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Public Sector and Governance

Web 2.0 for Development Professionals Part 3: How the Cloud is Relevant for Development Professionals

Tanya Gupta's picture

As I have mentioned before in Part 1 and Part 2 of this three part series, cloud computing is a particularly important topic for development professionals.  In this blog, I will look at sectors where cloud based services are particularly relevant to development professionals and others.

Although  “cloud computing” is a hot subject in development, many are still “cloudy” about exactly what it means.   Very simply it refers to Internet-based use of programs that are are not installed in your computer. Typically usage of such programs are either free or use a subscription model, thus eliminating or reducing the need for capital investment in technology infrastructure.  However much like Web 2.0, the precise definition of cloud computing is still under debate, and as a result it is an over-used term that refers to something that everybody agrees is needed, but no one is quite sure what it is. 

Cloud computing has potential development applications not just in the public sector realm but also areas such as health, finance, agriculture and education.  Here's a look at some of the development sectors that are being influenced by cloud computing.

U-Report

Sabina Panth's picture

Yet another performance monitoring tool has been introduced that directly engages citizens in the decision-making process regarding public services.  The project, called U-Report, solicits citizen feedback via SMS polls and broadcasts the results through radio, press, face-to-face meetings and websites.  The method of using both modern and traditional media devices to inform and solicit feedback from the public is expected to enable both the donor and the citizens to identify priority areas for development interventions and get an overall picture about how services work in a given community. 

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.

Is Online Video-Sharing a Double-edged Sword?

Sabina Panth's picture

As much advantage as there is to the world of the internet, there are disadvantages too, the main inconvenience being securing privacy.  This has become a particular issue of concern when visual images against political reprisal are exposed.  Granted, this very exposure can draw world-wide attention and support for a cause or struggle, but often it leaves advocates involved in demonstrations vulnerable to political targeting and exploitation. 

Can Virtual Civil Societies Build Citizen Competence?

Sabina Panth's picture

The image of civil society as non government entities with concrete institutions, with office space, meeting halls and formal titles, is gradually shifting in this virtual age of online activism and social media.  Instead, these formal institutions are diffusing into loose networks, where, in place of human resources, software programs are doing much of the work.  In the words of journalist Charlie Beckett, these emerging entities are the “Virtual Civil Societies.” 

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.

CommGAP Launches "Accountability Through Public Opinion"

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP is delighted to announce the publication of its third edited volume, "Accountability Through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action." The book is edited by CommGAP's Program Head Sina Odugbemi and Taeku Lee, Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Authors from development practice and academia discuss in 28 chapters how citizens can hold their governments accountable, and how genuine demand for accountability can be created.

The idea for the book was born at a CommGAP workshop in 2007 in Paris on "Generating Genuine Demand with Social Accountability Mechanisms." A few years later, we proudly present a compilation of essays that are relevant for current events in the Middle East and in North Africa as much as for any efforts to strengthen citizen's agency vis a vis their governments.

The Ficha Limpa (Clean Record) Campaign

Sabina Panth's picture

As is the case in many countries of the world, it was not uncommon for candidates running for political office in Brazil to have a criminal record.  The Economist magazine has reported that, at one point, nearly twenty five percent of sitting members of Congress in the country faced criminal charges in the Supreme Court or were under investigation. Most of the crimes involved either violating campaign-finance laws or stealing public money through corruption. The existing law allowed politicians to be tried by the Court, but many cases lapsed before they were heard. Even when the candidates were convicted, the law allowed them to emerge right back, to stand in the next election. 

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.

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