How have you used technology to promote transparency?

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How have you used technology to promote transparency?

We'll start this dialogue by sharing stories in order to pull out the useful lessons and identify the aspects that are transferable to different campaigns and contexts.

How have you used technology (mobile phones, software, video, etc) to promote transparency in your community, country, region, business, institution, etc?  Share your stories here!

Share your experiences, thoughts, questions and ideas by adding a new comment below or replying to an existing comment!

Creating an online database to promote government transparency

Hi everyone!  Welcome to the dialogue.  I wanted to kick things off by starting with an example from Seoul, South Korea.  This tactic comes from our online database of 200 successful human rights tactics.

The Municipal Government of Seoul, South Korea, developed the OPEN system (Online Procedures ENhancement for Civil Applications) to combat corruption. The system serves as a permanent public monitoring system to safeguard against civil servants falling prey to corruption.  OPEN provides details on the status of applications made related to the 70 municipal government tasks identified as most prone to corruption, including housing and construction projects, environmental regulation and urban planning.  Through the database, applicants can find out who has their application, when they can expect the application process to be  complete, reasons for delay, and, if an application has been declined, reasons for its rejection.

Before the development of the OPEN System, applicants for government permits, such as building permits or other licenses, were not able to understand how their application was being processed.  The process was opaque, rather than transparent, allowing corrupt government officials to demand a bribe to move the application forward.

Now when officials receive or update applications, they fill out standardized data entry forms. The forms are used by each department to update the online database. Through the database, applicants can find out who has their application, when they can expect the application process to be complete, reasons for delay and, if an application has been declined, reasons for its rejection.

What other ways have governments themselves initiated the use of technology to promote transparency in their own processes?  How have others used online databases to make opaque processes more public and transparent?

More information on this tactic:

promoting participation/engagement btwn civ soc & public sector

Hi everyone,
I want to share my story about Todos somos dateros (we are all data-providers) project which use technology as an starting point to promote participation and engagement between civil society and public sector in Lima (Peru). Todos somos dateros has been initiated by La Factura in collaboration with Ciudad Nuestra.

So…in 2010, inspired by the work of local dateros – people that help regulate the transport system in the city of Lima providing information about the time, state and fluidity of public transport vehicles (an action known as datear) – the project Todos somos dateros (TSD) was born. TSD stimulates the dialogue between citizens, experts and politicians. It also challenges citizens to move past complaining and to engage in proposing, actively taking part in the cultural and social transformation of the city.

TSD works in 4 interrelated levels: (1) online platform (www.datea.pe), (2) Information Analysis and Systematization, (3) Actions in public space and (4) Institutional Alliances.

Currently, TSD concentrates on two issues: (1) The Metropolitano, the first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and (2) the use of bicycles in the city (TSD-Cycling). TSD has established itself as a mechanism for turning citizen's complaints into proposals, and as a tool for local governments to channel civic participation for the betterment of urban space and mobility dynamics in the city.

We have recently launched The Inbox datero (beta) for the TSD-Cycling  section, an inbox of geographically defined dateos for each municipality.  The Inbox datero should become indispensable tools for authorities to receive, process, derive and respond in a systematic way to the information and reports provided by TSD platform users. Currently, the Municipality of Miraflores has started using the "Inbox datero" with encouraging preliminary results.

Our plans for the future is to improve the Inbox datero, expand its use to other municipalities, also expand it to new topics within urban mobility and the use of public space.

best,

camila

Using technology as a platform for problem-sharing in Russia

Thanks for sharing the story of Todos somos dateros, Camila!  This example of how technology is being used for transparency reminds me a lot of a similar initiative in Russia. The initiative is called Tak-tak-tak and is documented on the Technology for Transparency Network website.  Here is the summary from that website:

Tak-tak-tak was created by a group of Siberian journalists and a small web development company as an online meeting place for parties interested in social change. The creators intend their project to help people self-educate and to create what they describe as a “crowdsourced citizen survival guide.”

Tak-tak-tak, an accidental name for the project, offers everyone a platform to submit a story, a claim or a problem. Most importantly, users offer solutions (called “algorithms”) to overcome most typical issues. “The medium of direct engagement” — as Viktor Ukechev, one of the project’s founders (interview is online), calls it — is supposed to fill the gap between journalists, citizens and civil society activists to provide a new format for the relationship with the government: the control of society over the authorities, something unimaginable in Russia for centuries.

