Posts Tagged ‘mobile phones’

Have the rules changed? A brief look on what has happened since the 13th IACC

4 November 2010

Are citizens changing the rule of the game?

This year, the International Anti-Corruption Conference has not only a session, but a whole stream focussing on a wide range of initiatives that put the citizens at the centre of the fight against corruption. A “Paradigm Shift”, as the conference calls it. The special sessions run under the title Changing the Rules of the Game, and looks at how people are mobilised, ways of supporting victims, witnesses and whistleblowers, and how to connect these [game]changers.

This blog has been started 2 years ago, for the 13th International Anti-Corruption Conference, as part of a session entitled “ACOUNTABILITY 2.0 : Using Social Media in the Fight Against Corruption“. It proposed to:

…demonstrate how social media is used to advance corporate social responsibility, government accountability and political integrity and human rights (and) provide a platform to share practical experience with these tools with a broader governance and anti-corruption audience and inspire a discussion on how social media tools can be best appropriated for the fight against corruption.

Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation and Julian Assange, of Wikileaks, present on the panel back in 2008, definitely have changed the rules of the game. Sunlight Foundation has developed a series of amazing tools to make government more transparent, and thus, in a way, of how citizens experience politics. And Wikileaks has challenged questions of secrecy of information as never seen before through the publication of classified information on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I think we’ve come a long way since then. Since 2008 we have been increasingly experiencing fascinating implementations, many of which bottom-up by citizens who had some technical knowledge and the passion to develop tools that would provide greater transparency and lessen the opportunities for corruption.

Some of the trends in Information and Communication Technology that have fostered this development are mapping and location technologies, the increase in mobile phones and the development of simpler interfaces to develop these platforms. Have a look at the Technology for Transparency Network that provides a great resource for analysing and categorising these initiatives.

For example mapping technology, such as Ushahidi, has sparked a series of projects crowdsourcing monitoring from elections to acts of crime. One of the ideas that Transparency International has been working on is to engage citizens in monitoring development projects through a so-called “social monitoring” tool we called Collocal – at one place. A first pilot project has just been launched for the city of Vladimir in Russia.

Other examples range from online to offline, from visualising financial flows in Argentina, Dinero y Politica, to great project I Paid a Bribe.com in India, and from observing legislative processes in Chile and Guatemala to gathering expressions that describe corrupt behaviour. You’ll find some more mentioned on this blog.

Last year, Mary Joyce did a great job of highlighting the fact that “every citizen is a monitor” in a presentation to TI chapters. It is this active role of citizens and this empowering quality of social media that has inspired many to believe in a new wave in the fight against corruption with a focus on citizens. A great discussion can be read in this NewTactics dialogue on how to empower citizens, held this summer.

Yet, much remains to be done. The key questions to ask when looking at developing new projects should be: What information should be publicly available (and is not)? What could citizens do amd how could they engage in holding their leaders to account? What are issues that concern citizens the most? What are interests and drivers of relevant communities and groups of audiences?

It also has become evident that many of these tools have not yet made it into the anti-corruption mainstream and need to be broadenend in scope to become effective. While many platforms are developed to have greater transparency in politics, the concrete focus on reducing corruption and using this information for sustainable change in politics is often forgotten. The anti-corruption movement needs to link up more strongly with the transparency and Open Data movement to take full advantage of the synergies of bringing knowledge (some good examples presented by Ronny Patz at PDF Europe last month).

So looking at the last couple of years, have the rules changed for good? Are the corrupt more likely to be exposed because citizens monitor them with tools based on new technologies?

I think so. But I see a lot of opportunities to do much more.

What do you think?

By the way, find all information on the 14th IACC here, and follow on Twitter the conference through the hashtag #14iacc and @14iacc.

ICT and accountable governments

14 July 2010

Mobile phone

I wanted to share with you the latest issue of the ANSA-Africa Newsletter looking at “the ability of Information and Communication Technology to empower civil society and force governments to be accountable.” The edition was the outcome of a workshop held in October 2009 in Johannesburg.

It includes a nice feature by Samantha Flemming looking at “Local government, social media and responsibility”. It will be useful to monitor the example of the South African Cabinet who has initiated a Local Government Turnaround Strategy aiming at involving citizens in local governance.

Carmen Alpina introduces a tool to promote local government budget accountability online in Kenya, a platform developed by the Social Development Network (SODNET). The online budget tracking tool allows communities to monitor the performance of central government, parliamentarians and local authorities in budget expenditure and disbursements, mainly by covering various funds, the Constituency Development Fund, the Local Authority Transfer Fund, the Youth Enterprise & Development Fund and the Economic Stimulus Package. Unfortunately, the platform at www.opengovernance.info is currently unavailable.

You can download the newsletter here.

(Thx @Katrinskaya for the link)

Mobile phones and governance

14 June 2010

At Transparency International, we are working hard to get a couple of pilots on using mobile phones in anti-corruption work out this year. Related to this, I just came across this very useful Sida report (thanks @hajovanbeijma from Text to Change): The Innovative Use of Mobile Applications in East Africa (download from here).

A couple of really promising initiatives looking at citizen to government accountability in East Africa are mentioned, such as Twaweza in Uganda that plans to track school attendance, the Budget Tracking Tool and BungeSMS in Kenya, and the Kenyan government offers an SMS service through the Office of Public Communications for citizens to send information, suggestions or complaints. However, especially as initiatives in areas such as health abound, projects and tools to improve transparency and accountability are still struggling.

Johan Hellström gives a good analysis of the key challenges with the use of mobile phones in governance initiatives. He highlights this interesting point:

A challenge that is a bit more sector specific has to do with the mobile industry itself. The sector is highly competitive and privatised with profit as the primary focus. If a non profit service is launched it is usually being implemented as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in the entertainment, sports, housing, health, education and environment sectors, i.e. sectors with maximum reach out, good for marketing purposes and with few political hurdles. Good governance on the other hand is a public good. How does one attain a balance between the two? Today there are few innovative business plans that brings the two worlds together and therefore social and governance applications end up low on the priority scale of operators. Further, public service is a long term commitment, there are no quick fixes which a pilot can fix.

And the report also mentions, albeit very shortly, one of the issues I have found crucial when discussing possible implementations such as reporting instances of bribery through mobile phones. In governance related applications, anonymity and privacy is often of high importance given that in most countries bribery is an act of crime.

One of the first solutions that I know of providing the opportunity to complaint on crime in general and bribery cases in specific comes from Panama. Have a look at: http://www.mipanamatransparente.com. The project is being implemented by the Panaman chapter of Transparency International and the International Centre for Journalism amongst others.

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.

clip_image0022

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.

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.