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Your mobile can be a tool to promote clean campaign financing!

12 June 2011

photo credit @lucasluna

Poder Ciudadano from Argentina have just launched a new campaign entitled “¿Quién te banca?” or, loosely translated, ”Who’s bankrolling you?”.

Through the Twitter hashtag #quientebanca and on Facebook, people are called to upload photos of all candidates’ election campaign posters in Argentina’s cities.

Let’s see how this takes off, but it looks like a great initiative to get more people engaged in promoting transparent campaign funding. Ultimately, PC also aim to back up their official transparency requests to candidates in this way, many of whom seem to be on Twitter themselves.

There’s some early press reporting on the campaign (in Spanish) here. Poder Ciudadano’s statement for the launch of “¿Quién te banca?” (also in Spanish) can be read here.

All the best to the guys at PC in this effort. I am keen to hear how this will be going (and I am also interested to see if there are any surprising places to put up campaign posters).

Some social media and technology approaches from the TI movement

9 May 2011

After a long hiatus in posting here, it’s finally time to pen some thoughts again on social media and technology use in the fight against corruption.

In the past 1 ½ years or so I have worked extensively with the fast growing number of Transparency International Chapters operating so-called Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) in more than 45 countries. These centres typically operate toll-free hotlines, encouraging citizens to report corruption. They then provide free advice and support to people to empower them to address their grievances. Depending on context, this may consist in awareness raising, basic orientation on how to report public corruption, support for example in helping file access to information requests, more advanced legal advice or, in a few cases, legal representation. Using the case-files and the datasets on corruption generated through the citizen complaints (almost 100.000 in 46 countries to date), they also push for key legislative changes and as well as the proper application of existing rules (often a key concern).

In the last few months, I have begun to sense an accelerating uptake of social media tools to take this work to scale, reach more people and extend it to particular contexts such as election monitoring. Not all of the following examples are directly related to the legal advice work TI does, but in one way or another they all aim at engaging people in our work. Of course, while I am focusing on examples from within TI, there are many many more inspiring examples out there from across the global transparency movement. Global Voices’ Technology for Transparency is a great place to start exploring them. Also, I think @georg_neu might soon post here on his impressions from the Transparency Camp with lots of more great ideas and projects.

So here’s  some of the stuff TI Chapters are currently working on. To be sure, this does not pretend to be a complete list – it’s really more a collection of examples that I came across in the last months:

Online citizen corruption reports

While ALACs have been receiving complaints online for years now, in many contexts this is becoming a more and more important channel for citizen engagement against corruption (the stunning growth of ipaidabribe.com seems to point in this direction, too). In TI, the importance of “online” as an engagement channel is increasingly reflected in the design of ALAC and related webportals. More and more, these go beyond offering a simple complaints form and seek to provide routine advice and orientation concerning official redress mechanisms. See for example TI Russia’s askjournal.ru site and TI Hungary’s five-step interactive guide to understanding if a complaint may be related to corruption and whether they can potentially assist with it.

The Guatemalan election monitoring platform

The Guatemalan election-related complaints platform

A more recent approach that a number of TI Chapters are beginning to use in a number of places is Ushahidi based SMS and online reporting of corruption and related abuses. TI Panama’s mipanamatransparente.com platform (mentioned a while ago on this blog) was originally conceived to enable investigative journalist to identify important cases of abuse to then report on. [Update: read about a recent case here]. Now, the Chapter is in the process of establishing additional capacity to provide legal advice and other types of support to those reporting corruption, looking at closely integrating this with the existing platform. In Guatemala, Acción Ciudadana and their civil society partners have begun to use Ushahidi combined with a traditional hotline as part of their election monitoring initiative. TI Macedonia, one of the Chapters who pioneered legal advice services in the TI movement, is also about to launch a similar platform for corruption reporting online. The beta can already be accessed here.

