Today, we face a fundamental question: How can we ensure that development is done as effectively and inclusively as possible? Openness is the answer.
Openness captures the very essence of international development in the 21st century.
At its core, openness is the idea that citizens and governments can work together to achieve better results for all.
Open government - increased disclosure of information and enhanced citizen participation in government decision-making is a powerful way to address the complex governance and development challenges we have faced for so long.
“There is almost nothing that government can or should do alone,” said one of the panelists at a recent global webinar on the future of digital government.
This was just one of the many signals of the disruptive and creative impact that digital platforms, dynamic connections and cross-sector co-design and participation are having on the role and practice of governments. While some are resisting, the outcomes that many predicted in the early days of e-government are now possible through “silo-busting,” merged back-office infrastructures and focused collaborative relationships with civil society, businesses, citizens and communities. To some degree, this reflects Professor Carlotta Perez’s creative construction phase of a revolution (also described in this paper) and reinforces two critical success factors: execution and deployment capabilities.
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Most states around the world, including most authoritarian regimes, tolerate Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) involved in noncontroversial, de-politicized humanitarian work because they provide social services that the state does not or because battling them would incur greater political expense than allowing them to work at the margins. However, it is also clear that organizations with a political mandate or those that raise difficult policy issues face intense pressure in many countries. In these states, authorities seek legal frameworks which could prevent CSOs from experssing their opinions, questioning official policies, or mobilising on the streets.
In Africa, estimates indicate that an annual investment of $93 billion is required to address the continent’s basic infrastructure needs – more than double the current level of investment.
The lack of productive investment of resource revenues, with spending of these revenues often heavily tilted towards consumption, is a critical component of the so-called resource curse, the observation that countries rich in natural resources frequently have slow long-term growth. Following oil or mineral discoveries, as the expectation of increased wealth spreads, pressures to spend typically become hard for politicians to resist, public sector salaries go through the roof, wasteful spending increases, corruption may flourish, hidden foreign bank accounts may be established, and the number of unproductive “white elephant” projects grows.
How can resource-rich countries ensure that a large share of oil, gas, and mining revenues are used for productive investment rather than excessive or wasteful consumption?
International trade has a critical role to play in environmental protection and the effort to mitigate climate change. While it certainly isn’t always framed this way, it is important to realize that increased trade and economic growth are not necessarily incompatible with a cleaner environment and a healthier climate.
If we are going to move away from dirty fossil fuels and inefficient energy processes at a rate necessary to limit the likely devastating results of a warmer planet, then we need enabling policies in place—especially when it comes to trade policy.
That’s why, this week, a group of 14 World Trade Organization (WTO) Members are meeting to begin the second round of negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA)—an effort aimed at liberalizing trade in products that help make our world cleaner and greener.
Vietnam has achieved remarkably high and inclusive GDP growth since the late 1980s. GDP growth per capita increased three-and-a-half-fold during 1991-2012, a performance surpassed only by China. The distribution of growth has been as remarkable as its pace: the bottom 40% of the population’s share in national income has remained virtually unchanged since the early 1990s, ensuring that the rapid income gains got translated into shared prosperity and significant poverty reduction.
GDP growth, however, has been operating on a lower trajectory since 2008. This has led to questions regarding the sustainability of the growth process, and, with it, Vietnam’s ability to bounce back to about 7-8% per capita growth. Analysts have voiced concerns over declining total factor productivity growth and growing reliance on capital accumulation. Moreover, a number of competitiveness issues routinely get raised by private investors, including: a widening skills gap, limited access to finance, relatively high trade and transport logistics costs, an overbearing presence of the SOEs, and heavy government bureaucracy that makes it difficult for businesses to operate in Vietnam.
In my first mission as senior director, I am participating in an event in London this week hosted by the Governance Partnership Facility (GPF). This multi donor trust fund includes the World Bank Group, along with donors that include the UK, Netherlands, Norway and Australia. This year’s program includes perspectives from civil society and academic institutions which will further enrich our understanding of what’s important to our client countries.
Despite relatively modest resources over the past five years the GPF has played a major role in helping to build the Bank’s Governance and Anti-Corruption strategy. The model of the trust fund is structured around four different “windows” in which competitive grant proposals are submitted by World Bank task team leaders across the different Practice Groups; these are then carefully vetted and submitted to a Steering Committee for approval.
An unprecedented number of individuals and organizations are finding ways to explore, interpret and use Open Data. Public agencies are hosting Open Data events such as meetups, hackathons and data dives. The potential of these initiatives is great, including support for economic development (McKinsey, 2013), anti-corruption (European Public Sector Information Platform, 2014) and accountability (Open Government Partnership, 2012). But is Open Data’s full potential being realized?
A news item from Computer Weekly casts doubt. A recent report notes that, in the United Kingdom (UK), poor data quality is hindering the government’s Open Data program. The report goes on to explain that – in an effort to make the public sector more transparent and accountable – UK public bodies have been publishing spending records every month since November 2010. The authors of the report, who conducted an analysis of 50 spending-related data releases by the Cabinet Office since May 2010, found that that the data was of such poor quality that using it would require advanced computer skills.
Far from being a one-off problem, research suggests that this issue is ubiquitous and endemic. Some estimates indicate that as much as 80 percent of the time and cost of an analytics project is attributable to the need to clean up “dirty data” (Dasu and Johnson, 2003).
In addition to data quality issues, data provenance can be difficult to determine. Knowing where data originates and by what means it has been disclosed is key to being able to trust data. If end users do not trust data, they are unlikely to believe they can rely upon the information for accountability purposes. Establishing data provenance does not “spring full blown from the head of Zeus.” It entails a good deal of effort undertaking such activities as enriching data with metadata – data about data – such as the date of creation, the creator of the data, who has had access to the data over time and ensuring that both data and metadata remain unalterable.
Reforms are needed because there is a policy or institutional arrangement in place that has become counterproductive. But before suggesting how to reform it, we should ask why that policy exists at all, why it has persisted for so long, and why it hasn’t been reformed until now. For these policies didn’t come about by accident. Nor have they remained because somebody forgot to change them. And they are unlikely to be reformed just because a policymaker happens to read a book, article or blog post entitled “How to reform…”