Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

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?

Promoting anti-corruption in Egypt

12 January 2009

How to promote anti-corruption activities and transparency in countries with challenging political environments for civil society organisations and journalists such as the Middle East?

Again, the internet is one of the most promising channels, according to Hany Ibrahim from the Development and Institutionalization Support Center DISC, as he states in an article just published on PoliticsOnline titling In Egypt, Fighting Corruption through Internet.

The organisation has developed an interesting website called Nazaha meaning “Transparency and Integrity” aiming at raising public awareness about corruption. The website, available only in Arabic,

provides downloadable tools for journalists, members of elected Local Councils, and NGO’s leaders, enabling them to investigate, uncover, and fight corruption. Moreover, the website monitors and documents corruption cases circulated by 23 (party, state-run, and independent) newspapers. The documentation is divided into seven categories: (1) corruption in health sector; (2) corruption in housing; (3) corruption in primary education; (4) corruption in higher education; (5) corruption in transportation; (6) corruption in supplies; and (7) corruption in local administrative units. The documentation is necessary for analysis of the data and interpretation of the causes and effects of corruption on the life of the people, particularly the poor and the marginalized.

A similar concept is followed by a project undertaken by Transparency International’s Moroccan chapter under the name Observatoire National de la Corruption.

These examples show that sometimes very easy concepts such as gathering and documenting relevant information already available in the public sphere, such as newspapers and news magazines, in one place, preferably available online, as well as providing key advocates with materials may they need to make their case, can be incredibly powerful.

Documenting and categorizing corruption cases is important. But making them public by matching and mapping them in an easy and accessible fashion should be the next important step to identify hotspots of corruption in a given country. Public monitoring, including by the affected citizen, will be the most effective process to effect change on public institutions.

maps and facebook

22 December 2008

While we maybe shouldn’t be talking so much about web2.0 and social media, I wanted to share with you a couple of interesting posts that came up in a couple of fora I am visiting regularly.

I like maps. Here is one developed by ProPublica showing the expected or received money for financial institutions from the Treasury Department under the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program). The markers on the map show the institution and the amount it is receiving. The presentation and accessibility of information is key for proper accountability. In 2009, this map should link to the financial reports.

And here’s another interesting interactive one on the number of public corruption convictions in the USA. While one needs to be carefull in using the map as an indicator for the level of corruption in the different states, it is a good way of presenting information related to the fight against corruption, showing that corrupt behaviour actually is being punished.

In previous posts, we have been discussing the value of facebook for protests. The study “Facebook for Protest? The Value of Social Software for Political Activism in the Anti-FARC Rallies“, written by Christina Neumayer and Celina Raffl concludes that

Social software has the potential to enhance political activism from a local to a worldwide scale as exemplified in the anti-FARC-rallies, although the usage of social software applications still has to be considered as a privilege. In countries with huge social inequalities social software is still used and formed by an elite, additionally created within and emerged from a Western US-American context and its inherent cultural, social, economic and political structures.
Global resistance and grassroots activities have to emerge from a collective. Social software has the potential to be used for collective knowledge processes.

Food for thought. It is crucial to find opportunities to integrate national cultural contexts and ways of using social media into succesful campaigns, as well as build on existing communities that are driven by the people themselves. The “facebook-revolution” in Egypt gives a good idea for a nationally owned movement. In Morocco, for example, the use of video platforms such as youtube.com and dailymotion.com is extremely high, and probably presents a better opportunity for targeted actions.

And of course, we were not only writing but have also been working on a couple of projects that we’ll hopefully be able to present here soon.

Some observations on Morocco

20 November 2008

Until end of December, I’ll be working in Rabat, Morocco for Transparency International’s national chapter Transparency Maroc. The chapter also runs the Observatoire de la Corruption, a project that, in short, monitors national news stories on corruption to identify key areas where the national integrity system fails, and makes recommendations on how corruption in different sectors can be tackled.

It would be interesting to look at how this work can be improved by using social media concepts and during my stay here, I’ll be trying to come up with some ideas.

But let me first give you a couple of initial observations on the environment civil society groups are working in Morocco, especially as we haven’t talked so much about the practical challenges yet.

Generally, of the Kingdom’s about 34 million inhabitants, more than 7.3 million, about 20 percent, have access to internet, a number that has been growing quite strongly over the last couple of years. Morocco is therefore the country with 3rd most internet users on African soil. Surprisingly, penetration with fast DSL connection is quite well, especially in cities. The maybe even more important number however, is the amount of internet cafés, with about 10,000 licenses. Internet cafés constitute places where especially the younger people meet, personally or over the internet to skype and talk via messenger. Facebook is the main social network used. A great place to initiate discussions, even on social or political issues!

Internet café in Rabat, city centre

Internet café in Rabat, city centre

Digital activity is growing. Numbers of Moroccan blogs are estimated to be between 10,000 and 30,000. The non-profit organisation Tanmia.ma has developed a website for Moroccans to share their podcasts and support the use of new technologies by the Moroccan civil society.

But here’s the other side, while internet access is generally considered to be fairly open and unrestricted (see the country analysis by the OpenNet Initiative), there have been a couple of incidents over the last year, such as the two-year prison sentence against Moroccan blogger Mohamed Erraji, accused of having insulted the king, that was eventually overturned by the court of appeals in September (read the background in French and English). Another one was a fake facebook profile of the King’s younger brother developed and published by Fouad Mourtada.

Interestingly, the prior incident made an US internet marketing company, SEO 1 Services, suspend its decision to open an office in Tangers, North-Morocco, showing that there might even be an economic impact of restricting freedom of opinion and expression, as well as freedom of press.

By the way, an interesting overview of digital activism in Morocco (and other countries) can be found at: http://www.digiactive.org/topic/morocco/ gathered by DigiActive, a volunteer organisation dedicated to helping grassroots activists around the world use the Internet and mobile phones to increase their impact. Talking about mobile phones and interesting numbers, 50% of the population have one in Morocco. I’m about to get mine tomorrow.

It´s so easy to support a cause now! Is that really good?

16 October 2008

Yesterday, at the We Media meeting here in Buenos Aires, a friend told me that all of us gathered there were enthusiasts who believed that technology could help us transform the oh-so-horrible world we live in. “Otherwise, we wouldn´t be here”, he said matter-of-factly.

And, of course, I agreed. (That tends to happen when the person speaking to you is your friend and does it so matter of factly).

But on my way home I couldn´t stop thinking about all the causes I have joined since Facebook came out. I am a supporter of CHINAR (a really neat NGO that works with orphan children in conflict areas, such as Kashmir), “Ni un joven con su identidad cambiada” (a group that works to find the true identity of children unlawfully taken from their parents and given to adoption during the Argentina´s dictatorship), and Sierras Protegidas YA, an ecologist movement that protects mountains).

In most cases, I have joined because I have friends who promote these causes (or friends of friends, or friends of family members, and so on). On top of that, supporting is effortless, and penny-less. And it looks good on my public profile, and it makes me feel good about myself.

Where is my commitment? Does my support end with a (dollar-less) click? Or is this symbolic support really contributing to raise awareness of these issues? I don´t have any answers yet, and would love to hear ideas from you! I have a feeling that if social media is to contribute to change the world, I am going to have to do more than click…click…click…