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Information and Communication Technologies

Project Sunlight: Access, Reform, Accountability

Naniette Coleman's picture

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

James Madison

 

Browsing bills, bill and veto jackets and state contracts is not exactly my idea of a good time but it has its use, just ask the people of the State of New York where SunlightNY.com is promoting access, reform and accountability in both English and Spanish.  Created largely by the Office of the Attorney General and Blair Horner, a leading advocate for government transparency who was on loan to the office from the New York Public Interest Research Group, SunlightNY.com is an innovative approach to keeping the public engaged in government. An approach that’s seems to have no equal in the US. 

 

Kunda Dixit On Little Stations That Can

Sabina Panth's picture

Kunda Dixit is not only a household name among the media savvy, newspaper reading audience of Nepal but also a well-known figure in the international media community.   The Columbia University trained journalist worked for the BBC World Service, in UN and as Regional Editor for Inter Press Service Asia Pacific, before he returned to Nepal and launched Himalmedia, which has become a popular and credible source of information and analysis on democracy and governance issues in South Asia.  Mr. Dixit is also the author of a trilogy of books (A People War, Never Again, People After War) on the Nepal conflict that is regarded as a model for the media's role in post-war reconciliation. 

Recently, Kunda Dixit grabbed the attention of Sina, CommGAP’s program head, when he spoke about the massive role played by community radio in the democratic transition in Nepal.  Sina asked me to follow-up on the story for a blog post, which I did, but decided it is best served if I directly post my online interview with Mr. Dixit, which is as follows:

Co-creating the Future

Sabina Panth's picture

Practitioners of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) technique assert that the problem-led diagnostic approach in development planning tends to focus on negativity, which only emphasizes and amplifies negative traits, while, appreciative inquiry focuses on positive features and leverages them to correct or overcome the negative (White, T.H. 1998).  The experts claim that the traditional approach to participatory action research and learning in development (such as, Participatory Rural Appraisal – PRA) tends to focus on searching for and identification of community problems to plan a solution package.  This can create and reinforce a culture of dependency among the locals and make them view their community as a place full of problems, which require outsiders’ help to overcome them. 

Benchmark to Monitor Public Services

Sabina Panth's picture

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.

Connectors: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Naniette Coleman's picture

Trust me, your current business cards probably do not reflect how fearless, bold, and savvy you are. You, my friend, are an organizer-in-training and you probably do not even know it. It really is as simple as organizing a 5 versus 5 fútbol match. You have done that haven’t you? All you need is a small of group friends (reformists), a ball (common focus), agreed upon rules (consensus) and a goal (change). If you have friends, share common, action oriented plans with those friends and agree to do them together you have what many social scientists refer to as an “affinity group.”

 

A Tiny Spark Ignites a Powerful Blaze

Sabina Panth's picture

The idea of starting a grassroots women-to-women communication campaign dawned on me when I realized the power of aesthetic expressions in capturing the intangible impact of development interventions.   The beneficiaries of the Women’s Empowerment Project in rural Nepal used oral lore to articulate their impressions and experiences of their participation in the program through songs, dance and poetry.  And because the program interventions were rooted in basic literacy training, I helped translate the oral lore into written documents through the medium of a newsletter, where the program beneficiaries themselves became the suppliers and readers of the contents.  The newsletter proceeded to serve as a powerful grassroots network that brought together two- hundred and forty local organizations partners of the program and their hundred and twenty thousand clients across the country for horizontal learning.  The newsletter also proved to be an effective vertical medium for the program management to assess the impact of the program interventions beyond its set targets and indicators.

Voices Against Corruption

Boris Weber's picture

Their voice comes in minor or major key – as rap, folk or pop. Boy, they do have a voice, and they are raising it, as a citizen voice and as a singing voice. On voices-against-corruption.org music bands from around the world are making the pitch, in different languages and different sounds: Congolese and Philippine pop singers, Macedonian and Senegalese rappers, and beautiful Zimbabwean choruses are amongst the many bands that come together to support a global youth anti-corruption network and to help break the silence that still surrounds this pressing challenge in many of their home countries.

Citizens Command Editorial Power

Sabina Panth's picture

Community-funded journalism is yet another demand-driven governance tool, which uses media to allow citizens to exercise their rights to public services.  The idea is that citizens, who are disgruntled with public services, and are having a hard time getting necessary support to address their concerns, no longer have to feel discouraged.  Instead, they can foster their pro-active citizenry by hiring reporters to investigate the matter and expose the issue to pressure for reform.  A media firm or a non-profit can act as an intermediary to catalyze this scheme.  Individuals and communities can approach the intermediary to propose and pay for the investigation or, the intermediary can propose stories and mobilize interested individuals and communities to fund the project.   The quality and impact of the investigation and reporting depends on the scope, size and weight of the issue tackled, extent of funding and the capacity of the intermediary to produce evidence-based persuasive reporting. 

President Obama’s “Race to the Top” and What It Teaches Us about Social Participatory Governance

Tanya Gupta's picture

Earlier this year, the White House and the Department of Education announced the Race to the Top High School Commencement competition.  They invited public schools across the US to compete to have President Obama speak at their graduation.  In addition to the essay responses, applicants were encouraged to include materials like a video showing the school’s culture and character and data on key indicators such as attendance, and student achievement.  Six finalists were selected by the White House and Department of Education. The schools were then featured on the White House website and the public voted for the three schools they felt best meet the President’s goal, on the White House blog.  The three finalists included Clark Montessori Jr. & Sr. High School in Cincinnati, OH, Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, MI, and Denver School of Science and Technology in Denver, CO.  On May 4, the President selected Kalamazoo Central High School as the winner from these three finalists.  He will visit the winning high school to deliver the commencement address to the class of 2010.

The Folks With the Laptops

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

A quick note from the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010, happening in Santiago, Chile. This is a unique gathering of bloggers, citizen activists, and NGO representatives who have come together to discuss citizen media for two days. All of them enthusiastic about digital and social media and excited about all the great possibilities - you would think. In the very first session, discussing the citizen media landscape in Chile, the issue of access quickly emerged as a central problem.

The Global Voices crowd acknowledged that this kind of summit can only be held by the information elite, those who can't even imagine a life without Internet access (entering the conference auditorium, the only thing I saw in the gloom at first was the bluish glow of several hundreds of open laptops). For digital media to have real political relevance, and we all agree that there is a huge potential, the digital divide must be bridged. Otherwise you will have those people participating in public dialogue whose voices could have been heard anyway because they are members of a country's education elite, often interested in politics and willing to communicate with politicians.

 

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