What I find powerful about these two examples (this one from Russia and the one above from Peru) is that it gives citizens a voice to have their problems heard - but also empowers them to offer a solution.  What I take from these two examples is that technology can provide a unique vehicle to collect and share voices of the citizens.  I'm sure there are many other examples of this - so please share them! 

It would also be great to hear the other ways that technology to promote transparency!

Open System & Transparency Technology

Kantin,


I wholeheartedly agree with you in that the OPEN System significantly reduces "corrupt government officials", and their ability to demand money, exchanges, and to be bribed. Not only does the OPEN System allow applicants to keep up with the processing of important documents, but through such technology, citizens are also able to hold governments and social agencies accountable. My sentiment is that digital technology as an aid to promote transparency, is both a way for the general public to monitor activities, and to prevent as much corruption as possible.


My organization, Eway Foundation, is currently developing "ethical" social media and citizen-journalist projects- to implement in Kenya and the DRC-to address citizen-activism and human rights issues ranging from youth empowerment and economic development and social activism. Our most useful tech toosl for communication are Web 2.0 and smart phones -of course. As practitioners on New Tactics, our knowledge of the "ethical" use of technology to create change has allowed us to add to, and improve upon our methods of facilitating change throughout the world. Technology allows our program partners such as student volunteers at M.I.T to coordinate with Eway and other humanitarian partner groups in Africa; to be more transparent and active.


Thanks for kicking things off with a great topic and example!


 

Love this!

Hi Kristin,

I love this OPEN system! I wish we had a similar one in Brazil.

Right now, besides being linked with my project Eleitor 2010 and a myriad of other organisations/projects/ideas/ideals, I'm also part of a transparency and open data community called Transparency Hacker in a rough translation from Portuguese. 

To give some background on it, I'd say this community is a space that brings together not only developers, but also journalists, designers, public officers and other people who are somehow interested in changes in the political process to propose and articulate ideas and projects that use technology creatively to society. Its focus is primarily on open government data, and its members promote actions that demonstrate their importance, stimulating the bodies of the Brazilian government to adopt measures for public release of data in open formats. Above all, it seeks to highlight and provoke social and political issues through the redefinition of existing information, but which are still inaccessible for most people.

One of the recent projects that members of the community created is the "Game of Life of the Legislative Process", in which users can add the number of a bill and the year it was introduced in the Congress and get a visualization of where this bill has stopped, for how long and why. Here's a visualization of our FOI bill that's yet to be passed into law by the Congress: http://jogodavidapl.appspot.com/history/camara/105237 -- the idea is to make the legislative process playful and colourful, so people won't lose interest to it and will actually follow the steps of a bill in the legislative houses. 

It still need some improvements, but that's only one of a series of other applications that are using open data to bridge the gap between politics and people in Brazil. If anyone who's fluent in Portuguese (or even if you don't!) is interested, they can join the group's mailing list in Google Groups: http://groups.google.com/group/thackday or follow the group's website: http://thacker.com.br/

The great news is also that we managed to crowdfund a project of the community -- we want to buy a bus, the Hacker Bus (read more here). It will travel all across Latin America bringing and sharing open data/transparency/free culture ideals across the region. And our expectations are really high about it :)

Cheers!

Hi Diego, Love the hacker

Hi Diego,

Love the hacker bus! hope it will pass by Peru soon

In Lima, there is a growing community of civic hackers, that involves not only hackers, but also diverse people interested in the possibilities of technology for transparency and civic engagement.

One organization that is doing a great job is Escuelab. They are organizing meetings, workshops and hackthons. Actually, in coming months there is a Civic camp which gather 3 events, two of then are international and Escuelab is the local host (WaterHackathon and Desarrollando América Latina, Developing Latin America)

What is interesting about this Civic camp is that the Municipality of Lima is supporting these events, providing a lot of data that is currently not accessible to the citizens. This is a key issue, it is difficult to use technology for transparency when the data is not available. I think in Latin America there is a lot to do in this realm, not only making the data public, but also allowing it to be use by people (no PDF!)

Desarrollando América Latina!

 


Camila, that is a great point that it is hard to use technology for transparency when the data isn’t available. You mentioned Desarrollando América Latina, and I wanted to comment on it, since my Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente is coordinating it!