Citizen reports: Taking support and advice to scale

FixMyStreet Georgia

FixMyStreet Georgia

One of the key challenges in helping individuals and communities address corruption and related issues is scale – many people are suffering from corruption and its effects. Unfortunately, time and resources limit the possibility of engaging directly with everybody affected. However, it’s key to engage many more people in identifying and solving problems. This is where TI Russia’s online approach comes in. Realising that many concerns can be potentially resolved by people themselves, they are piloting a site in the city of Vladimir that aims at crowd-sourcing not only the reporting of problems, but also solutions. On Cormap (see an explanatory presentation here), citizens report problems such as defunct street lighting, illegal waste dumping etc, point out who’s responsible and suggest solutions on a public portal, providing an incentive for the public authorities to respond. Another great example in a similar vein is TI Georgia’s local implementation of the FixMyStreet platform. They also run an excellent blog on corruption issues in the country.

Using technology for transparency

One of those in the TI movement who’ve been interested in using technology for transparency for a while are Poder Ciudadano in Argentina. Their Money and Politics platform enables citizens to access previously impenetrable datasets on the funding of parties and election candidates. Recently, they’ve been co-hosting a Hackathon event, engaging programmers and data experts to develop a tool that would make datasets about government spending on official advertising more transparent to the public. I am quite excited to hear about the results, and I am following them on Twitter to learn more. In the Slovak Republic, the TI Chapter also does amazing work, making datasets, rankings and comparisons on local government transparency available in an attractive and easily accessible way. Another great project of TI Slovakia compares data on government spending with information about the contractors.

Facebook, Twitter et al.

Facebook too is increasingly used by TI Chapters to promote citizen engagement against corruption online. TI Papua New Guinea’s ALAC page is a great example, and our colleagues from TI Bosnia and Herzegovina, recently told us that Facebook is becoming the most effective channel to publicise their legal aid services. Here are a number of other TI Chapters on Facebook, whose groups I really like: Peru (check out their lupita.pe anti-corruption campaign blog, too) , Ireland and Lithuania. And, of course there’s a growing number of TI Chapters raising awareness about corruption and engaging people on Twitter. Here’s a list of tweeting Chapters.

[Update] I just saw the ALAC in Argentina use Twitter to solicit complaints. Probably not the first time it happened, but the first time I am seeing it live!

@poderciudadano Recibimos denuncias sobre violencia electoral: 0800-222-2684 o skype (usuario:centroalac) http://ow.ly/4QlKo #elecciones2011

Some thoughts on future steps

While not all strictly related to the legal advice centre work that I am mostly involved in, I do see these examples of technology and transparency initiatives as closely related. For one, I think there’s huge potential for integration for on and offline tactics. When making public information more transparent and accessible, the “report abuse” button ought to be right next to it! Whether it’s TI, another civil society organisation or a capable public administration (even better!) that then accompanies people who want to take action, the point is this: When we raise awareness, making more information more easily accessible and, based on this, people actually want to act, that’s when there is an opportunity for concrete change.

On the other hand, technology for transparency projects often have a crowd-sourcing element built in from the start. Offline tactics such as providing legal advice can benefit from that too. In particular the idea of platforms that enable people to help one another is quite intriguing. According to context, the technology used will vary, but a whole different scale of reach and impact in terms of empowerment becomes possible at a relatively low cost. This will not make the contribution of the ‘experts’ obsolete in any way. Rather, it will help them understand and focus on those concerns of strongest public interest in changing the systems that permit corruption, while empowering a greater number of people to resolve their own grievances.

Anti-corruption project in competition at N2Y4 Mobile Challenge

6 April 2009

One of our colleagues here at TI has prepared an exciting project for the N2Y4 mobile challenge. In a nutshell, Mosomo-health is looking to make use of mobile phones to bring together information about health-related government spending and connect this data to local knowledge about whether or not funding reaches its intended destination and actually results in on-the-ground infrastructure and public health services.

