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?
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Center for Global Development
Development and the Death of Aaron Swartz
“Aaron Swartz, who died on January 11th, worked and fought for key freedoms of our time: the right to information, to share knowledge and ideas, and to speak freely. He did not just campaign: he built the RSS standard which enables blogs and websites to share information, the Web site framework web.py, the architecture for the Open Library, the link sharing platform Reddit, and he helped to design the Creative Commons licence. He co-founded the online group Demand Progress — known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). He died, apparently by killing himself, aged just 26. Aaron Swartz faced 13 felony charges for having downloaded millions of academic journal articles from the online repository, JSTOR, allegedly with the intention of publishing them freely online.
The death of Aaron Swartz has made me think about how important it is for development that we continue to fight his fights, and continue to build what he began.” READ MORE
Aaron Swartz died this past January 11th. As Owen Barder noted yesterday, “He did not just campaign: he built the RSS standard which enables blogs and websites to share information, the Web site framework web.py, the architecture for the Open Library, the link sharing platform Reddit, and he helped to design the Creative Commons license. He co-founded the online group Demand Progress — known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)…” The list of accomplishments is long, and the end has been so sudden.
A recent Poverty Matters blog post in the Guardian noted that mobile technologies and social media are creating cheap ways for citizens to interact with their governments and that development projects are trying to tap into these technologies. It gave a plug to the Bank’s new Open Finances mobile app that lets users find and monitor bank-funded projects near where they live, using mapping and GPS technology.
With the advent of the New Year and given the on-going work in the Bank on the open agenda, here are three things we may accomplish in 2013:
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 July 19, 2012
Even as the language of ‘Open Government’ has picked up steam over the past couple of years – driven initially by the 'Obama Open Government Directive', and further boosted by the multi-lateral Open Government Partnership – the use of the term has tended to fairly broad, and mostly imprecise, lacking a shared, consistent definition. As Nathaniel Heller of Global Integrity, a key player in the OGP, cautioned in a recent blog: “The longer we allow ‘open government’ to mean any and everything to anyone, the risk increases that the term melts into a hollow nothingness of rhetoric.”
In a recent useful piece, Harlan Yu and David Robinson, draw a distinction between “the technologies of open data and the politics of open government,” suggesting that ‘open government data’ can be understood through two lenses – open ‘government data’ or ‘open government’ data. The first approach reflects an emphasis on deploying the functionality of new information technologies to put government datasets in the public space in a way that is amenable to re-use, and can be tied to a range of outcomes – among other things, improved delivery of services, innovation, or efficiency. The second approach prioritizes a mode of governance characterized by transparent decision-making - particularly on issues of public interest and critical for public welfare – and the release of government data (and information in other formats as well) as furthering this goals of transparency.
For over three decades debt statistics published by the World Bank have provided the authoritative accounting of the external debt of developing countries. Governments, investors and bankers, academics, and journalists have relied on them to identify financial trends and vulnerabilities.
Open Government is increasingly perceived as a new paradigm for ICT-enabled government transformation offering a number of instruments for improved governance, transparency and innovation. Ulyanovsk Oblast of Russia has already made substantial progress in e-government, IT industry development and IT literacy, and has taken practical steps that have made it an early leader in Open Government initiatives in Russia, as recognized in a study published in May 2012 by the Russian Institute of the Information Society.
The UNDP just launched open.undp.org. The site details information on their 6,000+ projects in 177 countries and territories worldwide and lets you search and browse by location, funding source, and focus areas.
I think it’s really good and I’m most impressed by three features:
The World Bank has been making increasing use of Apps to make its information and data more accessible via mobile devices. The launch of the Integrity App expands the World Bank’s open data universe, and - perhaps even more excitingly - enables users to engage as 'citizen corruption fighters' to help protect the integrity of its projects, and ensure that development funds are used for their intended purposes.
So what does the new World Bank Integrity App do? It enables users to report concerns of fraud or corruption in Bank-financed projects. As with all such reports received, these are handled by the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency, a specialized unit responsible for investigating and pursuing sanctions in cases of fraud and corruption in World Bank-financed projects.
Users of the Integrity App can identify projects (by name, country, sector or key word) and submit a confidential report of their concerns. Other features include attaching an image or recording the location of the complaint through the optional use of GPS. Users can also view the World Bank’s integrity policies.