 


Many Latin American countries face similar social and political problems, including areas such as education, poverty, health corruption, and social fragmentation. Because so many countries have similar problems, it is better to coordinate and work together to find a solution, in order to develop better applications and avoid duplication, which has been discussed in this dialogue. To help solve this problem, the event Desarrollando América Latina will help to tackle some of these issues. The event will be on December 3-4, and will be a 36 hour hackathon in the countries of Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay.  The goal will be to develop innovative applications that will be used to solve specific social problems.


 


The issue of access to data is really interesting for this hackathon, and for the challenge of developing various applications to tackle social problems. Even among the participating countries there is such a variance in the availability of public information. So, Desarrollando América Latina, some of the data will come from governments, and others won’t. Some of the data will come from the World Bank, other NGOS and civil society groups, and other data sets will be constructed by experts in their field.


 


This event is being approached as more than just an app creating contest, but also a way to connect the dots in the use of web development to solve social problems- we are looking to establish a development community that allows for people to work together to share codes and ideas to make better applications. More to come on this later!

The OPEN System

Hello Kantin,

The OPEN system is great. Reading your post I was and I am still wondering how such a system can be implemented in Africa.

Closing information gaps through internet apps

Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente (Smart Citizen Foundation) is a non-profit organization based in Santiago, Chile and we create various web technologies as a key tool for gathering, organizing, illustrating and sharing information through the web, working to promote informed citizen actions and engagement and government accountability.


 Our first application, Vota Inteligente (Vote Smartly) www.votainteligente.cl, mainly serves to monitor all actions of Congress and inform citizens of upcoming bills and laws passed. In addition to the main project, Vota Inteligente, there are others within Ciudadano Inteligente: Acceso Inteligente (Smart Access, www.accesointeligente.org) is an online freedom of information management system for Chilean citizens, Promesas 21 de Mayo, (Government Promises of May 21, http://21demayo.ciudadanointeligente.cl/Intro.html) a graphic analysis and follow-up of presidential electoral promises, Señal Alo (Hi Sign, http://www.ciudadanointeligente.cl/labs/antenas/) an online visualization of telecommunication  antennas with a strategic design. Donar (Donate, www.donar.cl) is a tool modeled after Global Giving, (http://www.globalgiving.org/)  that promotes donations to civil society organizations in Chile, making the donation process transparent and easily accessible for both Chileans and the NGOs on the site. The site, ¿Hay Acuerdo? (Is there Agreement?), www.acuerdoeducacion.cl breaks down the current on-going debate between Chilean students and the Piñera administration.


 A specific example of one of our applications that aims to connect citizens with information is Acceso Inteligente (Smart Access). The application facilitates, streamlines, and serves as a database for requesting information from the Chilean government. In Chile, although much information is technically public, it is not always available for immediate access. In order to find government information a person has to visit the specific web page of the specific ministry that he or she wants information from, and fill out a request form. The form to solicit information is not in a standardized place for every governmental ministry and not always easily accessible. Once the user locates the place to solicit information, they must fill out the request form, and it is sent to the pertaining Ministry. The government is required to respond to that person no later than 20 days. (According to Chile’s Law of Transparency). The response is sent to that particular individual, which means that if other citizens want that same information, they also have to then repeat the same exact process themselves. This means that the similar information requests to the government may be made multiple times, thus duplicating the work of the government, and making this a complicated and less transparent process for the ordinary citizen.

Accesso Inteligente is designed to make the process of requesting public information easier for the everyday Chilean citizen as well as for the government, by making all information requests and responses public. Through Acceso Inteligente, if a person wants to request information from a Ministry in the Chilean government, they can first go to Acceso Inteligente and browse the database of previous requests and responses. If they find that the information has not been previously requested, they can fill out a user-friendly form through the website. Once an individual submits an information request (protected by FOIA regulation), Acceso Inteligente automatically connects to the public agency to which the information requests are addressed. Acceso Inteligente provides documentation of the actual request, including information on when the request was made and when and what the actual response was. The website reduces the amount of work for Ministries, since government responses are publicly available in the database.


One of the purposes of Acceso Inteligente is to allow citizens to request information, and allow others, specifically the media, to pick up on it. One example of this is that in April of this year a Chilean citizen requested information from the government on how much the Armed Forces has spent on priests and bishops in the last three years. The government responded in May, with a response that it spends approximately USD $2 million annually. A reporter from a famous Chilean magazine, “¿Que Pasa?” picked up on this, and published it in one of the most read areas of the magazine.


