As we enter the last week of the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on Citizen Engagement— developed here at the Bank in partnership with London School of Economics, Overseas Development Institute, Participedia and CIVICUS— let’s explore the central question posed in the course: Is Citizen Engagement a Game Changer for Development?
In a blog following the London MOOC event, Duncan Edwards argued the need to think hard about the approaches we adopt in advancing citizen engagement to address development challenges.
Information and Communication Technologies
The majority of the poor in the world are gaining access to these technologies for the first time. The real question remains: does having access to a cell phone, the Internet, or social media have any tangible benefits for the living conditions of the most marginalized among the poor?
Is the “digital divide” widening or narrowing the “economic divide”?
“This dengue has become a calamity,” Saad Azeem said in September 2011. He wasn’t exaggerating. Azeem, a 45 year-old police officer, was “at home suffering from the fever and mourning the death of his elderly father.”
Sadly this wasn’t the case just for Azeem. Everyone was affected in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the most populous province of Pakistan. The fever didn’t discriminate. Dengue mosquitoes were affecting the poor and the rich, the old, and the young. Out of more than 12,000 people who were infected in Pakistan, at least 10,000 resided in Lahore.
It was a disaster.
Two weeks ago, we launched an exciting new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Citizen Engagement hosted on Coursera and in partnership with the London School of Economics, the Overseas Development Institute, Participedia, and CIVICUS.
To date, over 15,000 people from 192 countries (45% women) have enrolled in the course and our digital footprint continues to be strong: the launch event page has had over 2,500 unique visitors while many continue to use the hashtag #CitizensEngage on Twitter.
These healthy metrics are a strong indication of just how timely and significant this issue has become and is the latest reason why I firmly believe in the power of engaging citizens to build good governance. This MOOC therefore is a key component of the World Bank Group’s commitment to develop a citizen perspective on governance to improve the contribution of institutions to development.
Yet let me offer six compelling reasons why it is necessary, feasible and useful to do it:
As such, reforming procurement systems can prove transformational for development in any country.
In Georgia, the introduction of e-procurement (Ge-GP) is a good example of how strong political will and commitment can be critical in the context of reforming public procurement. Within a year, the State Procurement Agency of Georgia (SPA) designed, developed, and tested an e-procurement system, and eventually moved to the mandatory use of e-Procurement, fully replacing paper-based tenders.
Nearly every week, I read news stories about citizens clamoring for change in governance- citizens who want their voices heard and acted upon. In countries all over the globe, citizen groups are working (sometimes with governments and sometimes against them) to build a more citizen-centric approach to governance. Why? People—ordinary citizens—are at the heart of good governance, and governments are genuinely more effective when they listen to and work with citizens to tackle development challenges.
Engaging citizens can help improve transparency and accountability of public policies, promote citizens’ trust, forge consensus around important reforms, and build the political and public support necessary to sustain them.
Consider that as much as $1 trillion vanishes from the developing world’s economies every year, according to an estimate by the non-profit group Global Financial Integrity. Now consider that, according to OECD figures, in 2012-2013 Net Overseas Development Aid was $134 billion. These figures underscore why the fight against corruption and ending impunity are critical to the goals of ending poverty and achieving shared prosperity.
In December of 2014 the World Bank hosted the 3rd Biennial International Corruption Hunters’ Alliance meeting focused on fighting corruption - and the vast illicit outflows generated by corruption - to share know-how and experiences in the use of both traditional and alternative corruption fighting approaches.
Though there were many examples of the successful use of technology to fight corruption presented at the meeting, a report (pdf) published from one of the sessions raises questions about whether technology always supports anti-corruption efforts.
Dr. Anne Thurston of the International Records Management Trust spoke about problems that are arising as governments become more reliant on the use of ICTs: digital media deteriorate, software changes, and hardware becomes obsolete. The risk is that if digital records are not managed professionally, their integrity and value as legal evidence can become compromised.
Open governance is about ensuring that citizens are able to engage with their governments and that those governments are then willing and able to respond to citizen demands. This, in turn, should lead to socially-inclusive economic development and more effective and efficient service delivery, improving the lives of citizens. But how can citizens fully hold their governments accountable without access to—and comprehension of—government data?
The real challenge for fostering open governance lies in promoting transparency among the various sources of funding that make up a country’s public investment portfolio. Without a clear breakdown of their governments’ resources, citizens cannot engage in informed policy or decision-making discussions.
While inroads have been made in many countries, some of the challenges that arise when opening, consuming and sharing data in fragile states and situations are similar to those arise in any context. In many countries, data scarcity, quality of source, and data capacity and literacy make it difficult to not only publish data, but also make it accessible to broad audiences.
The following additional challenges (and in some cases, solutions) come to light in the fragile context:
data fueling 'smart cities,' citizen engagement in planning and budgeting, public transparency and accountability, entrepreneurship (even without open data), and more.
These show the promise of open data, which doesn’t come easy in stable governments. But how does open data play out in the context of fragile states and conflict situations?
Last year, we asked ourselves these questions and reached out to the aid community.