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March 2010

Response to "Open Governement": Open to Whom?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's response to the blog post “Open Government”: Open to Whom?:

"Excellent post! Investing in ICTs is fundamental to open and transparent governance.

I am particularly struck by the following lines, "For their part, government officials complained about the lack of recordkeeping and archiving, particularly of the digital variety. Even with the best of intentions, officials may not be able to make information available amid weak information management systems; some of the interviewees pointed out that information about existing programs goes missing, and with it lessons learned -- along with the public’s opportunity to hold agencies accountable."

“Open Government”: Open to Whom?

Hannah Bowen's picture

The push for open government is not of course limited to Barack Obama’s White House  or to  the World Bank.

As part of the AudienceScapes project, InterMedia has been conducting quantitative and qualitative research in Africa, to better understand how people gather, share and shape news and public interest information. In Kenya, InterMedia conducted in-depth interviews with 15 senior members of the policy-making community.

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Voicing the opposite opinion, or acting in public accordingly, incurs the danger of isolation. In other words, public opinion can be described as the dominating opinion which compels compliance of attitude and behavior in that it threatens the dissenting individual with isolation, the politician with loss of popular support. Thus the active role of starting a process of public opinion formation is reserved to the one who does not allow himself to be threatened with isolation."

 

In Memoriam: Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann (1916 - 2010)

"Where the Really Exciting Stuff is Happening"

Antonio Lambino's picture

Twaweza is a Swahili word that means “we can make it happen.”  In Tanzania and Kenya, it is also the name of "a citizen-centered initiative, focusing on large-scale change in East Africa.”  Earlier this week, at the Center for Global Development, Twaweza head and founder Rakesh R. Rajani delivered a presentation the title of which tickled my imagination: “Why Ownership and Capacity Building Don’t Work: Lessons from East Africa.”

The Technocrat and the Politician

Sina Odugbemi's picture

As a salute to the historic passage of health care reform in the United States, a story that this blog has been tracking, I want to recall something that Senator Barack Obama ( as he then was) said in 2008. It was in the course of his epic battle with Senator Hillary Clinton (as she then was) for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party. You will recall that the two of them debated health care reform interminably in those months. The issue was: was health care reform merely a problem of technical design?

Finding Inspiration in Finland’s Clean Government

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Why don’t Finns worry about locking their bikes on a busy Helsinki Street? Why do Finnish skateboarders who advocate anarchy politely abide by traffic laws? Why indeed is Finland so uncorrupt? The answers to these questions are presented in a paper by Darren C. Zook called “The Curious Case of Finland’s Clean Politics,” which a colleague recently shared with me. Zook points out that, puzzlingly, most corruption literature today focuses on countries where corruption is rampant in order to document and examine incidents and causes of corruption. Instead of focusing on the bad news, he posits, why not learn from the “clean” countries? His paper examines Finland as a source of inspiration for a model of clean government.

What Does It Take to Bring About Change? (Part II)

In the last posting I discussed two key elements making change difficult to achieve; namely people’s inherent resistance to change and the tendency to design and deliver messages appealing to the rational side of people. This last point is often a cause of limited success in promoting change because it neglects to consider that human behaviours are not always guided by rational considerations, at least in a strict scientific sense (see the still rather strong diffusion of smoking despite that its harm is almost universally acknowledged).Taking into account stakeholders’ perceptions, satisfaction, and cultural models can often be more effective than solutions-based innovations, especially if suggested by external agents of change.

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Look, one of the things that makes politics hard for rank-and-file voters in the United States is just how impossibly large this nation is.  In a country of 300 millions, no matter what you do, it's often going to feel like it's a meaningless drop in the ocean.  And given the legislative process, time passes between campaigning and enacting bills into law, and by many people have moved on to other parts of their lives.  But individuals, and especially small groups of people, really can make a difference.  This battle over health care reform is one time when it wasn't just the lobbyists, or the interest groups, or the politicians...whole bunches of small groups of people, in states and Congressional districts across the nation, turned a handful of Senate races and a dozen or two House races around and, sixteen or so months later, their work is, today, most likely going to change the country.  If you're one of them, it's a day to be proud of what you've done."

-- Jonathan Bernstein, "We are the Ones", A Plain Blog about Politics.

 

Good Luck, and Be Careful When You Cross the Street

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP's latest book, Public Sentinel, outlines the role of the news media in governance reform, which is of course all about the roles of journalists in society and political systems. The book identifies three main roles - agenda setters, watchdogs, and gatekeepers - that journalists should, ideally, fulfill in order to strengthen good governance. Looking at a recent report on The State of Freedom of Expression in the Americas, all I can say to a journalist who indeed wants to uphold those ideals: Good luck, and be careful when you cross the street.