 Overall, the multiple uses of Acceso Inteligente has allowed for citizens to actually solicit information, get responses, prevent duplication in government work, and allow for the media to pick up on certain responses that are of particular interest to citizens. This overall, allows for citizens themselves to access public information more easily and hold the government responsible for its actions.

Was it difficult to get the government to support this idea?

LizWolf wrote:

A specific example of one of our applications that aims to connect citizens with information is Acceso Inteligente (Smart Access). The application facilitates, streamlines, and serves as a database for requesting information from the Chilean government.

This is amazing, Liz!  Thanks for sharing this example.  Acceso Inteligente (Smart Access) should be something that is implemented in every country!

I am curious to know if it was difficult to get the government on board with this initiative. The example that I shared above from South Korea also relied on the support and active participation of the government.  How difficult was it for Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente (Smart Citizen Foundation) to get this kind of government support?  Did you turn to the citizens to help?  Did you "sell" it?  Were they waiting for an idea and application like this?  Would love to hear more about this aspect of the project and your advice for others interested in developing a system like this in their country. 

Accesso Inteligente

For Accesso Inteligente, we have a form that the user fills out and then a robot that is  connected to the websites of the ministries uses that information to our system is connected with the government`s system, but technically we do not have their "support", and it also wasn’t necessary. We asked permission to enter into the system, which we were granted, and then it started! Our development team programmed robots that fill in the government forms for requesting information, and therefore the procedure works as if you were requesting through the "official" way. We have had a very positive citizen response with this application. It was definitely something that wasn't available before, and has made it much easier for Chilean citizens to access public information!

 

 

Congrats

Hello Liz:

I have forwarded or shared several of your websites as I think these are great and should be shared with everybody in Chile.

Regards, Hubert

Promoting transparency on lobbying

Dear all,

thanks for organizing a dialogue on this issue, Kristin.

Just briefly to introduce LobbyControl: we are a watchdog organisation that monitors lobbying in Germany and on the European level (together with other NGOS in a broader alliance called ALTER-EU, www.alter-eu.org). We want to inform the public how politics and media are influenced by powerful lobby groups and corporations and we want to introduce better regulation to safeguard the political process.

 Transparency is an important element in our work in different aspects (although not the solution for all problems):

1) We try raise awareness about lobbying and provide people with more information on lobby groups and how they work. The internet and social media are important tools for this purpose. For example last year we started a specialised wiki for this called Lobbypedia, http://www.lobbypedia.de. It's still very much in the start-up phase. The inspiration for the project has been http://www.sourcewatch.org run by the Center for Media and Democracy (USA).

2) We are campaigning for mandatory transparency rules for lobbyists which don't exist in Germany or on European level so far. Ideally there should be public disclosure databases where people can look up online who's lobbying political institutions on whose behalf, how much money they spent and which people they hire for lobbying. Also here the web is essential in making the information easily accessable. But our work is more regular campaigning to create the rules that could provide the data. Only after such data are availabe tech projects could become an interesting way to analyse or visualise those data. In the EU our coalition at least managed to introduce a first voluntary registration that now has been linked to the accreditation for the European Parliament. So lobbyists who want to get a permanent access pass for the European Parliament need to register online (http://europa.eu/transparency-register).

Just as a starter, looking forward to the further dialogue,

Ulrich

Very interesting project about lobbying!

Hi Ulrich,

While I still didn't share my stories/views/experiences with open data in my part of the world, your project really caught my attention, especially because we face a similar situation here in Brazil: lobbying is not a regulated activity, but this does not stop lobbists from taking action and influencing political decisions across the whole nation, and especially in the Congress.

For me this can be very helpful for Civil Society Organisations to get a grasp of who's doing what to approve laws that might endanger civil society welfare, and at the same time empower these organisations with similar amount of information to actually play a huge whole and lobby for their causes. There's even some studies and legislation proposals in Brazil about this, but no clear moves to make the practice legalized. 

At the same time, I was wondering how we could use the data on lobbists and compare that with the amount of legislation that's being passed on a specific topic. Let's say we found out there's a massive influence of Farmers Lobbiests in the Congress: if we can compare this with 1. legislation approved to alleviate the obligations of farmers and the, let's say, 2. electoral campaign funding and 3. deforestation, we might have some big stories popping out here. If you have any examples of the sort, please share with us.

