Posts Tagged ‘social media’

The importance of access to conversation

6 February 2011

For a while now I have felt that social media has been too often reduced to a mere tool in an arsenal of communication channels.

But in fact, it is a much more intrinsic part of society and political culture.

Clay Shirky has written a great piece titled The Political Power of Social Media in Foreign Affairs that expresses this much better. Here is a quote of what he calls the environmental view of social media:

Political freedom has to be accompanied by a civil society literate enough and densely connected enough to discuss the issues presented to the public. In a famous study of political opinion after the 1948 US presidential election, the sociologists Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld discovered that mass media alone do not change people’s minds; instead, there is a two-step process. Opinions are first transmitted by the media, and then they get echoed by friends, family members, and colleagues. It is in this second, social step that political opinions are formed. This is the step in which the Internet in general, and social media in particular, can make a difference. As with the printing press, the Internet spreads not just media consumption but media production as well – it allows people to privately and publicly articulate and debate a welter of conflicting views.

A slowly developing public sphere, where public opinion relies on both media and conversation, is the core of the environmental view of Internet freedom. As opposed to the self-aggrandizing view that the West holds the source code for democracy – and if it were only made accessible, the remaining autocratic states would crumble – the environmental view assumes that little political change happens without the dissemination and adoption of ideas and opinions in the public sphere. Access to information is far less important, politically, than access to conversation. Moreover, a public sphere is more likely to emerge in a society as a result of people’s dissatisfaction with matters of economics or day-to-day governance than from their embrace of abstract political ideals.

Adding on to this more general observation on social media, I’d also like to highlight his thoughts on the so-called conservative dilemma. He wrote, before this weeks events on Cairo’s Tahrir square unfolded:

The dilemma is created by new media that increase public access to speech or assembly; with the spread of such media, whether photocopiers or Web browsers, a state accustomed to having a monopoly on public speech finds itself called to account for anomalies between its view of events and the public’s. The two responses to the conservative are censorship and propaganda. But neither of these is as effective a source of control as the enforced silence of the citizens. The state will censor critics or produce propaganda as it needs to, but both of those actions have higher costs than simply not having any critics to silence or reply to in the first place. But if a government were to shut down Internet access or ban cell phones, it would risk radicalizing otherwise pro-regime citizens or harming the economy.

Well, this is exactly what happened in Egypt. Overwhelmed, the regimes desperate actions of trying to shutting down the Internet and restricting cell phones only legitimated the protests. It also becomes clear that it is not social media as a tool, or catalyst as many observers have commented, that made the Egyptians stand up, but it being embedded in growing space for conversation in the country. And a growing opportunity for discussion, a building block in the forming public sphere of people that are striving for a democratic and accountable government.

This wish for access to conversation is why people brought their families with them when going on the streets.

(Original graph via Danny O’Brien, update at Huffington Post]

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.

Blog, tweet and film the 14th IACC

13 October 2010

Here’s a post  that I am cross-posting from the Space for Transparency blog. I am really looking forward to working with some great people joining me for a small team of people that will cover the discussions at the 14th IACC and see how we can engage more people in the conversations happening!

So if you are reading this and you are interested, please feel encouraged to apply.

Also in the next couple of days, I’ll be giving a little look back on what has happened in this field since the 13th IACC two years ago. I think we’ve come a long way!

And I want to share with you of course what discussions are to be expected at the 14th IACC.

So, some exciting days ahead. Stay tuned.

Blog, tweet and film the 14th IACC

Are you a journalist or a professional blogger? Are you young – and we actually have a broad definition of young here? Are you working in an Asian country?

Then it would be great to have you join me to form a small team of journalists and bloggers that will cover the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Bangkok, this November, 10-13!

Under the motto “Restoring Trust: Global Action for Transparency” the conference will address the key challenges in fighting corruption, identified as peace and security, transparency and accountability in the natural resources and energy markets, climate governance, an accountable corporate world, and reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

I will be leading this social media team with the objective to open up the conversations during the conference inviting interested people around the world to join the discussions. By blogging about new approaches and ideas presented, tweeting the most relevant thoughts, and video-interviewing the most interesting participants, we want to encourage everyone, who could not be at the conference in persona, to follow the conference and chip in with their thoughts and viewpoints. Hopefully, we will be able to make sure that more people can contribute to the exchange on the most challenging issues in the fight against corruption.

