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Transparency

Government Spending Watch - A New Initiative You Really Need to Know About

Duncan Green's picture

I’m consistently astonished by how little we know about the important stuff in development. Take the Millennium Development Goals – the basis for innumerable aid debates, campaigns, and negotiations. A large chunk of the MDG agenda concerns the size and quality of public spending – on health, education, water, sanitation etc. So obviously, the first thing we need is to know how much governments are spending on these things, right?

Well no actually, because we don’t have those numbers. Until now. Oxfam has teamed up with an influential and well-connected NGO, Development Finance International, which advises developing country governments around the world. Working with a network of government officials, DFI has pulled together and analysed the budgets of 52 low and middle income countries (With another 34 to follow). The result is a new database, called Government Spending Watch, (summary of overall project here) and a report ‘Progress at Risk’, previewed in Washington last Friday in a joint DFI/Oxfam America event to coincide with the IMF and World Bank Spring meetings. The full report won’t be ready ‘til May, but an initial draft exec sum is available, and here’s what it says.

Open Data has Little Value if People Can't Use It

Craig Hammer's picture

This post is one of a 3-month Harvard Business Review series, focused on scaling entrepreneurial solutions and benefitting society through technology and data.  The full HBR.org series is available here, and was launched with support from The Bridgespan Group and the Omidyar Network

Open data could be the gamechanger when it comes to eradicating global poverty. In the last two years, central and local governments and multilateral organizations around the world have opened a range of data — information on budgets, infrastructure, health, sanitation, education, and more — online, for free. The data are not perfect, but then perfection is not the goal. Rather, the goal is for this data to become actionable intelligence: a launchpad for investigation, analysis, triangulation, and improved decision making at all levels.

While the "opening" has generated excitement from development experts, donors, several government champions, and the increasingly mighty geek community, the hard reality is that much of the public has been left behind, or tacked on as an afterthought. So how can we support "data-literacy" across the full spectrum of users, including media, NGOs, labor unions, professional associations, religious groups, universities, and the public at large?

Inspired by the Future of Open Contracting

Robert Hunja's picture

I just returned from an intense but inspiring week in London with my team, to meet with the open contracting steering group and other committed practitioners, to shape how we will take open contracting forward.

As someone who has worked on procurement and contracting his whole life, it has been heartening for me to see such strong interest and engagement around open contracting. Now that I am back from London, I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the inspiring conversations that I had over the last few days and to share some important decisions that the open contracting steering group has made.

Let me begin with the heart of open contracting – the open contracting principles. At the first global meeting for open contracting in South Africa, October 2012, practitioners called for overarching principles to define how open contracting will work in practice.

Transparency and Volatility: A New Era in International Relations

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The accelerated changes in communication flows are posing both opportunities and challenges in the global system.  A recently published book entitled ‘Diplomacy, Development and Security in the Information Age,’ edited by Shanthi Kalathil (a former colleague and contributor to this blog), seeks to better understand the changing face of international relations in a new era, by examining two emerging themes: heightened transparency and increased volatility. Leading up to the publication, practitioners grappled with these themes, and how they are affecting international affairs. Craig Hayde, one of the authors, notes that transparency and volatility are increasingly inextricable concepts. He says “transparency does more than simply put information out there – it inculcates a shared value that information should be available”, but that it is also “facilitated by the same technologies that promote instability, risk, and uncertainty in the business of international relations.”

The collection of essays provides fresh thinking in an area that has mainly focused on the use and impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs). While several essays discuss ICTs, Kalathil points out that “the premise for the series is not to minutely examine new forms of technology and their impact. Rather, the premise for the series is that ubiquitous global communication flows have, over time, created an encompassing information environment that nurtures transparency and volatility in pervasive conditions and/or guiding norms.”

Ending Poverty and "Factivism"

Maya Brahmam's picture

Can factivism push us closer to the edge of ending extreme poverty? This was the subject of Bono’s latest TED Talk on ending poverty. Simply put, according to Bono, technology can help us end extreme poverty in a variety of ways, from creating new drugs for AIDS to empowering people via openness and transparency. And numbers from the World Bank’s Research Group show this shift: 22% of the developing world’s population – or 1.29 billion people – lived on $1.25 or less a day in 2008, down from 43% in 1990 and 523% in 1981.