Last point: do you by chance know the Worst EU Lobbying Awards? http://www.worstlobby.eu/ -- it might be interesting to take a look at least.

Using lobby disclosure data

Hi Diego,

thanks for your comment, interesting to hear from you about Brazil.

The last question is the easiest: we are one of the organisers of the Worst EU Lobbying Awards. For us this has been a useful tool to raise awareness about lobbying. This year we a starting a similar "award" on the national leve in Germany. If you have more questions on this, just let me know.

On the use of lobby disclosure data: for me there are different uses/ purposes for these data.

1) Providing citizens and civil society with a better overview how much lobbying is taking place on different issues - also as some sort of alert mechanism like you mentioned.

2) Providing more facts for a deeper analysis, where these data are linked to more information and policy outcomes. However this needs additional research in each case, as the data on numbers of lobbyists alone is one important piece but also not the full picture.  In the US where there are more data on lobbying and campaign finance available, opensecrets.org or the Center for Public Integrity do interesting stuff on this. See for example the climate lobby investigations by CPI from 2009: http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/climate_change/

3) A third important goal of lobby disclosure is to stop misleading lobby strategies. Powerful lobby groups and corporations often have much more resources than civil society groups but they have one disadvantage: normally they have less credibility. So in some cases lobbyists try to use so called front groups or "third parties" that seem impartial to spread their messages. For example in Germany the public railway company faced massiv public resistance when it pushed for privatisation. So they hired a lobby firm which hired a think tank as subcontractor who than spread pro-privatisation messages while (wrongly) claiming to be independent and neutral. This wouldn't have been possible if we had mandatory disclosure rules in Germany.

Cheers,

Uli

 

Transparancy issues in Aghanistan

Hi Every Body 

We are a local NGO working on transparency and accountability  in Afghanistan , currently we have two project one is focussed more on the Sensitization of  Civil Society and  Capacity Building on the Transparency and Accountability at the Local government level and the second project is focused on Civil Society Action on Ensuring Transparency at the service delivered by the Education Sector. we very much behind on the technology side , such as internet access, skills for development of databases and existing or  access to online information for tracking etc. so we are seeking and advise from the the experts in this group, is there any cheaper and sample technological tools,  to be applied in our context for promoting transparency. 

 

Convening "datameetings" - a good place to start?

Hi Khan Agha Dawoodzai - thank you for being a part of this conversation!  This online dialogue might be a good place to come up with ideas for where to start when trying to plan a project using technology to promote transparency.  It seems to me that one important step is to identify what kind of information needs to be shared with those civil society organizations ready to use it.  What is the specific issue that will be addressed?  Maya mentioned in her comment below, that a group of concerned citizens are coming together to have these conversations!

MayaGanesh wrote:

In Bangalore where I live and work, a friend and I have started convening "datameetings" of activists, geeks, data people, lawyers and techies, who are interested in using data, technology and evidence for transparency and governance. The group regularly shares examples of new initiatives and debates from around the country...

I hope that more great examples for how these kinds of projects get off the ground will be shared on Monday in this discussion thread: Sounds great, but how do you implement a project that uses technology to promote transparency?

Please stay tuned and add your ideas and questions to that conversation!

Hi everyone,  I posted a

Hi everyone, 


I posted a comment in the next section before reading this one about a website in Kenya, Mzalendo, that monitors the parliament and ensures increased accessibility of information about the government’s activities.


This is one of 63 case studies of the use of online and mobile technology to promote transparency and accountability around the world that can be found on the Technology for Transparency Network.

I haven't, is the short

I haven't, is the short answer. At least I haven't worked directly on an impressive government transparency project such as those mentioned above.

In general my work involves helping governments and other institutions make their transparency initiatives more effective by removing unnecessary legal (ie copyright-based) barriers to others using public sector information and other that could be considered output of transparency initiatives. Certainly copyright is not the #1 barrier, but there's no reason to keep the barrier. Using information is costly, and we don't know who or when it will be aggregated, analyzed, distributed, etc., in a way that makes a difference -- removing copyright barriers includes all sectors of society and all entities worldwide in the universe of actors who have permission to attempt to make such a difference.

