How does the use of technology to promote transparency differ across regions, cultures, and types of governance?

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How does the use of technology to promote transparency differ across regions, cultures, and types of governance?

How does the use of technology to promote transparency differ across regions, cultures, and types of governance?  What do these differences tell us?  How can citizens utilize a change in government, like in Egypt and Tunisia, to put these kinds of transparency tools into place?

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

 

using information to demand service delivery

My name is Ivy and I work for a NGO in Kenya called InformAction-www.informaction.tv. We are currently writing  a report on bridging the information gap which looks at how people receive information especially on  human rights and social justice issues. It has become very clear that people in Kenya would rather have new information from reliable sources. SMS is an effective way of sending information to various people in Kenya. As we will soon have county governments, it would be good to have a SMS hot line which could be used to report incidents of corruption as a means of monitoring corruption and demanding accountability from county governments which will make a difference to corruption in Kenya as the county governments are srarting out which can make the difference in entrenching good practice in the counties.

Using SMS for transparency in Kenya and East Africa

Ivy Kihara wrote:

It has become very clear that people in Kenya would rather have new information from reliable sources. SMS is an effective way of sending information to various people in Kenya. As we will soon have county governments, it would be good to have a SMS hot line which could be used to report incidents of corruption as a means of monitoring corruption and demanding accountability from county governments which will make a difference to corruption in Kenya as the county governments are srarting out which can make the difference in entrenching good practice in the counties.

Thank you for sharing your research and ideas in this dialogue, Ivy!  SMS has been a powerful tool for transparency and human rights protection in Kenya.  There are some great example of this, including:

  • Transmitting vote tallies by mobile phone to prevent tampering - During Kenya’s 2002 presidential elections, independent monitoring groups used mobile phones to keep the election process honest by reporting vote tallies from each polling place immediately.  
  • Budget Tracking Tool - The Budget Tracking Tool helps the Kenyan public monitor and track money allocated for development in the national budget.  Kipp can speak to this tool since he helped to develop it!
  • Bungeni-Parliamentary and Legislative Information System - Bungeni aims at making Parliaments more open and accessible to citizens. Bungeni is the Kiswahili word for "inside Parliament".
  • Uchaguzi - Uchaguzi (“decision” in Swahili) is a follow-up project to the first instance of Ushahidi. Ushahidi was developed and launched during the 2007–2008 post-election violence in Kenya. The goal of Uchaguzi was to monitor Kenya’s August 2010 constitutional referendum by training volunteers to report incidents via text messages.

Is there something unique about Kenya and/or East Africa that allows these SMS-based tools to be more successful than in other parts of the world?  Or, are these projects just as success elsewhere?  I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on the use of Mobile Phones/SMS to promote transparency in Kenya and/or East Africa in comparison to other places. 

Having an SMS hotline to report corruption is a great idea - especially setting something up like that now as these new governmental structures are forming.  Does anything like that already exist in Kenya?  Would something like the website http://www.ipaidabribe.com/ where citizens report having to pay bribes, work in Kenya?  It seems to work really well in India! 

Thanks again, Ivy!  I hope you continue to add your thoughts to this conversation.

Tech for Transparency Platforms in Africa

On reporting bribery and corruption in Kenya, there's also Kuhonga

Others in the country include

Huduma - a platform where citizens can report on service delivery & justice issues

Mulika Mwizi - a crime and citizen reporting platform

Hatari - a crime incident reporting website

Initiatives in other countries include

Nigeria: Your Budgit - which visualizes the Federal and State government budgets in easily understood formats

 

Huduma

Dear Mendi:

With two consumer organisations (in Peru and El Salvador) we are looking at using ICT/social network tools to improve citizen's participation in regulatory processes. I am going to look very carefully at Hudumna as it seems you have worked on something extremely useful to us. And I hope we can use it; and you allow us to do so.

Please drop me a mail (hlinders@consumidoresint.org) so I can contact you for further details. Thanks in advance.

Kind regards,

Hubert Linders

Question on terms: accountability, anti-corruption, transparency

Hi all,

What is the difference between the terms: accountability, anti-corruption and transparency when used in the context of human rights work?  Are they goals?  If so, are these goals all one in the same?  Do they lead to each other?  I am curious about this because I wonder if we are using these terms interchangeably in this dialogue or if we need to be clearer on the meanings of all three terms. 

I am also curious to hear your thoughts on these three goals and how they differ depending on the type of governance, culture and region.  Do some practitioners use one term over another because of the political context, for example?

Thanks for clarifying this for someone like me, not involved in this work day-to-day!

Question on terms: accountability, anti-corruption, transparency

IMO, transparency is opening up of information about activities, actions, laws etc that are relevant to the public. Coupled with action from the public and media, this sometimes leads to accountability which is where public officials take responsibility for their actions (or inaction).

Corruption is part of what transparency seeks to combat as "sunlight is the best disinfectant" (Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice) and one of the ways in which this is combatted (i.e. anti-corruption) is through making public information open. The extractive industries initiative (EITI) and publish what you pay (PWYP) are  I think good examples of this work, as there are huge resource leaks that happen during contracting of natural resources in the continent. Opening up this information to the public, the theory goes, would at the very least give a chance for the public interest to prevail over private interests.

Response to Kristin

 


Hi Kristin,


 


Here are the working definitions that we have used at Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente as far as Accountability, Transparency, and Corruption:


 Accountability: Refers to the right or responsibility that the public admnistrators or public agents have to be responsible for their actions to the rest of the bodies of the state and to the citizens and for the right of the former to fiscalize and inform themselves of the actions of those they govern. Within this there is horizontal accountability, in which the state or other public agencies, or those in office check abuses of each other. Vertical accountability is the citizen holding those elected into office and the government responsible for its actions.


Transparency: Transparency is understood as the attribute or quality that allows us to count with clear precise information about something or someone that which improves our abilities of understanding, vigilance, and communication. Note that this definition is very general, including government, the market, and other ngos.


 Corruption: Is the practice and phenomenon that encompasses the use or abuse of power and public functions to generate improper rights or private benefits.


 Of course not all goals are the same when it comes to working on these issues. The variance and severity of human rights issues differs greatly between countries. And the way that some of these issues are solved depends largely on the culture, and the ability to solve them depends on the type of government in power. In an oppressive dictatorship, there will be far more efforts to establish and maintain power, and thus less transparency and accountability. There is also great variation in the willingness and ability of the government in different democracies.

Yes, of course, but just as

Yes, of course, but just as interesting is the extent to which the technology used shouldn't vary. Cheap improves access everywhere, even if for a smaller % of the population cares. Sustainable (meaning more resilient than the crass version which only means ongoing funding) is beneficial for projects such as transparency oriented ones that should not bitrot and should remain available in face of natural and political disaster. Standards-based/universal means the whole world is potential user (see previous post). Regarding technology of making transparency information available online, http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/LinkedData.html is great wisdom on the publishing side.

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