Two weeks ago, we launched an exciting new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Citizen Engagement hosted on Coursera and in partnership with the London School of Economics, the Overseas Development Institute, Participedia, and CIVICUS.
To date, over 15,000 people from 192 countries (45% women) have enrolled in the course and our digital footprint continues to be strong: the launch event page has had over 2,500 unique visitors while many continue to use the hashtag #CitizensEngage on Twitter.
These healthy metrics are a strong indication of just how timely and significant this issue has become and is the latest reason why I firmly believe in the power of engaging citizens to build good governance. This MOOC therefore is a key component of the World Bank Group’s commitment to develop a citizen perspective on governance to improve the contribution of institutions to development.
Yet let me offer six compelling reasons why it is necessary, feasible and useful to do it:
Information and Communication Technologies
As such, reforming procurement systems can prove transformational for development in any country.
In Georgia, the introduction of e-procurement (Ge-GP) is a good example of how strong political will and commitment can be critical in the context of reforming public procurement. Within a year, the State Procurement Agency of Georgia (SPA) designed, developed, and tested an e-procurement system, and eventually moved to the mandatory use of e-Procurement, fully replacing paper-based tenders.
Nearly every week, I read news stories about citizens clamoring for change in governance- citizens who want their voices heard and acted upon. In countries all over the globe, citizen groups are working (sometimes with governments and sometimes against them) to build a more citizen-centric approach to governance. Why? People—ordinary citizens—are at the heart of good governance, and governments are genuinely more effective when they listen to and work with citizens to tackle development challenges.
Engaging citizens can help improve transparency and accountability of public policies, promote citizens’ trust, forge consensus around important reforms, and build the political and public support necessary to sustain them.
Consider that as much as $1 trillion vanishes from the developing world’s economies every year, according to an estimate by the non-profit group Global Financial Integrity. Now consider that, according to OECD figures, in 2012-2013 Net Overseas Development Aid was $134 billion. These figures underscore why the fight against corruption and ending impunity are critical to the goals of ending poverty and achieving shared prosperity.
In December of 2014 the World Bank hosted the 3rd Biennial International Corruption Hunters’ Alliance meeting focused on fighting corruption - and the vast illicit outflows generated by corruption - to share know-how and experiences in the use of both traditional and alternative corruption fighting approaches.
Though there were many examples of the successful use of technology to fight corruption presented at the meeting, a report (pdf) published from one of the sessions raises questions about whether technology always supports anti-corruption efforts.
Dr. Anne Thurston of the International Records Management Trust spoke about problems that are arising as governments become more reliant on the use of ICTs: digital media deteriorate, software changes, and hardware becomes obsolete. The risk is that if digital records are not managed professionally, their integrity and value as legal evidence can become compromised.
Open governance is about ensuring that citizens are able to engage with their governments and that those governments are then willing and able to respond to citizen demands. This, in turn, should lead to socially-inclusive economic development and more effective and efficient service delivery, improving the lives of citizens. But how can citizens fully hold their governments accountable without access to—and comprehension of—government data?
The real challenge for fostering open governance lies in promoting transparency among the various sources of funding that make up a country’s public investment portfolio. Without a clear breakdown of their governments’ resources, citizens cannot engage in informed policy or decision-making discussions.
While inroads have been made in many countries, some of the challenges that arise when opening, consuming and sharing data in fragile states and situations are similar to those arise in any context. In many countries, data scarcity, quality of source, and data capacity and literacy make it difficult to not only publish data, but also make it accessible to broad audiences.
The following additional challenges (and in some cases, solutions) come to light in the fragile context:
data fueling 'smart cities,' citizen engagement in planning and budgeting, public transparency and accountability, entrepreneurship (even without open data), and more.
These show the promise of open data, which doesn’t come easy in stable governments. But how does open data play out in the context of fragile states and conflict situations?
Last year, we asked ourselves these questions and reached out to the aid community.
If you live in a country where electricity never or rarely goes out, you are lucky. In my country, Nepal, we are pleased when we get uninterrupted electricity for even eight hours a day.
Like Nepal, many countries around the world struggle to deliver basic services to their citizens. But things are slowly improving.
1. Participatory budgeting
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, citizens of South Kivu Province are using “mSurvey” to obtain information about budget meetings. Using just their mobile phones, they can actively monitor, discover what was decided at meetings, and evaluate those decisions via online voting. by actively reminding local authorities of their commitments while ensuring that citizens are getting services they deserve.
Though the Indian government has steadily increased funding for its health sector, per capita allocation is still low; reform is thus critical to effectively utilize the available budget.
The underlying question is: Given a set of resources, how do you procure goods in a way that achieves value for money and maximum efficiency?
Drugs and medical supplies are not procured and distributed in time, and this interruption in the delivery of services in health facilities affect the general population’s health outcomes.
Last week, I had the honor of receiving one of the World Bank's FY15 Big Data Innovation Challenge awards for a proposal developed with a team of researchers from within and outside of the Bank. To give you a snapshot of the project, let me recount a familiar story which you may not have thought about for a while. On December 17th, 2010, a Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi took a can of gasoline and set himself on fire in front of the local governor's office. Bouazizi’s actions resulted from having his fruit cart confiscated by local police and his frustration at not obtaining an audience with the local governor; his death sparked what we now know as the "Arab Spring." With no other means of voicing discontent and lack of trust, citizens can embrace extreme forms of protest against institutions and governments that quickly escalate.