I'd also like to point out that entities other than governments need transparency also. For example, sharing more and more timely information about your NGO's income and spending than is legally required, and giving the community served clear space for asking hard questions. Technology platforms are often involved (and have been in my limited experience, eg wikis and CiviCRM) but the particular technology is far less important than the honest intention and attempt.

Using Technology To Build a Location Based Database of Issues

Corruption, apathy and incompetence on part of government has reached its height in India. Thanks to technology and independent mass media, people have been building pressure on the govenrmnet to act against corruption and be more transparent. A recent much publised hunger strike by Mr. Anna Hazare has pushed the government to acknowledge that 'change is needed'.

While there are issues of large scale corruption involving millions and now billions of dollars worth government money, there is also the day-to-day issues of corruption and indiffernce on the part of the government agencies. 

To address this, we developed an idea to build a GLOBAL Online Platform where citizens from all over the world can themselves report any issue as long as its of Public Interest.

Welcome to www.Micro-Leaks.Com - a powerful tool that enables citizens to flag issues of public interest including cases of illegal or anti-social activity, corruption, graft, scams and so on - quickly, safely and anonymously. .

Anyone can report a 'Leak' after signing on the platform by providing:

1) Structured information like  - Title of the leak, Description, Category of issue (crime, child labor, abuse of power, bribery etc), Person/Entity guilty of this(Government official, private citizen, policeman, corporate, etc etc)

2) Location - The citizen can show the precise location, on Google Maps, of where that incident/issues/event happened. This could be a simple case of a Policeman taking bribe or public infrastructure such as road, trafic light etc not working. The key is to be able to pin pointy where exactly the event happened.

3) Upload documentary evidence like Photo, Videos and Doucment- One can attache photos, videos or documents as supporting atrifacts to each leak. 

All this can be done safely and anonymously.

Other users can vote on a 'Leak' to express approval(the issue is genuine and of public interest), disapproval(they do not believe it is true) or also express that the issue even if true, is not of any public interest.

THE GLOBAL VIEW:

Visitors to the site can see all 'Leaks' well marked on the World Map(unless a user markes it not to be shown on the map). User can simply zoom-in to any specific region on the global map to see the precise location of the various leaks. 

A simple search/filter functions allows the user to filter leaks by variuos paramets like - only last 48 hrs, leaks related to bribery by policemen.

Users can also leave comments on any leak.

Finally the platform is well integrated with social websites like Facebook and Twitter to allow you to share the leaks with wider audiance.

We beleive that such a platform would be useful for several reasons:

1) For reporting small issues that no one knows where to report

2) Issues that people don't want to report with government agencies directly

3) Individual issues that need to be aggregated to build pressure on the agencies both government and non-government

4) Issues that agencies refuse to record and acknowledge 

The platform will also be useful for review and analysis of various social issues like crime rate etc.

Finally the website hopes to be a mechanism to put pressure on agencies (gov and non-gov) to take visible and verifiable corrective action.

I invite all of you to adopt www.micro-leaks.com and tell 'What needs to be told'.

Feedback will be appreciated.

regards,

Nitin

re: MicroLeaks

Hi Nitin/MicroLeaks,

Really interesting to read about this initiative in India where the past few months have been dominated by a very real and clear desire in people to see something change really fundamentally in "the system". While governments have everything to gain by being vague and vacillating, one thing that does seem to have changed is that there is a mushrooming of initiatives like microleaks dot com. What this means to me is that people are trying to come up with solutions and fixes, but I think there is still some distance to go. MicroLeaks, for example, seems to be less about 'leaks' and more about a burst pipe. I see people posting issues that are more like the kinds of complaints you'd write in to public works departments and the municipal corporation. Are we sure that these actors are listening to, looking at, these online spaces? By aggregating the issues in one place, without seeming to draw in the actors who need to respond, how are we presenting a solution? Is it enough to aggregate complaints without considering the feedback loop and redressal mechanisms required?What is the net result of microleaks?What is the response like so far?

Thanks in advance,

Maya

Micro-Leaks

Dear Maya,

Thanks for your feedback. You have raised some pertinent questions. We have internally thought and debated some of them and are working on some of them. The current state of the platform is just the beginning!

1) Micro-Leaks is not an India centric platform. The people involved happen to be based in India and UK, but we believe that this is applicable has a potential to be useful to citizens worldwide!

