Posts Tagged ‘Transparency Camp’

Going Local at Transparency Camp 2011

11 May 2011

How can the third Transparency Camp be so local and so international at the same time?

So far, I have always tried to join via live stream, or through the tweets, but nothing like being there. With me being in Washington now, I was quite excited about joining for real!

It was great to see that the Transparency Camp went international!

Not only because I was really happy to meet some of my old Transparency International colleagues from Slovakia, Georgia, Lithuania and Argentina and learn about their latest projects! But also to get to know about new initiatives that look into transparency and ways of including citizens in what’s happening in their countries.

Pedro of Ciudadano Inteligente presented his suite of really nice projects in Chile: Acceso Inteligente provides an easy way to make access to information requests to multiple government institutions through one platform; and Vota Inteligente, a project that follows up on a platform developed to inform voters during the Chilean elections and transformed into monitoring the congress. Another useful project of visualising corruption cases in India can be found here. I felt these international perspectives weaved in quite well with the domestic experiences.

Going local

But the trend during this year’s camp was a clearly a greater focus on local issues.

Looking at how to create greater integrity and transparency on a local level has been an issue I’ve been interested for a while. It was too bad that only one person from a municipal government was present. But he was warmly welcomed!

Here’s my take on why that local has become a trend. What do you think?

1) I felt that there is a disillusion with regards to transparency efforts on a federal level, especially with the cuts in the budgets for data transparency and government accountability programs. The city and state level provide new playing ground.

2) The local level is of course where problems become most evident. You see the road in front of your building every day. By the way, why is it that roads are the pars pro toto for localness?

A great example for a city that has really embraced a digital strategy engaging with its citizens is New York – from a @311NYC Twitter account to all sets of public data!

Another one, especially relevant for anti-corruption initiatives, is the Philly Watchdog anti-corruption iPhone initiative in Philadelphia that allows to report fraud of public officials.

Here’s a great summary by Alex Howard of how local governments have been using technology in government.

3) The fact that problems are most evident, makes them easily actionable. Here’s something actually everyone can engage in somehow.

This seems to be the reason why City Camps became quite successful. At the Transparency Camp I first heard about them, but I love the concept and it’s what I have thought about when talking about hyper-local integrity systems. Through such a system which would be supported heavily by data, technology and social media solutions and platforms, all actors in a community will be able to engage collaboratively in and for their local community. Ideally, these systems will include key projects providing transparency of community-relevant information by the local administration and services, facilitating public monitoring of services and complaint mechanisms, as well as citizen fora and reporting to discuss issues relevant to the community.

Basically it means, let’s get the people together to talk, discuss and find solutions together.

Looking at the case of Alexandria, VA, it became obvious that working together is crucial. In an interesting session on local government  transparency, Craig Fifer of the City of Alexandria, VA provided some insights on difficulties of local government collaboration with SeeClickFix, and highlighted the need for self-owned monitoring systems, as they would provide a better integration with already existing municipal classifications and categories. But of course, often, civic engagement is needed first to make sure municipal governments actually start acting on it. So, as Craig said, the potholes are there anyways. Better have them reported!

Finally, a big thanks to Sunlight Foundation and the amazing team. A great weekend!

Also, I loved the pleasant pops. Too bad I couldn’t eat more than one at a time…

Photo credit: (CC BY-NC-SA) Sunlight Foundation