In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are helping increase citizen participation, positively transforming the relation between citizens and their government, ultimately resulting in more effective public service delivery.
Governments? Not so much…When Francis Maude spoke at the World Bank recently on the topic of open data and open government, he said, “The truth is governments have generally collected and hoarded information about their countries and their people…”
Today, however, the context has changed. Citizens are demanding more accountability and openness, and new technologies are making it easier to share data and information more freely. There are also sound reasons for doing this as experience indicates that having a more informed citizenry improves services, and open data has the potential to generate a host of new services and businesses.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Space for Transparency
Latin American Elections: How to Use Social Media to Promote Transparency
“Several presidential, regional and municipal elections were held between October and November in Latin America: In Argentina, Cristina Kirchner won by an overwhelming majority; in Guatemala, for the first time after the dictatorship a former member of the military was elected; in Nicaragua, Ortega was re-elected amid accusations of irregularities; and in Colombia, voters endorsed the position of President Santos.
As part of these electoral processes, TI chapters have implemented various strategies based on the use of new technologies and social media to engage citizens and ensure fairness and greater transparency of campaigns and elections.In Argentina, Poder Ciudadano waged the campaign Quién te Banca (Who is supporting you?) to provide information to citizens on election campaign spending, such as how much funding is received by candidates, the origin of the funds, etc. Citizens were asked to send photos of election campaign posters via sms, Twitter or Facebook. Poder Ciudadano processed the data received and submitted requests for information regarding the origin and allocation of the funds.” READ MORE
The Ukrainian Law on Access to Public Information came into force on May 9, 2011. Before this new law was adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament, international bodies had described the effective legislation as “confusing” and having overly broad exemptions.
Several international organizations, including OSCE and the Council of Europe, as well Article 19 and International Media Support (IMS) have repeatedly urged Ukraine to move forward with the adoption of the new Access to Public Information Law and provided expert support to the draft. The World Bank had not been directly involved in this process, but I participated in developing and promoting this law both as a media professional and a member of the Donor-Civil Society Working Group in Ukraine.
Proponents of governments opening data to the public in order to increase transparency and better governance have been cheering recent developments, debates and discussions. While I have used this blog to highlight many of the advantages of Open Data in instigating demand-led governance, I recently stumbled upon an article by Tom Slee which has a different take on the digital solution. Below I summarize a few points from Slee’s article which I feel are worthy of contemplation.
On July 8th 2011, President Mwai Kibaki launched the Kenyan Open Data Initiative, making key government data freely available to the public through a single online portal. The 2009 census, national and regional expenditure, and information on key public services are some of the first datasets to be released. Tools and applications have already been built to take this data and make it more useful than it originally was.
This is, so far, the story of open government data in many other countries; what's special about Kenya?
Two brilliant speakers visited the World Bank last Friday: Beth Noveck, the United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government and Head of President Obama's Open Government Initiative and Hans Rosling, Swedish Professor of International Health and famous for his bubble graphics of complex development statistics. They commented on the World Bank's recent Open Data initiative that brought 17 data sets with more than 2,000 indicators from World Bank data sources online and into the public domain.
A reader's response to the blog post “Open Government”: Open to Whom?:
"Excellent post! Investing in ICTs is fundamental to open and transparent governance.
I am particularly struck by the following lines, "For their part, government officials complained about the lack of recordkeeping and archiving, particularly of the digital variety. Even with the best of intentions, officials may not be able to make information available amid weak information management systems; some of the interviewees pointed out that information about existing programs goes missing, and with it lessons learned -- along with the public’s opportunity to hold agencies accountable."