “Governador Pergunta” (“The Governor Asks”), citizens were invited to co-design solutions to address health challenges in the state. The process has generated over 1,300 proposals, with more than 120,000 votes cast on the prioritization of the different proposals.
Dumping and intermediation – that doesn’t even sound similar, does it? Nevertheless, information intermediation is often misunderstood to mean a dump of lots of technical information on unsuspecting audiences. Do you know those websites that provide all the information you can possible imagine, and a lot you can’t imagine besides, about a certain issue or project or initiative – and that’s then called “reaching out to the public” or even engagement? Well, it’s not. It’s dumping. And it’s not useful.
Do you know these people who always only hear what they want to hear? Who interpret everything in a way that fits their own views? Yes? Deal with them every day? Well, chances are, you’re one of them. Biased information processing is a common phenomenon. It happens when the information we receive is out of sync with what we believe to be true, or want to be true, or when the information is inconvenient for us. This obviously has huge implications for communication campaigns in development.
Adaptive capacity is “the ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.” (The definition comes from the Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.)
Communication has a role in all levels of climate change adaptation efforts; from the dialogue that establishes multi-governmental agreements, the positive public opinion required to introduce national polices to implementing new practices at local levels. But building adaptive capacity at the local level seems the most complex and challenging. Whether at the community, household or individual levels, building local adaptive capacity requires shifting people away from the “old way” of doing things to introducing new processes. Adaptation efforts require communities to implement new practices and ideas, take risks, and experiment.
"Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated."
Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011
Originally published on July 28, 2011
Recently I attended a course on social norms and social change organized by UNICEF at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Understanding how social norms affect change in practices and behaviours is becoming an increasingly ‘hot topic’ in development discourse, and rightly so I would add. In some of my previous blogs I’ve discussed how in many cases the failure to achieve expected results should be ascribed to technocratic solutions, which are not always understood and agreed upon with local communities. The lack of a clear understanding of the role and mechanisms of behaviour change has been responsible for many development failures. However, developing strict behaviour change strategies might also be not enough to promote change.
Just last week, I attended a presentation on negotiation by Chris Voss, CEO of Black Swan, at Georgetown University. It was particularly interesting because Chris was also one of the top hostage negotiators for the FBI.
Negotiation is increasingly important because with the spread of globalization, we are constantly colliding with others who may or may not share our cultural mores, and to be successful in our jobs, whether it is working with parties on governance and accountability, consulting with civil society, or communicating around a project, we have to understand how to negotiate globally.