Government reformers and development practitioners in the open government space are experiencing the heady times associated with a newly-defined agenda. The opportunity for innovation and positive change can at times feel boundless. Yet, working in a nascent field also means a relative lack of “proven” tools and solutions (to such extent as they ever exist in development).
More research on the potential for open government initiatives to improve lives is well underway. However, keeping up with the rapidly evolving landscape of ongoing research, emerging hypotheses, and high-priority knowledge gaps has been a challenge, even as investment in open government activities has accelerated. This becomes increasing important as we gather to talk progress at the OGP Africa Regional Meeting 2016 and GIFT consultations in Cape Town next week (May 4-6) .
Public Sector and Governance
I have worked on public procurement and governance for most of my life. But I have never been more excited to finally have a solution at hand that has potential to change the legacy of opaqueness, fraud and lack of effectiveness in public contracting in many African countries.
Africa still need billions in investments to build infrastructure and provide quality services to its citizens, many of them vital: health care centers, food for school children, water services and road to help farmers market their produce. Investments as part of the Sustainable Development Goals in infrastructure alone carries a price tag nearly $100 billion a year. Unfortunately, like in many countries around the world, public contracting in Africa has been characterized by poor planning, corruption in picking contractors and suppliers and contracts are poorly managed.
But the good news is that this is changing. The series of blogs I’m kicking off will highlight the shifting of the norm towards open contracting in Africa.
Amazon is promising to deliver goods with drones. Seeing these prospective innovations in airborne delivery, we’ll be forgiven for thinking that bad roads will increasingly be secondary concerns.
But the reality is that “last mile” road access will continue to be a major and costly development challenge for years to come. “Last mile" access refers to road to final destinations, whether communities, crops, markets, schools or clinics. These are typically provincial, city-municipal and barangay (village) roads in the Philippines.
Often the responsibility of local governments, these roads determine the ease and cost by which people and goods can get to final destinations. Communities across the globe face poor road access, depriving them of economic and social opportunities, whether bringing produce to markets, getting kids to school, or mothers to clinics. Billions of dollars continue to be spent on last mile road access, but often with very poor results.
Can drone technology make a difference?
While countries around the world reap the benefits of an expanding digital environment, development challenges persist, adversely impacting low-income countries from achieving that same rate of growth.
The 2016 World Development Report (PDF) recently highlighted these findings in addition to three factors that contribute to a government’s responsiveness towards these digital changes.
According to the report, public services tend to be more amenable to improvements through digital technologies if the proposed system allows for fluid feedback, a replicable development process, and an outcome that can be easily measured and identified.
Successful leaders —presidents of countries, chief executives of corporations, or middle managers of counties — focus on a few priorities by deploying the right resources, reviewing progress, and unblocking constraints.
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of the Pakistani province of Punjab (population 100 million) and a tireless, hard driving manager, built a 27 km mass transit system in Lahore in less than a year in 2012-13. This visible show of results, according to many observers, helped his landslide victory in the 2013 election.
Did a specialized unit deliver for the chief minister? No. Just a group of well-chosen, motivated civil servants and, of course, the impending election deadline.
What is therefore fundamentally new or useful about the current ferment in the “science of delivery”? The “delivery unit” approach can work wonders, according to Sir Michael Barber, who headed the Delivery Unit in the United Kingdom from 2001 to 20015 and has distilled his advice into 57 rules in a recent book.
What do you do when facing a tough decision, like buying a home or selecting the right location for your new business? What about decisions that affect entire communities, or countries? How are those decisions made?
If you’re like most people, you rely on facts and advice from experts. You might look for data in studies, reports, or seek the advice of people you trust. You may also conduct a bit of critical analysis of the data you collect and the advice you receive. Ideally, policy-makers responsible for making decisions which impact our communities and our lives are collecting reliable data and conducting critical analysis, as well.
Uruguay stands out in Latin America and the Caribbean for the significant and early progress it achieved in terms of social protection.
Now gaining global attention, Uruguay is pioneering an award-winning information system to reduce poverty and vulnerability. The system addresses challenges faced by many governments in targeting and coordinating social assistance and, with reduced costs from license-free software, it could soon be replicated in other countries.
(about 25% of its GDP, and over 80% of total public spending). While these resources have enabled great advances, the wide array of institutions responsible for deploying them creates coordination challenges.
YouTube is a source of endless entertainment. It also has more meaningful content, such as video recordings of meetings between then deputy governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, city council, and local government agencies.
The objective, according to Purnama—who is now governor—is for citizens to be able to understand exactly why certain decisions were made or not made. Indeed, one video in particular of Ahok, as he is commonly known, meeting with the City Department of Public Works generated much press. In it, he uncovered an appraisal that should have only been Rp 30 million (approximately US 2,300) was marked as Rp 1 billion (US 75 thousand), prompting someone in the meeting to dramatically call out, “we’ve been discovered!”
Through the proactive disclosure of relevant, accessible, timely, and accurate information, of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Transparency helps ensure that governments are efficient and effective by opening up information to public scrutiny and thus making public officials answerable for their actions and decisions. Limited resources go farther when decisions about their allocation and use are well informed, publically scrutinized, and accountable.
Many countries around the world are working to improve women representation in the government.
If you look at the data from the last 25 years to see which countries made significant progress to increase proportion of seats held by women in their national parliaments, these three countries will stand out!
Rwanda, Bolivia and South Africa! See the chart below.
On this International Women’s Day, let’s quickly look at how these countries increased the proportion of women in parliaments.
, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Today, 25 years later, 64% of parliament is occupied by women.
In the past decade, efforts to promote more open and accountable governance have proliferated. These endeavors have taken on many shapes and sizes, from international multi-stakeholder initiatives to community-level citizen action, and everything in between.
Most often, these approaches have sought to leverage elements of transparency and information along with some form of citizen engagement or participation, with the goal of influencing government actions to be more responsive and accountable.