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In the interest of brevity and to encourage you to head over to the netsquared site this is an extremely abbreviated description of the idea. If you like it thus far, please register (it’s non-profit and there won’t be any spam), go straight here to look at the detailed description of Mosomo-health, give it a star rating and perhaps an additional positive comment in the comments field. If we can create enough of a buzz, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a chance to reach the finals of the competition and mobilise some funding to pilot the project.

To get a sense of just how worthwhile this may be, check out the last challenge-winning project Ushahidi and on the contest site.

Thanks in advance for your help in spreading the word!

And while we’re at it, TI’s new twitter has just been named Nonprofit of the Week by Nonprofitorgs. Good reason to follow both.

Fight Against Corruption and Rule of Law Threatened by Twitter?!

17 March 2009

Not in the grand scheme of things, we don’t think. But consider this piece from the NY Times webpage:

And on Monday, defense lawyers in the federal corruption trial of a former Pennsylvania state senator, Vincent J. Fumo, demanded that the judge declare a mistrial after a juror posted updates on the case on Twitter and Facebook. The juror even told his readers that a “big announcement” was coming Monday. But the judge decided to let the trial continue, and the jury found Mr. Fumo guilty. His lawyers plan to use the Internet postings as grounds for appeal.

So much for Twitter and possible unintended consequences in the fight against corruption. Not a good reason to ignore the potential of this technology to create transparency though, is it?

Three-piece update on a busy week in the fight against corruption

20 February 2009

This week has been a pretty busy one for global anti-corruption activists. On Tuesday, Transparency International honoured two investigative journalists, David Leigh of the Guardian(UK) and Roman Shleynov of Novaya Gazeta (Russia). David and Roman are the recipients of the 2008 Integrity Awards. The winners of the Integrity Awards are extremely brave individuals who often accept great personal risk to expose corruption, as Georg sadly had to highlight a short while ago. This is what TI says:

Transparency International’s (TI) Integrity Awards honour the work of these courageous individuals and organisations that make a real difference in the fight against corruption. From accountants and public prosecutors to government officials and pharmacologists, their backgrounds may be diverse, but the message is the same: corruption can be beaten.

TI’s 2008 Integrity Awards pay tribute to two remarkable investigative journalists, David Leigh and Roman Shleynov, whose untiring determination to expose corrupt dealings in the face of formidable odds serve as inspiration to the anti-corruption movement.

Integrity Awards 2008
Huguette Labelle, Chair of TI with Integrity Awards 2008 winners David Leigh and Roman Shleynov (left to right)

A slideshow with photos from this year’s ceremony can be viewed here.

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Blogs and tweets inform and help during Mumbai attacks

30 November 2008

The tragic events in Mumbai last week highlighted again how susbtantially the media landscape has changed in the recent past. Literally within minutes after the beginning of the terrorist siege, twitter users, bloggers and flickr users began reporting the events as they unfolded. Established national and international news media quickly began featuring the content provided by private individuals in their own reporting. This Wired blog post has some of the most interesting examples of social media tools used to provide first-hand accounts of the events, including the already prominent flickr collection by Vinu. Gaurav Mishra has written an extremely informative and balanced account on the use and impact of social media tools during the days of the siege. He suggests that while Twitter was used heavily to send first-hand news, there was somewhat less original citizen reporting through blogs than could have been expected.


The horrific violence perpetrated against the people of Mumbai and their visitors in the attacks brought out the best in people as well: empathy and the desire to help others in the wake of terror. As pointed out by Asfaq Tapia, volunteer spirit and social media complemented each other in this situation to deliver critical information faster and more comprehensively than traditional news and rescue services could:

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Engaging the corporate sector against corruption through social media advocacy?

14 October 2008

I haven’t been a very prolific contributor to this blog over the past few weeks, which was at least partly due to the fact that I was travelling. This post will require a bit of background, as it comes round to an idea for the application of social media advocacy very much on the basis of a more traditional look at – in this case – the part of the equation sometimes called the supply side of corruption: corporate bribery.

