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Information and Communication Technologies

SMS Gateways for Public Accountability

Sabina Panth's picture


Last week, I attended a presentation on Strengthening Good Local Governance in Indonesia: Lessons from a Demand-Driven Approach.  The $62 million 5-year USAID-funded program focused on both the supply (strengthening core competencies of local administration) and demand (strengthening institutions to ‘lobby’ for good governance) in the context of the recent “big bang” decentralization in Indonesia.  The presentation featured various tools and instruments for good governance.  I was particularly struck by ‘SMS gateways’ - a new e-governance tool that has been used to strengthen public accountability mechanisms in local governance.

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.

India's $35 Tablet Computer: A Pill for Poverty?

Antonio Lambino's picture

Recently featured in the news was a 35 USD version of Apple’s iPad that the Indian government hopes to mass produce by 2011.  India also hopes to bring the unit price down to around 10 USD.  If successful, this initiative could bring an affordable, mobile, multiple application device within reach of lower income families in poor countries.  CNN’s Fareed Zakaria expressed the opinion that a fully-functioning 10 USD computer “could change the world” similar to the way in which satellite dishes and mobile phones have in the past.  I think implicit in Zakaria’s point is the belief that information and communication revolutions have the potential to increase productivity and enhance human development.  But this potential rarely leads to an actual breakthrough.  Due to a host of factors in addition to price (see, for instance, Michael Trucano's post), what might perhaps be called “socio-technological epidemics” tend to be few and far between, especially in poor countries.  There is a difference, of course, between a predominantly commercial success and one that really contributes to development results.

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Governance Reform

Naniette Coleman's picture

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance” by Atul Gawande seems an unlikely place to find governance reform ideas and development inspiration but I found both therein last week.  The book was recommended by a dear colleague who knows of my interest in organizational change.   An accomplished non-fiction writer "Atul Gawande, a 2006 MacArthur Fellow, is a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.”    He tackles the “universal struggle to perform well” through the eyes of a surgeon.  Along the way we are introduced to countless examples of organizational seizure, organizational change and the people at the center of these operations. 

The Company You Keep: "Connected" Part Two

Naniette Coleman's picture

Last week I provided a brief overview of "Connected", the popular book by Harvard Professor Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD and University of California, San Diego Professor James Fowler. Christakis and Fowler's master-work provides an overview of the historical discussions behind social networks, pre and post Facebook, and ample examples of how social networks impact our day-to-day lives in ways we realize and are blissfully unaware of. My blog this week will attempt to translate some of their more notable findings for reform minded audiences in the developing world. 

 

The Primacy of the Individual, Bah Humbug!

Naniette Coleman's picture

Have you put on weight lately? Are you dating someone who knows a friend or two of yours? Are you a little happier or sadder and cannot figure out why? According to authors Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD and James H. Fowler, PhD, it may be your network stupid. In Connected, Christakis and Fowler set out to overturn the notion of the “primacy of the individual.” They suggest that people we do not even see can influence us in ways previously unimagined. Life many not be solely based on me, myself and my decisions. The beginning and end to all of our problems might be our networks. 

Research Is Not An End In Itself

Naniette Coleman's picture

In the world of development, research is not enough; a free and protected media is not enough; policy is not enough; but together, the combination can be unstoppable, when communicated well. Communication is the key. Disparate pieces floating in a vacuum cannot garner the type of result that is possible when they are combined and communicated as a whole, properly. 

 

Proactive vs. Reactive Transparency

Naniette Coleman's picture

 

"Transparency, is transparency, is transparency I thought.

 

It is transparent is it not?

 

Well except when it is proactive, that makes it not reactive."

N.H. Coleman

 

My poetic dalliances aside, Helen Darbishire’s recent World Bank Institute commissioned and CommGAP financed working paper on standards, challenges and opportunities in transparency made me think. “Proactive Transparency: The Future of the Right to Information” looks at, among other things, the drivers of transparency, the best of transparency provisions on the national and international stage, and notable outcomes grown from the examination of transparency provisions. So, what exactly is proactive transparency and why is it important? 

Frank Talk About Social Accountability

Sabina Panth's picture

An important book has just been released by the World Bank: Demanding Good Governance: Lessons from Social Accountability Initiatives in Africa (edited by Mary McNeil and Carmen Malena). The book is important because the content is provided by practitioners in the field, who share real life examples from their firsthand knowledge and experiences.  This is likely to further South to South learning, and, therefore, a departure from the standard literature in the field.  
 

The book describes and analyzes the work of seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Benin, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. The case studies were identified from multi-country social accountability stocktaking exercises commissioned by the World Bank Institute in view of representing a variety of approaches, strategies and objectives within a range of political, social, cultural and institutional context.  The analysis and descriptions of these seven initiatives are intended to serve as a resource for government and civil society representatives who are interested in exploring similar possibilities for their countries and for research communities and donors to promote and support enhanced social accountability and demand for good governance in Africa.  The following are some questions that the book attempts to answer:

*Ke Nako: Celebration and Interrogation

Naniette Coleman's picture

Highway Africa

The cradle of humanity created technological innovation and, despite media depictions of rampant difficulties, there are numerous successes that can be attributed to both the African Continent and the African Diaspora.   One of these such success stories is “highwayAfrica.”

 

From July 5-7 attendees at the 14th annual “highwayAfrica: African Voices In The Global Media Space” conference gathered to “celebrate and interrogate” African journalism and media. “At the center of Africa’s debates on journalism, media and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the conference has, over the years, become the largest annual gathering of African journalists in the world.” 

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