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Poverty

Is Open Data Really the Solution?

Sabina Panth's picture

Proponents of governments opening data to the public in order to increase transparency and better governance have been cheering recent developments, debates and discussions.  While I have used this blog to highlight many of the advantages of Open Data in instigating demand-led governance, I recently stumbled upon an article by Tom Slee which has a different take on the digital solution. Below I summarize a few points from Slee’s article which I feel are worthy of contemplation.

Community Radio Stations as Vehicles for Social Inclusion

Sabina Panth's picture

Isolated geography, customary practices and gender roles often limit rural populations, particularly women and indigenous groups, from accessing relevant information and gaining adequate skills to effectively participate in development interventions.  As a consequence, the wealth of knowledge that these communities possess goes unsolicited and undervalued.  In fact, gender activists argue that rural women rarely serve as the primary source of information in communication for development initiatives and that such practices risk perpetuating elite capture and exacerbating existing inequalities.

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?

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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.

What Role Does Civil Society Play in Economic Development?

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I recently came across a fascinating initiative where civil society organizations have played a lead role in building public-private partnerships in economic development activities.  The USAID-sponsored Education for Income Generation (EIG) program has brought together local, national and international partners in galvanizing disadvantaged youth to partake in income generating activities toward increasing economic activities and peace building process in post-conflict Nepal. 

Girls Invent Social Network for Farmers in 48 hours

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The AkiraChix, an-all girls’ team, was declared a winner of the recently held IPO48 software development competition in Kenya.  The IPO48 initiative brought together 100 participants from all over the country to pitch their ideas, question business models, form teams and create 17 prototypes and products which, by the end of 48 hours, were ready for the market (Afrinnovator).  The winning girls came up with an innovative M-Farm, a mobile-based marketplace that is targeted to small-scale farmers to increase their agriculture productivity.

Organic Vs. Processed

Sabina Panth's picture

As I see it, the civilian-led movements in demand for good governance fall into two camps: ‘Project-instigated’ and ‘Organically-grown’.  My interest in dissecting ‘the organic’ vs. ‘project-instigated’ processes is induced by the significance of (i) the authenticity of the movement in the context of the actual need or interest, and (ii) the sustainability of the movement, or its impact at the system level, in changing norms, behavior patterns and institutional culture and processes.

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