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Accountability is Based on Relationships, but Data Helps Too

Fletcher Tembo's picture

"Imagine this: A health care worker or parent in a village, with a laptop or mobile device, can access development knowledge in real time through geocoding and geomapping. She can see which schools have feeding programs and which go without, and what is happening to local health... She can upload her own data, throw light on the likely effect of new interventions and mobilise the community to demand better or more targeted health programs." Robert Zoellick, Former President of the World Bank

I found this quote while attending a World Bank facilitated discussion on open data and development at the World Bank/ IMF Annual Meetings in Tokyo, Japan, a few weeks ago. There, and elsewhere, increased interest in the potential of open data is spreading from high level ‘open’ initiatives, such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), to tools for enabling local accountability and service provision. These projects aim to introduce greater availability of the most needed ingredient for citizen engagement with their governments: access to public information.

The common assumption in all these initiatives is that ordinary citizen, armed with copious information, can mobilise others and generate resolve to demand better public services. Implicit behind this assumed ‘demand’ is that information will be put to work in an ‘us versus them’ process of holding government to account (us being the mobilised, informed community, and ‘them’ being the holders or monopolisers of public information, often governments).

Three Harmless Words

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it. Once I appreciated the full enormity of the blunder, I used to say - more than a little unfairly - to any civil servant who would listen: Where was Sir Humphrey when I needed him? We had legislated in the first throes of power. How could you, knowing what you know have allowed us to do such a thing so utterly undermining of sensible government?"

Bring in the Clowns: Humor in Political Communication

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Late one night in the capitol city a mugger wearing a ski mask jumped into the path of a well-dressed man and stuck a gun in his ribs. "Give me your money!" he demanded. Indignant, the affluent man replied, "You can't do this - I'm a Member of Parliament!" "In that case," replied the robber, "give me MY money!"

Sometimes all you can do when you hear the latest news from the political stages all over the world is – laugh. Actually, laughing is a good thing in politics. Humor has become a major vehicle for political information. Political commentary in late night shows and political comedy have become an important part of political communication. Humor helps to transmit information and messages in a way that dry news formats probably can’t do.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

CNN
10 African tech voices to follow on Twitter

“Africa is quietly undergoing a tech revolution that could transform the continent. CNN's African Voices has highlighted 10 leading tech voices from different African countries. Each one comments on the role technology plays in boosting entrepreneurship and empowering communities in Africa.”  READ MORE

Open Society Foundations
How Open Society Grantees Are Advancing Access to Public Information in Latin America

“Since the landmark legal decision Marcel Claude Reyes and Others v. Chile of the Inter-American Human Rights Court in 2006, the right to access public information has increasingly been recognized by Latin America’s governments as a human right.  Fourteen of the region’s nineteen countries have access to public information laws, more than any other developing region in the world.  Most of these have been passed in the past decade with the support of the Open Society Foundations' Latin America Program and partner civil society organizations.”  READ MORE