The Transparency Revolution Reaches the World Bank

Sina Odugbemi's picture

On November 17, 2009 the Board of the World Bank approved a new policy that will help strengthen the norm of transparency in governance in the global system. It is the Access to Information Policy. The new policy goes into effect on July 1, 2010. The following elements of the policy are notable:

What Does It Take to Bring About Change? (PART I)

Why is change so difficult to achieve, even when it seems to be the best solution for a certain problem? We could start by recalling human nature that is usually risk adverse. Probably this derives from our genetic memory going back thousands of years when deviating from a known routine and venturing into the unknown could jeopardize one’s life. Currently, we still tend to be more comfortable with what we know rather than entering uncharted waters. Hesitation and uncertainty that typically accompany changes are also often coupled with a degree of “mental laziness”, as it always takes an extra effort to change old habits in favor of new ones.

Tweet, Tweet

Antonio Lambino's picture

We’ve all heard stories about how helpful and at times, epic, the roles of social media have been in crisis situations, both natural and manmade.  See, for instance, yesterday's New York Times piece on Ushahidi and Anne Arnold’s previous post on the role of new ICTs and social media in disaster response and development.  But I’m of two minds regarding one particular social media application.  Twitter allows its users to send out a “tweet” of up to 140 characters, and to keep one’s followers up to date on just about anything under the sun.  So I signed up last week to see what’s it’s like to have my very own Twitter account.

I certainly value the enabling environment social media provide to the exercise of voice, especially in places where freedom of expression is suppressed.  And heartwarming stories abound of people finding each other through social media.  A decade ago, my family was all atwitter when my cousin sheepishly confessed that he met his special someone in a chat room.  Today, I’ve heard people tell similar stories with nothing but aplomb.  Obviously, there are intrinsic and instrumental values to having multiple routes of self expression.  Especially in bad places where speech is silenced through intimidation and brutality. 

But there is a difference between tweeting things like “Men in uniform shooting at us -- please help” and “Just went to the bathroom – need to go again”. 

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Yet journalism is a critical point. Political journalism in particular must cope with a fragmenting political sphere, the rise of fleet-footed competition from blogs and websites and the decline of an audience. Journalism and politics have, for two centuries, depended on, fought with, supported and tried to destroy each other. Now they sigh for the good old days when they were both certain enough of their respective institutions to engage in combat." -- John Lloyd, Power and the press, Financial Times, February 20 2010

 

Public Opinion and Political Leaders

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's comment to the blog post Leaders Who Ignore Public Opinion Lose Their Offices:

"Having worked for quite some time in public opinion research, I could not agree more with your points. “Public Opinion” indeed has become a catch all phrase for a wide range of information, starting with simple popularity questions to very in depth stakeholder assessments.

What I find interesting about the argument in the FT article is that it suggests a fairly strong negative correlation between public opinion and the politician’s success in office. However, his argument rests upon a few individuals, who were successful when researching public opinion was either non-existent or relatively new (and therefore not much used). It also ignores the shift in voting behaviors that actually made it possible for politicians to ignore the public opinion in their day to a certain degree.

Leveling the Playing Field on World Bank – Civil Society Dialogue

John Garrison's picture

After years of feeling that its policies were unfairly criticized by civil society organizations, the Bank is now ‘turning the tables’ by being formally asked to critique civil society ideas and papers.  Likewise, after years of feeling ‘shut out’ and ignored by Bank experts, CSOs are confidently seeking Bank views on their macro- economic research findings.  This trend is best exemplified by the launches of books written by well known CSO leaders at the Bank’s Infoshop over the past two years.  These include the launch of “From Poverty to Poverty” by Duncan Green (Head of Research for Oxfam/GB) in November 2008, “Development Redefined” by John Cavanaugh (Director of the Institute for Policy Studies) and Robin Broad (Professor of International Development at American University) in February 2009; and "Unheard Truth” by Irene Khan (Secretary General of Amnesty International) in October 2009.  In all three cases, Bank staff were asked to be discussants and offer their critiques of the books. 

