Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

eGovernment means citizen engagement

7 June 2010

I just came across Tiago’s tweet that linked me to the announcement of how the UN eGovernment Survey 2010 will be modified to stay up-to-date with the ongoing development in ICT. eGovernment and thus the relation of citizens with their governments is a becoming more and more important in fighting corruption.

One of the trends is of course Open Data, a very exciting discussion on governments opening up their data for common use, with some governments such as Norway and the UK having recently announced to go ahead.

This way. The other one is how citizens are being engaged and motivated to participate in these processes. This trend and opportunity is maybe even more important, with it being the only way governments and how services are provided can be held to account outside of elections.

In the words of Haiyan Qian, Director of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management at the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA):

“We want to see governments engaging citizens actively, not passively. Gathering citizen feedback is not enough. Citizens need to be drawn into decision-making and monitoring to help governments boost transparency and accountability, and reduce corruption.”

A great example for social media enhancing dialogue between public works and citizens can be found on SeeClickFix in fixing a dangerous pedestrian crossing. Some call this citizen engagement even the next internet boom of Government 2.0, as it redistributes “governance to the hands of citizens”.

So far, I haven’t paid much attention to the survey. If the UN finds a way of integrating citizen engagement into the measurement of effective and successful eGovernment, I maybe should.

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Developing Hyper-Local Integrity Systems to fight and prevent corruption

11 March 2010

The Technology Transparency Network (Disclosure: I am on the board of advisors) is a mapping project looking at about 40 case studies in developing countries that aim to promote transparency, accountability and civic engagement. Adding to the really good review of the first set of projects by David Sasaki, I would like to focus in this post on the aspect that many of the projects assessed are very local in nature. By this, they effectively empower citizens to take action locally to hold their leaders to account.

Local communities

The fact of operating mainly in a local environment provides some really nice advantages.

Let’s look at the Kibera Map. This project shows really well how local ownership by citizens could be used to hold local leaders accountable, for example through monitoring infrastructure or waste removal as David suggests. This kind of citizen monitoring can reduce corruption and ensure that allocated monies actually arrive where they should. It would be interesting to look more in depth at how basic services such as health, education or water are delivered to a community.

kiberaI am not an expert in education, but from a users point of view I would be interested in comparing the amount of schools that exist in a certain neighborhood with other neighborhoods. Or in trying to match up the budget dedicated to these schools with what actually arrives (especially when we look at the corruption taking place in this sector as analysed in a recent TI report). This could be simply by using a picture of the school building, or of learning materials available contrasted with what should be there in terms of money, materials and teachers.

I feel that the great thing about maps in this hyper-local context is that they really spark the imagination of what one could monitor, map and measure (The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) gives a nice overview of using participatory mapping for development in this publication). Sithi.org in Cambodia, a map-based visualization of human rights violations and related news in Cambodia, and Kubana.net in Zimbabwe are promising example for how various local or national stakeholders can collaborate.

Local accountability

But monitoring can also be applied to politicians and other public office holders. A great and straight forward idea is to do this by comparing what a politician promises, and what he delivers (good examples for this are the platforms Mumbai Votes and Praja). But I really like the idea of adopting a politician and blogging about what he does. It brings the relationship with your local politican to a personal level, away from public profiles and official party channels. It’s a simple action that can be done by every citizen and that increases accountability. The wiki page Adote um Vereador gathers these personal blogs in Brazil.

Guatemala Visible is an excellent project that allows for very concrete and timely limited political engagement by citizens beyond the major elections (which are indeed very important and well represented in the sample by the excellent projects of Vota Inteligente from Chile or the many national Ushahidi implementations). It sheds the light on the very important, but yet too often overseen processes of the instatement of government institutions and powerful public officials by the elected politicians.

As highlighted in the project idea of Ishki.com, “conversations among friends and family frequently turn into complaint circles with long lists of frustrations directed at the local and national governments, unresponsive banks, damaged roads, and corrupt officials”. Unfortunately the related complaint brockerage site is not online anymore.

But technology such as forums can serve these local needs very well, as seen in the community forum bringing residents together to protest against construction of a waste incinerator in Guangzhou, China.

public commentary in Guatemala

public commentary in Guatemala

The power of twitter lies in its networking function probably more so than in creating lasting platforms as the case study #InternetNecesario shows. Twitter and SMS distribution services could create hyper-local news pages connecting local media and investigative journalism with citizens needs and political engagement, a concept that is increasingly being implemented and gaining attention in developing countries. Two excellent examples are Frankfurt Gestalten in Germany, and London’s King’s Cross.

Accountability Chain

Overall, many of these local projects work because they are local. Outreach to citizens can be done with limited resources and a small amount of staff. But to become sustainable, they might need to grow beyond their initial audiences and stakeholders and try to find ways to involve and collaborate with all members of the accountability chain – local politicians, local administration, local businesses, local NGOs and the people living in these communities. By becoming more inclusive, they will be much more powerful to create lasting and sustainable good governance.

Transparency International has developed the National Integrity System Assessment approach, providing a framework to analyse both the extent and causes of corruption in a given country as well as the effectiveness of national anti-corruption efforts. The assessment is part of TI’s holistic concept to tackle corruption, making use of the concept of the National Integrity System – the principle institutions and actors that contribute to integrity, transparency and accountability in a society.

The future may very well lie in these action-orientated Local and “Hyper-local Integrity Systems” where citizens monitor and engage with their local environment, controlling institutions and holding their local administration accountable.

What are your views? Do you know of any other similar projects?

I am also cross-posting this post at Space for Transparency.

Successful panel at IACC

6 November 2008

About 100 participants attended the workshop on social media at the 13th IACC. Saturday, 5 pm, room MC3, one level below the earth. Darius Cuplinskas, Director of the Information Programme at the Open Society Institute moderated the panel made up by Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation, Julian Assange, Advisory Board of Wikileaks, Inés Selvood, Clarin newspaper and University of Buenos Aires, Nicolas Hernández, OCASA and Shaazka Beyerle, Senior Advisor of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

It was quite a diverse group that looked from very different viewpoints at the issue of using social media in the fight against corruption.

Ellen Miller gave an overview of the great work the Sunlight Foundation has been doing over the years looking at accountability and transparency via the innovative use of technology and internet (see also her post on this blog).

Julian Assange presented the concept of the website wikileaks.org, an anonymous platform for whistleblowers to expose sensitive documents, and a research tool for journalists.

Inés Selvood looked from a journalist’s perspective at the question of how blogs can and are used for the objectives of civil society organisations, challenging the role of traditional journalism and presenting concepts of alternative and citizen journalism.

With a view at using the interactive concepts of social media such as chat and networking functionalities via facebook Nicolas Hernández presented how OCASA uses them for their youth education programme.

Finally, how user-orientated tools of social media can be used to empower citizen and support civic action was illustrated by Shaazka Beyerle on the example of Egypt’s facebook revolution (see here and here)

Let me just highlight one intriguing question that came from the audience. How does social media not only change the way corruption can be tackled, but also, how do civil society organisations need to change to use these tools and concepts adequately? And indeed it seems that traditionally grown organisations will need to adapt their advocacy approaches to make these concepts work and be able to engage more effectively with the citizens who are able and willing to be join the efforts and do their part.

All in all, it was a great expert panel. Only downside was that there was not enough time for questions and feedback from the audience. But you can do that now right here on the blog. So, with the interest in the workshop and the apparent need to analyse today’s opportunities arising with the social web, I am happy to continue this blog and provide a space for discussion and ideas.

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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