2) Yes- the feedback has to be complete in terms of action taken. This is partly a chicken-and-egg problem. Micro-Leaks we believe will both be a cause for authorities/agencies to start looking at issued raised against them and will also be affected by the fact that authorities, agencies, NGO will start using the platform. However the start has to be by starting to collect data i.e. Leaks. As you said governments have everything to gain by being vague and vacillating - we believe to be soon at a stage where we can compel these actor to start taking inputs from Micro-Leaks and show visible and verifiable results.

The reporting of issues is only the first step. The simple yet powerful search/filter function will also allow activists and other concerned bodies to take these issues with 'evidence' to the concerned agencies!

We look forward to closely work with activists/NGOs ect to help them leverage this platform to further their cause.

3) Further the platform is designed to take in and display structured information for all kinds of issues i.e. 'Leaks'. As you can see the platform itself does not prevent users for posting any type of issue - as long as its of wider Public interest.

One of the thoughts behind 'micro' leaks is to provide a platform for people to report issues small and large. While a single 'pot hole' may not be the biggest concern, the fact that corruption and malpractices result in shoddy work resulting is sub standard product to the public, makes it important that a large number of citizens report each and every small incidence of corruption and unacceptable level of poor service.

Referring to your other post below- We believe Micro-Leaks is the answer to the problem you have posed below. Once people report issues and location tag them on the map, a public representative like an MP/MLA or a gov agency like the Municipality only needs to zoom-in to its area of concern to figure out what citizens have been saying! The simple search/filter function will allow you to see issues reported within last 24hr/48hr etc along with the ability to filter by the type of issue being reported.

Finally, while the promoters of this platform are committed to fight corruption in thier individual capacity, the platform itself does not promote or advocate for-or-agaist a particular cause. It is an open platform for citizens to voice their concern. 

The response so far has been very encouraging. The simple interface and the ability to visually see precisely where the problems are, has really been appreciated by citizens and activists. We are now actively reaching out to citizens to start adopting and promoting this platform.

I look forward to you and your groups support in reaching out to citizens, and suggestions on how to futher improve the platform.

regards,

Nitin

 

Some updates from India

Hi Everyone,

Really sorry for being so late joining in these threads. It has been really interesting to read all your experiences and insights. I'm going to share some thoughts in this post that are drawing in from a number of recent experiences and I may not always keep to the topic - apologies Kristin! But will try to spread myself out across the different thematic areas over the next two days nonethless.

In Bangalore where I live and work, a friend and I have started convening "datameetings" of activists, geeks, data people, lawyers and techies, who are interested in using data, technology and evidence for transparency and governance. The group regularly shares examples of new initiatives and debates from around the country and I'd like to share some here that have come up in our meetings: 

Praja in Mumbai (http://praja.org) has, for the past few years, been trying to work with local urban leaders and government. They bring out a yearly report card about how effectively the different regions of Mumbai are being administered. You can take a look at the site and get a sense of what they're doing.Someone who has worked with Praja in the past, and is now doing some serious academic work on transparency, governance and politics through tech is Zainab Bawa and you can see some of her writing here: http://www.cis-india.org/raw/histories-of-the-internet/blogs/transparenc... )Zainab's work follows e-governance initiatives in Karnataka in India (the state that Bangalore is the capital of) and asks really important questions about the uses of technology for transparency.

One part of our Bangalore datagroup finds the actual process of accessing, aggregating, scraping and parsing data very interesting ie not creating new data all the time, but scraping data off existing websites to crete new ones. And there are some really interesting and challenging issues for technologists in this. Others of us are interested in being able to tell strong advocacy-related stories through data, about transparency and governance.

At this stage, clearly, Indians are interested in keeping tabs on elected officials. See: http://myneta.info that allow voters to keep tabs on elected representatives. I think it is just a matter of time before we see more journalists and activists picking up on this, but right now I think the issues we face are broken feedback loops, or non existent ones. There is a lot of enthusiasm to create these kinds of forums and platforms, but I am not so sure that we as activists and concerned advocates are really finding a way to reach out to and be heard by government.