Plan of Action to Advance the Right of Access to Information in Africa

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Here is an important initiative led by the Carter Center that I was part of and that we would like to bring to the attention of our readers. What follows is the text from the Carter Center:

"Participants from the African Regional Conference on the Right of Access to Information today released the Regional Findings and Plan of Action to advance the right in Africa. The conference found that while access to information is a fundamental human right, political and institutional constraints in Africa have limited the opportunities to exercise the right. Taking into account the realities of Africa, the regional document serves as an annex to the global Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action

Beyond Training: The Role of The International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC )

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A response to the blog post Beyond Training: Development Assistance in the Media Sector from Wijayananda Jayaweera, Director, Division for Communication Development, UNESCO:

I wish to comment on few matters concerning your blog on the recent IPDC decisions to support 84 media development projects.  Firstly, I entirely agree with you on the need of sustained attention from the development community to support media development in a strategic manner. In fact, the IPDC endorsed Media Development Indicators provide a framework for the development community to devise such coordinated strategies at country level.  But far more important is that such strategies are developed in a multistakeholder partnership where local ownership of the processes is assured and participation of media community and civil society is guaranteed. In 2009 multistakeholder partnerships in Croatia, Ecuador, Maldives, and Mozambique have used media development indicators for media sector assessments and have developed evidence based recommendation to improve the media sector development. UNESCO supported these assessments outside the IPDC frame work and will continue to do so, so that the development community can take the resulting recomendations on board when they prepare their country strategies.

Leaders Who Ignore Public Opinion Lose Their Offices

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Leaders who pander to public opinion lose respect" - an interesting headline we found in last Wednesday's Financial Times, opening a comment by Economist and columnist John Kay. Kay makes two common mistakes in his article: First, he confuses public opinion with the popularity of an individual. Second, he underestimates the role of public opinion for legitimizing government.

Quote of the Week

Antonio Lambino's picture

"The same egalitarian value that is embodied in people's equal right to be self governing and that requires 'one-person/one-unit-of-formal-political-power' applied to the ballot box also applies to the public sphere.  The public sphere influences how people choose to exercise their vote.  Equally important, through the creation of public opinion, the public sphere should and often does influence how elected and appointed public officials actually exercise their formal decision-making power.  In any large society, the mass media constitute probably the most crucial institutional structure in the public sphere."

-- C. Edwin Baker (2007)
Media Concentration and Democracy: Why Ownership Matters

Cracking the Entrenched System of Corruption

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Last month, I had the pleasure to meet again with Shaazka Beyerle, Senior Advisor at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, during her visit to Washington. Sina and I first met Beyerle in Doha and were impressed by her research on civic campaigns to fight corruption; I had the chance to speak with her by phone in December and was happy to continue our conversation in person in February. Having examined a multitude of non-violent grassroots campaigns against corruption around the world for her own research (for those interested, here is the link to her research description), Beyerle shared with me not only numerous interesting cases for CommGAP to look into in our research, but also her observations about the factors that contribute to the success of civic efforts to fight corruption.

Beyond Training: Development Assistance in the Media Sector

Antonio Lambino's picture

UNESCO plays a critical role in promoting media development globally.  The organization’s Communication and Information Sector regularly sends out statements condemning attacks against journalists and updates on the state of media freedom in various countries.  Yesterday, I received an e-mail announcing that UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) had chosen to support 84 media development projects around the world.

But the numbers worry me a little.  The total package amounts to 2.1 million USD spread out over 84 projects.  That’s around 25,000 USD per project.  Allocations range from 7,000 (strengthening journalism training capacity in Cameroon) to 80,000 USD (much needed assistance to a Haitian journalists’ association).  This list of projects tackles a limited set of issues compared to those addressed by the broad media indicators framework IPDC itself released in 2008. 

That Poll in Marja and What It Means for Us

Sina Odugbemi's picture

This is an extended quote from the New York Times of February 19, 2010, from a story titled 'Afghan Push Went Beyond Traditional Military Goals':

"Before 10,000 troops marched through central Helmand Province to wrest control of a small Afghan town from a few hundred entrenched Taliban fighters, American officials did something more typical of political than military campaigns: they took some polls.

Still a Niche? ICTs for Disaster Response and Development

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

When I try to wrap my head around the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for development, I usually don't get much further than "blogging" and "text messages." It was therefore enlightening to attend today's World Bank Institute Keys to Innovation Discussion Series on "Developers for Development: Using Open Source Technology in Disaster Response and Beyond." Five presenters from open source organizations introduced their projects. The relevance of those projects is painfully obvious in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"A vast change has happened in politics in the past half-century. The media have become crucial to the business of governing. Though they do not rule the country, the media sometimes rule the rulers, forcing them to spend long hours wooing, refuting, dodging and complaining."

-- John Lloyd, Power and the press, Financial Times, February 20 2010