So how do we accelerate this progress? One answer may be in moving the focus to empowering people to develop their own solutions using new technologies and using data to make better decisions. We’re hoping that the Data Dives for our “Big Data Exploration” this weekend—being done jointly with UNDP, Global Pulse, and Qatar Computing Research Institute – will help us get a little bit closer to solving larger development questions. This pilot will explore whether the Bank and other development organizations can use big data to deliver better operational results and increase development effectiveness.

Open Government sees Promise after Kenya Elections

Robert Hunja's picture

After an impressive turnout in Monday’s presidential elections, one thing is clear about Kenya: citizens are energized and ready to participate in shaping the future of their country.

Despite concerns of violence, voters in Kenya were undeterred and turned out in historic numbers Monday - over 70% participation - to cast ballots in the country’s first presidential election since 2007.

The remarkable level of participation had election officials calling the turnout “tremendous,” as polling places were kept open hours later than scheduled to accommodate lines that stretched “nearly a mile long.” Voters formed lines at polling places well before 6:00 a.m. when the polls opened, and many waited for up to 10 hours to cast their ballots.

While this election is a significant success, its true impact on the everyday lives of Kenyans will depend of how the new administration governs. Kenyans should be able to participate in the decision-making processes of their new government in as robust of a manner as they did when electing it.

This will be particularly important as Kenya embraces fairly radical decentralization of political and resource management to the county level as mandated by the new constitution. More open and participatory processes will be crucial to maintaining accountability and effectiveness at the county level.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

SciDev
Cell Phones can speed up malaria treatment in remote areas

“Mobile phones along with local knowledge and field support, can help to ensure the effective diagnosis and treatment of malaria in remote rural areas, according to a study in Bangladesh.

Researchers examined almost 1,000 phone calls to report suspected cases of malaria that were made over two years by inhabitants of a hilly and forested part of the country bordering Mynamar. This area, called the Chittagong Hill Tracts, has Bangladesh’s highest malaria rates.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

ICT Works
Will We Have Free Worldwide Wireless Internet Access From Google?

"The last mile is the first mile of cost in Internet access. The barriers to connecting everyone to low-cost, high-speed bandwidth are many, and many people feel we are solving the problem with mobile data – connectivity via mobile phones.

But 3G or even 4G speeds pale in comparison to fiber and WiMax is in its infancy (and often expensive), which means 2G is what most of the world’s population has for access via mobiles. EDGE is just not that edgy. In fact, all these systems pale in comparison to what could be coming: free worldwide bandwidth by Google.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Next Web
Facebook passes 1.06 billion monthly active users, 680 million mobile users, and 618 million daily users

“While sharing its financial results for the fourth quarter, Facebook on Wednesday announced a number of new milestones. The social network has now passed 1.06 billion monthly active users. Of those, daily active users passed 618 million on average during December 2012 and the number monthly active mobile users hit 680 million.

Here’s the breakdown from the release:

  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.06 billion as of December 31, 2012, an increase of 25% year-over-year.
  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 618 million on average for December 2012, an increase of 28% year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 680 million as of December 31, 2012, an increase of 57% year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs exceeded web DAUs for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2012.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Center for Global Development
Development and the Death of Aaron Swartz

“Aaron Swartz, who died on January 11th, worked and fought for key freedoms of our time: the right to information, to share knowledge and ideas, and to speak freely.  He did not just campaign: he built  the RSS standard which enables blogs and websites to share information, the Web site framework web.py, the architecture for the Open Library, the link sharing platform Reddit, and he helped to design the Creative Commons licence. He co-founded the online group Demand Progress — known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). He died, apparently by killing himself, aged just 26. Aaron Swartz faced 13 felony charges for having downloaded millions of academic journal articles from the online repository, JSTOR, allegedly with the intention of publishing them freely online.

The death of Aaron Swartz has made me think about how important it is for development that we continue to fight his fights, and continue to build what he began.” READ MORE

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