So:

It would be great to meet you in Bangkok!

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.

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.

(more…)

monitoring Davos

2 February 2009

Why bother about this year’s Davos and the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum?

World Economic Forum opening a window for discussion? Copyright by World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum opening a window for discussion? Copyright by World Economic Forum

Especially, as one of the impressions I got from this year’s meeting was the feeling of helplessness in the discussions on how to tackle the economic crisis. I think that this challenge the world is facing needs to come with the recognition for two dominating aspects of the solution, and that might scare some to take the next step: one being the need for letting go of conventional approaches; and the other being the request for a new openness and transparency.

At least, questions of ethics and accountability have been included in the agenda this year. But, the promise of this new era of responsibility has to be monitored by everyone. Where, in the era of social media, are the masses on the streets, holding the people responsible accountable?

Sometimes I might sound too optimistic, but I think there has been some interesting input through social media. And while these channels still seem very much a side event, have a look at:

Here you can find the official page of all social media channels by the WEF. And here Transparency International’s requests to the world’s leaders.

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.

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.

IACC conference started today

31 October 2008

The 13th IACC conference started with a panel on corruption, peace and security. Let me reflect on a couple of issues mentioned during the session.

13th IACC

13th IACC

One of the panellists that got me thinking was Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International. She highlighted that a Transparency International list of countries with high levels of corruption would look very similar to an Amnesty International list of countries with high levels of human rights violations. Human Rights can be important tools fighting corruption, especially the right for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and are an underutilized legal framework to fight corruption.

Already in this opening plenary it becomes clear that it there is an essential need for the right of citizens to be involved, the right of victims for a voice.

Khan said, and here I see a link to this blog: “The best tool to fight corruption is an empowered citizen.” As I had argued earlier, social media is about empowering people.

This “social transparency”, being accountable towards the citizens, demanding leaders, politicians, to account to what they do, can be supported by the use of social media.

Another issue raised was on stolen money that, as Mark Pieth, Chairman of the OECD working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions stated, must be hidden somewhere. More transparency, especially within global financial flows is urgently needed, as also Transparency International pointed out in its resolution of this year’s Annual Membership Meeting ahead of the 13th IACC.

It would be great to use crowdsourcing concepts to identify flows and assets of CEOs or politicians. To match the money with the people. As Pieth said, if dictators find it more difficult to hide their bounty in financial centre, this contributes to corruption. Maybe if they find their mansions and Maibachs posted on the web, people will become aware. A map on google un-hiding the villas by political leaders.

A question to the panelist asked them, what each one of them could do to fight corruption. So here are just some initial thoughts, if you have any ideas, I’d be interested in hearing and reading them here!

What can you do to fight corruption?

Blogging for change in Africa

20 October 2008
Kelele | The African Bloggers Conference

Kelele | The African Bloggers Conference

I just came across the announcement for the Annual African Bloggers Conference planned to take place in 2009 in Kenya via the blog of the Association of Progressive Communicators. This prompted me to address one of the key questions when looking at social media for development.

The main challenge for using social media concepts, and the internet in general, is that many people, especially in the developing world, still don’t have access to it (see this statistics overview, wikipedia, as well as this nice map).

However, usage rates are growing tremendously, especially in Africa and the Middle East, and initiatives such as the bloggers conference give hope that the internet, as a genuine grassroots media, can reach not only the few. Through the internet and information sources such as blogs, the entrance barrier to join a political dialogue and the public sphere are much easier than through traditional media and TV.

A while ago, this article looked at South Africa and the influence bloggers and “citizen journalism” have on the political dialogue in the country, arguing that, while not yet in a scale as in the US, bloggers are are joining the discourse and start receiving attention by the media.

Of course, radio on the other hand still advantages providing a platform for discussions. Community radio projects keep to be successful around the world. A great initiative addressing how to tie in both media is the Radio 2.0 for development blog. See also a related post presenting the publication: Fighting Poverty: Utilizing Community Media in a Digital Age.

Merging text messaging and social media tools such as twitter provide another opportunity that will be discussed in a following post.

People are starting to make noise. With corruption being one of the main obstacles for development, there is the potential and the need to start engaging into social media tools and not write off the continent, just because of the technical challenges that still need to be overcome.