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Open Government

What are the Limits of Transparency and Technology? From Three Gurus of the Openness Movement (Eigen, Rajani, McGee)

Duncan Green's picture

After a slightly disappointing ‘wonkwar’ on migration, let’s try a less adversarial format for another big development issue: Transparency and Accountability. I have an instinctive suspicion of anything that sounds like a magic bullet, a cost-free solution, or motherhood and apple pie in general. So the current surge in interest on open data and transparency has me grumbling and sniffing the air. Are politicians just grabbing it as a cheap announcement in austere times? Does it contain some kind of implicit right wing assumptions (an individualist homo economicus maximising market efficiency through open data)? And is there any evidence that transparency actually has much impact on the lives of poor people (after all, the proponents of transparency and results-based agendas are often the same organizations, so I hope they are practicing what they preach….)

I put these fears to three transparency gurus, and here are their fascinating responses, striking in their quality and level of, well, openness. It’s a long read, but I hope you’ll agree, a worthwhile one. Think we’ll just stick with comments on this one – doesn’t feel like a vote would be useful (but let me know if you think otherwise)

How Open Data can Make Good Governance Last in the Philippines

Gabriel Baleos's picture

(The author works for the Department of Budget and Management and is the Co-Lead Coordinator for the Open Data Philippines Task Force in the Philippines that organized the open data program of the government.)

The Philippines has risen from being a laggard in Asia to an emerging economy fueling growth in the region. The government’s program of transparency and anti-corruption, the bedrock of President Benigno Aquino’s leadership, has served as the nation’s springboard for reforms.

Going the Last Mile: How to Solve the Trickiest Problems with Government and Civil Society

Roby Senderowitsch's picture

© Courtesy CARE Bangladesh.I’ve always been intrigued by the challenge of coming up with new solutions for everyday problems – kind of like 3D-puzzles for adults. Problems that seem simple from the outside but that are really difficult to crack once one focuses on them, like the development challenges countries face. Whether it’s access to basic services such as education or health, or building the infrastructure needed to connect producers to markets, or providing drinkable water to all, a broad range of sound and proven technical solutions already exists. But millions of kids continue to suffer from poor quality education, mothers continue to die while giving birth, and poor families spend a good chunk of their day walking just to get drinkable water.
 
Why is it so difficult to get solutions to reach those who need them the most? Many times, the almost automatic answer is that while the knowledge is there, countries lack the necessary resources to address these problems. But too quickly, more money is thrown at these problems without changing the fundamental issues, resulting in limited success at best. In other cases, we spend millions of dollars to build capacity and share knowledge, but it is hard to see results because the institutional support for a solution is lacking.

A pigeon's eye view of open government

Michael Jarvis's picture

Ope Government Partnership signI took my first bird flight over London on Friday courtesy of Pigeon Sim, an app developed at University College of London that simulates flying over the city, drawing on real time environmental data, such as air pollution levels. This was one of many attention grabbing displays within the Festival of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Annual Summit. The conference provided a similarly dizzying overview of the terrain of open government.

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.

'Many vested interests benefit from a lack of open government'
Public Leaders Network 

“In the first of a series of interviews with speakers and attendees at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit 2013, we talk to Professor Jonathan Fox, of the school of international service, American University, Washington.

He will moderate a session in which the founding eight OGP countries will present their two-year national action plans as well as reflect on their first progress report from the OGP's independent reporting mechanism. The OGP was launched in 2011, and is aimed at making governments more transparent and accountable.”  READ MORE
 

For Open Governments, Does Virtue Merely Attract Punishment?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A while back, a friend and colleague here at the World Bank told me of an experience that bothered him. He had been talking to a minister in an African country where the government had been making strenuous efforts to become more open and transparent. It had passed a Freedom of Information law, made quantities of government information available, liberalized the media sector, thus creating a vibrant, even raucous public sphere…all the things people like me urge developing country governments to do. In a couple of neighboring countries, said the minister, the governments had gone in the opposite direction. They had restricted access to official information, clamped down on the press, and were generally thuggish towards the media, civil society activists and so on.

 What the minister asked my colleague is roughly this:
 

‘Can you guess which government is being painted as corrupt and incompetent by local and international NGOs and the local and international media? Ours!’

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.

Water for People
The Social Disruptors

“The Social Disruptor podcast series, hosted by CEO Ned Breslin, will highlight innovators across industries from music to fashion to sports – people in the business of pushing limits, finding unseen opportunities and moving on them. Hosted monthly, the series will focus on positive change in the world and how these change makers overcome obstacles and shake things up to achieve sustainable impact.  Breslin will interview CEOs, artists, international voices, and leaders from a variety of sectors to understand what it takes to accomplish lasting social change.  Change: you can embrace it, cause it, influence it or resist it.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

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

Transparency International

BRIBE PAYING STILL VERY HIGH WORLDWIDE BUT PEOPLE READY TO FIGHT BACK

"More than one person in two thinks corruption has worsened in the last two years, according to the world’s largest public opinion survey on corruption from Transparency International, but survey participants also firmly believe they can make a difference and have the will to take action against graft. The Global Corruption Barometer 2013 is a survey of 114,000 people in 107 countries and it shows corruption is widespread. 27 per cent of respondents have paid a bribe when accessing public services and institutions in the last 12 months, revealing no improvement from previous surveys." READ MORE


The Guardian

20 prerequisites for transparency

"What does transparency that leads to accountability look like? We summarise the key ideas from our live chat panel.

Paolo de Renzio, senior research fellow, International Budget Partnership, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

Transparency depends on both civil society and governments: Being, or becoming, transparent requires efforts and skills on the side of governments, and using available information requires efforts and skills on the side of civil society and citizens more generally. Both are equally important and deserve support.

Open Data, Open Policy: Stepping Out of the Echo Chamber

Milica Begovic's picture

Recently, I participated in several events that look at the space between empowered government (gov2.0) and empowered citizens (citizen2.0 both individuals and civic groups and NGOs).

One discussion was around tapping into networks of empowered citizens clustering around different issues for open policy making (Masters of Networks, Venice) and another on getting human-readable stories from data (Open Data on the Web, London).

Then, there was a question on how open data and modern technologies can improve environmental sector governance (#ICT4ENV, Cetinje), or strengthen political transparency and accountability (Point 2.0, Sarajevo).

Different countries, different venues, different leading institutions – but a common set of issues that I struggle with and that, I hope, will emerge as topics in some future events (one of those, shaping up to be the policy making 2.0. deluge in Dublin, is coming up this month).


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