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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).

Research Is Not An End In Itself

Naniette Coleman's picture

In the world of development, research is not enough; a free and protected media is not enough; policy is not enough; but together, the combination can be unstoppable, when communicated well. Communication is the key. Disparate pieces floating in a vacuum cannot garner the type of result that is possible when they are combined and communicated as a whole, properly. 

 

Sanctioned Secrecy: EurekAlert!

Naniette Coleman's picture

Is secrecy the anti-thesis of transparency or an important tool in a reformist’s toolbox? In a world struggling for transparency is there a role for secrecy.  A number of reputable medical and science journals including the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA), the New England Journal of Medicine and Science magazine seem to think so. They have been practicing the fine art of secrecy since their inception. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, "Triple A-S" (AAAS), an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world and publisher of Science magazine, is even in on it. In fact, Triple A-S created a website to help further the cause of secrecy, more commonly called embargoed news. The site is EurekAlert! and it is currently available in both English and Chinese