There are some structural problems in this as well. A group like India Governs is actually trying to help elected officials themselves keep a tab on what is going on in their constituencies. One of the reasons that it is actually quite hard to map what is happening (even for government themselves) is that there are multiple classification systems in play, so there is not one system of mapping the country/city, but many (voters' rolls do no coincide with that of land revenue systems for example - this is an old old problem, one that dates back to colonial times, esp in the case of rural areas). Given this, setting up online platforms is not easy, and India Governs helps elected representatives keep track of their areas by demystifying the multiple, complex mapping systems in play. They come up with simple infographics aggregating data from across different data and classification systems to present to elected representatives.

Aside from this, there has been quite a lot of interest in using crowdmaps recently, so there is one that asks citizens to record where traffic is being affected by the Bombay monsoons, and another maps where power-shortages and power-cuts are taking place. Ironically, the people who suffer the most power cuts do not always have access to the technology to post information to the web!

Maya

 



Some Background on CitiVox

Hey all - Apologies for the delay here in joining the conversation. I’ll start out by adding some background info on CitiVox!

CitiVox emerged in 2010 after it’s founders (+ Mexican activist Andres Lajous) used a Ushahidi install to crowdsource election observation in the 09 Mexican federal elections. What they learned in doing this was that it took a lot of extra work to build accountability and a feedback loop into the Ushahidi platform. The aim of CitiVox is to provide technology that has a built-in mechanism not just for mapping citizen reports but also for turning those reports into actions.

A great example of how the platform has since then been used to promote transparency + accountability is the case of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where police officers are using smartphones to report crime. By documenting crime data on the CitiVox platform instead on piles of paper as they were doing before, individual officers are more easily held accountable to their jobs: each officer is a user and each user logs performance statistics (how many crimes reported, how much time logged into the platform, etc.) automatically.

The force has also been able to identify patterns in urban crime that it is using to implement response strategies. i.e.: they discovered that high homicide rates were linked to incidences of petty crime like carjacking, suggesting that the root of these murders was often foibled robbery attempts.

Other recent uses of the tool were in Benin, West Africa and Guerrero, Mexico. In Guerrero, citizens are reporting quality of life issues with more and more frequency - because each one of those reports is getting acted on as opposed to just mapped, it’s likely that the frequency of citizen reports will only increase, along w/ trust between citizens and government.

Starting soon (get in touch to be a beta tester!) anyone will be able use CitiVox to track and report on issues in their community, visualize these issues and then turn this information into actionable data for decision-makers to act on.

Lessons Learnt in Kenya

Yes I have used technology to promote transparency. It has been a learning process for us. At INFONET we have developed a number of technology platforms both offline and online platforms. But I am keen to share with you the most effective way of making technology work from our experience.

We developed the first budget tracking tool in East Africa in 2008 (www.opengovernance.info) funded by google.org then and launched it in February 2009.Ever since we Launched the tool; it has never been the same. From discussions with civil society to confrontation with Government officials on its use, our vision has slowly grown from just developing technology tools for social change to developing the capacity  of civil society, citizens, government agencies and private sectors capacity in the strategic use of Technology.

 We have learnt that the most important part of the strategy is the partnerships that are developed to build the process. We engaged in dialogues(like this one) with members from the following fields(Government, Civil Society, Citizens, Media and Community Based Organization’s).This helped shape the use of the tool, from a citizen accessing information through sms (3002) to visiting the platform to gather more details and facts to documentation of evidence of malpractice. Then using the proper channels of formally writing to anti-corruption commissions, the President and the Prime Minister, to strategically using the media platforms to escalate the issues to the public domain for action and then finally to the perpetrators being arrested and areigned in court.(www.sodnet.org for case study)

We learned that for us to make it work; in what we call constructive technologies then a clear framework of deployment to engagement need to be in place. Thanks’ to Hivos for supporting our first Scoreboard Project in Kenya in 2009, now the platform has transformed to a tool for policy discussions at parliament level and conversations for development engagement at community level

More shortly.

Connecting gov't budget info to tech tools

Thanks, Kipp!  I'm glad you mentioned your budget tracking tool.  Using technology to manage goverment budgets is a great example of how practitioners can use technology to promote transparency.  Your budget tracking tool not only shares important information to citizens about their government's budgets in order to ensure that money is in fact spent on those schools, development projects, etc...but it also allows citizens to feed information into the database, such as - was this school actually built?  How many windows were actually installed?  etc

This example and others were shared in a dialogue that we hosted last year (with's Kipp's help): Using Budgets for Monitoring

Anyone else out there connecting technology to government budgets to promote transparency around spending?  Thanks, all!

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