Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Making the Invisible Visible: Corruption Vs. Technology

7 December 2010
At the last International Anti-Corruption Conference we had a great session (in my view anyways) looking at how to get data, what to do with it and how to make it accessible and transparent. And finally, how to make it useful to engage citizens and government.
Together with Hernán Charosky of Poder Ciudadano I organised a session on making the invisible visible:

How we use theoretical information and collected data is key. To target interventions to support citizens and to make strong arguments in a competitive media environment, we need to use our data to help create meaning – to help tell stories. We can use interactive info graphics, mapping tools and other technologies to reach new audiences and strengthen advocacy strategies.

We believe that presenting information and visualising data can be an incredible tool to understanding corruption and its impact on people’s lives. In our session we would like to find out how we can improve engaging with citizens and [game-changers] using existing and new technologies.

This was part of the People’s Empowerment session that tried to showcase and connect a wide range of initiatives that have demonstrated their impact in empowering people.
Here are the notes that I used to present the session:

As you probably can’t read my scribbles, here’s a short transcription:
1)
How much is one trillion dollars?
It’s US$ 166 per person.
X number of schools.
A road around the equator.
12 Zeros.
Fund the military of NATO countries.
2) The session will show you the power of data and information.
3) It willl show you how to get data hiden on local government websites, and make it accessible and attractive for making change.
4) It will make the step from technology and information > to citizen participation!
>>> Information is power. We’ll show you how to use it.

In terms of outputs, these are the tweets that I did during the meeting, enriched by some additional links. I hope they are useful for some of you.

Getting ready for technology & information Vs corruption session at 2pm w @poderciudadano @diegocasaes @techtransparent @newtactics #14iacc
Stephy @newtactics started presentation – showing the power of information to engage citizens. Great example “Political Nascar#14iacc
Now focusing on exploring data. Examples by @sunfoundation , New York crime data, and water polluters in the US
Now getting to action #14iacc: Adopt a Chevron Board Member
Next examples for succesful visual-based advocacy are Moroccan Sniper and Exxon Secrets #14iacc
Tools to do visualisations: DataViz, ManyEyes, Gapminder #14iacc More info at www.tacticaltech.org
Next in the session Making the Invisible Visible: www.dineroypolitica.org uncovering money flows in politics by @poderciudadano #14iacc
Important: once you have unlocked the data, keep it open! #opendata #14iacc
#frustrating #irony in a session of visualisation, the beamer shuts down
Within the framework of the conference, the workshop was a great success in my view. A lot of people, and a lot of questions on how to get the data, how to use it, and how to make information activism work for organisations that have traditionally published long reports (have a look at TacticalTech’s guides).
The success was because Stephanie and Marek from Tactical Tech, Hernán from Poder Ciudadano and Gonzalo Iglesias of Garagelab, as well as David Casaes of Esfera Publica representing the Technology for Transparency Network that did such a great job in presenting and discussing the issues and responding to the questions. Big thanks.
By the way, check out the new Technology for Transparency Network pages. The new categories introduced give a much better access to the projects.
What other examples for powerful and actionable visualisations do you have?
Advertisements

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.

Dissecting Transparency Projects

20 January 2010

I would like to present the Technology for Transparency Network

a new interactive website and global network of researchers to map online technology projects that aim to promote transparency, political accountability, and civic engagement in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, China, and Central & Eastern Europe.

For me, the network launched yesterday will be a great opportunity to connect the many examples and innovative solutions that have emerged over the last couple of years, and bring us a step closer to find effective and sustainable means to empower and give voice to the people themselves.

I am very grateful to have been invited to advise on this network in such a selected group of colleagues and am sure that all of you following this blog will find valuable information, great ideas and discussion over the coming months.