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demand for good governance

Opening Channels for Citizens to Directly Interact with the Government

Sabina Panth's picture

I wonder how many of us, living or working in Washington DC, know about 311.  No, I’m not talking about the Three-Eleven rock band, but rather the phone-based 311 system that many cities in US, including DC, have opened up for citizens to submit inquiries or log complaints related to public services.  There is also an “evolved” version of 311, called Open311, which allows the public to submit and track the progress of their reports through use of modern technologies like mobile-phones or computers. In return, the government is able to capture accurate details of the inquirer’s input, act on those details and then notify the public on the actions taken.  Marc Angelo Irlandez, who heads Open311, relates the system with Customer Relations Management (CRM) information database that sales businesses use to store information on their regular and potential customers to tailor products and services accordingly. 

Meaningful Citizen Participation in Decentralization and Local Governance

Sabina Panth's picture

We expect decentralization to bring decision-making governance closer to the people/citizens.  Donors use this rationale to push governments, mainly in developing countries, to devolve central power and authority towards strengthening civic engagement in local governance processes.  But according to Dany Ayida, a governance expert who shared his field experience in Central and West Africa at a recent presentation at the World Bank, meaningful civic participation in a decentralization setting depends on various factors, including:  a) vitality of the public sphere or political environment; b) the culture and political history of the country; and c) the capacity and incentives of both civil society organization and local governments to interact and interface meaningfully with one another.

Engaging Communities to Track the Constituency Budget

Sabina Panth's picture

Philip Thigo and his partner, John Kipchumbah, were a part of the Infonet Project in Kenya that was hosted by the World Social Forum in 2007.  The project proposed the use of technology to create an open information and communication infrastructure to enable communities to build social capital for democratic actions.  The duo were concerned that no marked changes had occurred in the poverty rate in Kenya, despite the apparent economic progress in the country.  The technical skills they acquired from Infonet prompted them to conceive the idea of a Budget Tracking Tool that would connect communities directly with the national development agenda, without the need for a third party or civil society organizations working on their behalf.

Are Citizen Service Centers Viable?

Sabina Panth's picture

In my earlier blog post, I had conceived the idea of 'fee-based service centers' that can be run through public-private partnership with the goal of improving citizens’ access to, and delivery of, government services.  The concept was considered in the context of sustainability of demand for good governance practices in relation to the aid dependency culture of civil society organizations.   Recently, I became aware that such ‘fee-based service centers’ do prevail and, in fact, have caught the attention of policymakers and development experts.

Combating Systemic Corruption in Education

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Studies have revealed a strong correlation between quality of education and increased corruption in a country.  According to a Transparency International report, data collected to track progress in education in 42 countries showed that the practice of paying bribes is associated with a lower literacy rate among adolescents. Corruption is also linked with increased inequality in the quality of education between the rich and the poor.  When resources allocated for public education is inadequate or do not reach the schools, it is the poor who bear the brunt.  Unlike the rich, who can afford private tuition for their children, the poor have to depend on the government.

Fascinating FreedomFone

Sabina Panth's picture

As I explore innovative approaches in civilian-led movements, I become increasingly knowledgeable about the latest technological gadgets and devices that have become powerful tools in demand for good governance and democratic reform processes.   Don’t worry, I won’t go on about the Arab Revolution and the role of social media yet again.  Instead, I will talk about a latest invention that does not even require the end users to have a web access, something that can be exploited by just anyone, even the illiterates.  FreedomFone is an ICT invention that has been specifically designed to cater to those that are in most need of information, bearing in mind the barriers they face in accessing information and the opportunities it provides to improve their conditions.

Bantay Kurapsyon

Sabina Panth's picture

“Research on political participation has identified a number of deep-seated norms and values that are positively associated with the amount and quality of democratic engagement,” explains Delli Carpini, in the Handbook of Political Communication Research.  “One of the most central of these,” as Carpini points out, “is political efficacy, or the sense that one’s participation can actually make a difference (internal efficacy) and that the political system would be responsive to this participation (external efficacy).”  As I read this quote, I am reminded of a case in point that perfectly illustrates this theoretical concept.  

Information Gathering for Demand-led Initiatives

Sabina Panth's picture

Access to pertinent public data is crucial to inform and mobilize citizens in demanding better governance.  Experience shows, however, that the process involved in garnering public data is arduous and often confronted with strong resistance.  To begin with, the planning and execution of government programs and budget are seldom performed in a transparent manner and even when the information is made available, the technical use of the language and the procedures involved in the execution make it very difficult for a lay person to decipher and analyze them.  Problems are also encountered with incomplete or badly maintained records of public expenditures and service delivery.  In addition, the officials who are in charge of managing the programs are cautious in releasing the records for fear of consequences from the disclosed information.  In spite of these constraints, methods have been developed to promote transparency in the planning and implementation of public programs and budget through what has been a long process of information gathering and advocacy campaigns.

The Empty Stomach and Citizen Demand

Sabina Panth's picture

 

In my blog posts, I have been introducing some tools and techniques that are being tried and tested to instigate citizen-led, demand-driven good governance practices. In this post, I wish to analyze the processes that are involved in working towards that goal.  In other words, what are the basic minimal requirements that need to be in place to initiate and realize demand-driven accountability? Where is the starting point? What are the constraints or opportunities that support or hinder the movement? The purpose of this analysis is to draw out ground realities to understand the effectiveness of the practice to make better policy and program decisions.

Benchmark to Monitor Public Services

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The demand driven accountability approach puts citizens in charge of monitoring public services.  But can ordinary citizens easily access public data against which they can monitor quality of services? What is the reference point against which standards are measured?  Can the government make the required information available? What are the incentives for the government to cooperate?  Citizens’ Charter initiatives attempt to respond to some of these queries.

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