Among other meetings in the Netherlands, I attended Ethical Corporation‘s 2nd European Anti-corruption summit. What struck me there was how seriously many corporations take corruption as a legal compliance issue without necessarily taking into full view the broader societal implications of corruption and what business can do to help address these. In other words, following the string of latest corporate cases and at least some efforts by government to prosecute these more vigorously – with prominent exceptions – (see TI’s latest progress report on enforcement of the OECD Anti-bribery convention here for details) there is a heightened sense of awareness among big business that the legal risks incurred by corruption are considerable and that at least individually, businesses need to act.

Very few companies however seem to regard anti-corruption as a fundamental corporate responsibility issue yet (though there were a few notable presentations and conversations highlighting the importance of doing just that during the conference). Approaching anti-corruption as a responsibility issue not limited to compliance with the law (while that of course is fundamental) has the potential to not only protect one business from legal harm (a damaged reputation and lost business, jail time for senior management, etc. included) but to benefit society at large by helping to create the environment for sustainable development. Real opportunities exist for example for business to become engaged with collective action approaches against corruption (a good resource on these has been compiled here) that can help move the debate in the compliance and quite a lot more direction.

The reason I am bringing this issue up in the social media context is that beyond the immediate business case for anti-corruption (more…)

Stakeholder Relations 2.0

22 September 2008

Here’s something very interesting I came across on the iMiners blog that in turn pointed to a post on the IR Web report. Here’s what they write:

BROADRIDGE Financial Solutions Inc. (NYSE: BR), the giant investor communications and brokerage outsourcing firm, plans to connect every US company and every shareholder in a massive social network that could rival Facebook in terms of members. […]

The move by Broadridge comes after the SEC adopted changes to its rules in February designed to encourage the use of electronic shareholder forums by public companies and their shareholders. The SEC sees online forums as a way to improve communication between shareholders and companies and cut the number of shareholder proposals submitted for inclusion in annual meeting proxy statements.

iMiners conclude the following from that:

The SEC’s encouragement of companies using new technologies to facilitate communications is finally starting to take off, and we think that in the not too distant future shareholder forums will become standard on many company IR websites (at least for those companies not afraid to embrace new technologies, and not afraid to have a dialogue with shareholders).

UPDATE 23/09: ..As I continued browsing to look for more information on investor relations 2.0 I found another great post that puts all this nicely into a broader context.

This illustrates a number of issues we’ve discussed upon developing the workshop programme and sparks a few further thoughts (and I would expect us to debate those fervently).

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Who are we and what is this blog about?

18 September 2008

The people behind the social media and anti-corruption workshop at this year’s International Anti-corruption conference (IACC) are: Georg Neumann, Dieter Zinnbauer, Editor of the Global Corruption Report and Conrad Zellmann. We are all strongly committed to our various professional responsibilities working for Transparency International Secretariat in Berlin, but this blog features exclusively our personal thoughts about matters of anti-corruption and beyond, not those of TI. This blog will accompany the workshop and we hope that it will help us gather additional ideas, interesting social-media based project examples and challenging questions for the actual workshop discussions on 1 November in Athens, Greece. In one of the next posts, we will start explaining in some more detail what our original thinking was behind the workshop proposal and who we’ve invited to enlighten and inspire the anti-corruption community about the potential of social media for the fight against corruption.

Just a quick link, with some relevance for the social media a-c agenda

16 September 2008

thrown by our colleague alan, this link points to the Bank’s interest in projects linking ICT and governance. could be a good opportunity for anti-corruption csos in francophone africa to partner in going mobile. it’s posted on frontline sms’ webpage, an interesting tool that has already been applied promisingly by a number of ngos in the broader governance field for election monitoring, e.g. in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. some general background on mobile election monitoring is available here. it will be very interesting to see what the potential of this technology is with regard to mobilisation against corruption, and – dare we hope – its prevention.