Share experiences using ICT in governmental transparency and increasing citizen participation. Use the questions below to begin the conversation
What area of the field did you choose to address? How did you choose this point of entry to working with ICT in governance issues?
How or why did you determine this particular area (contracts, voting, records management, etc.) was a good place for you or your organization to begin?
How do you measure success?
What are the patterns of success? Stories from the field.
Why is it important for your community that open government practices are adopted?
What concerns still needs addressing?
Share your thoughts, experiences, questions, challenges and ideas by replying to the comments below.
For help on how to participate in this conversation, please visit these online instructions.
At the International Records Management Trust, our experience is that the management of the digital information that should be the foundation for transparency and citizens participation is simply not being addressed. The range of controls needed to achieve reliable evidence of government actions and transactions are simply not in place. We see this, for instance, in the difficulties in retrieving information needed to answer Right to Information requests and in the high degree of inaccuracy in government payrolls. We see it in the difficulties in accessing accurate and complete data. To illustrate, two of the most fundamental controls, the capture of metadata and the ingest of digital records to secure facilities are often missing from ICT development planning. Digital records held on personal drioves, un-networked computers and unmanaged network drives are difficult to search and there is a high risk that they will not survive.
Do you see this being result of the lack governments' technical capacity or resources to do so, or is it political will that is lacking?
I think that it is a chicken and egg situation. If the issue of information integrity/access were on the development agenda I believe it would be addressed. Because it is not yet on the development radar it often isn't recogtnised. The necessary skills are not available at present, but they could be developed at a much lower cost than the present cost of lost or distorted information.
Has the International Records Management Trust collaborated with international campaigns for more transparency in development?
For example The International Aid Transparency Initiative and Publish What you Fund.
Thank you for your good questions. We have met with representatives of so many groups, including Publish What You Fund, but their interest is overwhelmingly in data. I understand this, and I understand the power of data, but the two questions remain: can we trust the information? can we access it through time? There are assuptions that tend to be shared at present and that that need to be questioned: 'data is digital, records are paper'; 'data will be available to empower citizens and hold governments accountable'; 'citizens will correct inaccuracies in the data'; 'ICT systems do not produce records'; 'data is already there - we only need to harvest it to support accountability'. It is true that some data is well structured and is immensely valuable. The International Aid Transparency Initiative data falls into that category. However, most data is extracted from digital records produced by administrative systems where often the functionality to ensure integrity and access through time is not in place. A growing number of governments, including Norway, Finland, Estonia, the United States, and Scotland, are making a real effort to build this functionality into their systems. However, many other governments, especially in poorer countries, are not aware of the need to do so. This situation has very real risks for citizens in terms of the protection of their rights and entitlements and the degree that they will be able to benefit from Open Government.
What do you suggest for groups working on this matter? Is there a set of international standards or recommendations you could point them to?
For example, in NDI’s collaboration with parliamentary monitoring organizations ( PMOs), their shared experiences and good practices resulted in the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, a set of shared principles on the openness, transparency and accessibility of parliaments. The declaration has been adopted by a multitude or parliaments and serves as a template for those seeking to improve access to parliamentary information. More information can be found at http://www.openingparliament.org.
Many thanks, Koebel.
Yes, there is a significant body of international standards on information integrity, many of them with ISO status. There is a high degree of concensus across the records profession, hammered out carefully over the last decade, but the standards are not presently linked to development initiatives. Here is a link to the standards and also a case study of how they have been applied in Norway, one of the most transparent governments in the world. I am working now on several other case studies.
These are great cautions to consider. I want to add a few other data sources aside from the countries national governments. (Apologies if these have been mentioned elsewhere already.) AidData (http://aiddata.org/) provides great datasets, APIs, and visualization tools to make "information on development finance more accessible and actionable. Tracking more than $6 trillion dollars from 90+ donor agencies, AidData undertakes cutting-edge research on aid distribution and impact, geocodes and crowdsources aid information, and develops applications and custom data solutions for diverse stakeholders." UN Global Pulse (http://unglobalpulse.org/) "functions as a network of innovation labs where research on Big Data for Development is conceived and coordinated. We partner with experts from UN agencies, governments, academia, and the private sector to research, develop, and mainstream approaches for applying real-time digital data to 21st century development challenges." The World Bank (http://data.worldbank.org/) also offers a range of datasets and tools, and the African Development Bank has created the platform Open Data for Africa (http://opendataforafrica.org/) with data sources and visualizations.
Thank you for your commennt. I agreee that the move to make data available is a very valuable development, and I am aware of the wide range of organisations tackling this. I think that the aid data work is particularly valuable. However, my point is different, and it is a quite simple and fundamental one. The bulk of public sector data is aggregated from administrative records systems. Like any form of official information, it must be managed systematically if it is have integrity and to be accessible through time. This data includes, for instance, agricultural data drawn from land use records, payroll data drawn from pay and personnel reocrds, healthcare data drawn from hospital records, and court data drawn from court case records. The quality of the data aggregated from records depends upon the qulality of thew records. Bill Dorotinsky, Co-leader of the Public Sector Performance Global Expert Team at the World Bank, has noted in disucssion:
Records connect back to economics, economic management, auditing. Poor economic data leads to bad economic forecasting. People assume that good economic data is there, but if it is not, work is flawed or not possible. Data should come from records - the veracity of the data depends upon the record. The quality of the records management systme makes you trust or doubt data.
A smaller amount of data is generated through surveys, crowd sourcing, and research, often commissioned byt international donors. Significant amounts of the data generated in this way are lost through time because of the lack of a preservation infrastructure.
Whether the data is aggregated from records or gathered through a research/ survey process, if it is to have integrity and to survive through time, it is essential that there should be an information governance framework or regieme in place to protect its integrity and availability through time and technological change. Indeed, any information that will be needed as evidence for purposes of planning, monitoring, decision making, or protecting rights and entitlements needs to be managed consistently.
While any data may be better than no information and may offer citizens and planners insights into patterns and trends, it is also true that eroneous data can seriously undermine citizen's confidence in government or damage their rights. Records and data created and captured outside information governace framewworks may be misleading for a range of reasons. They may be captured in an ad hoc manner, so that there are gaps in the information. There may not be consistent metadata to define their context. It may not be possible to verify them. They may not be in a useable format. They may not be recorded accurately. They may not be preserved in secure storage so that they do not survive long enough to allow comparisons. In these cases, the value of the information is diminished and is unlikely ot have the integrity needed to serve as an instrument of accountability or for protecting cittizen's rights.
The real gains come when information governance is linked to openness as is the case in Norway and Estonia where citizens are able to access high quality public sector information almost in real time. The risks and costs of the present situation are very high. The benefits of tackling the integrity and access issue are potentially enormous.
In our work with civic society partners, NDI has seen exponential growth is the use of ICT tools to promote better governance. Much of this has been on the “demand side", with civil society organizations (CSOs) using ICTs to disseminate political information to citizens in hopes they will become more active and engaged. In a study we recently published, we found that groups often focused on the ICT aspect to the detriment of fundamentals such as organizing and working to build a collective voice. This is understandable given both the high hopes for ICT as a political tool for the masses and the fact that groups often have limited resources so focus in one area may come at the expense of another. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of new information, but little political action. Are other people in this conversation seeing this in our communities as well?
In your research study, Citizen Participation and Technology, you outline five essential considerations for citizen voice -- CSO's, Citizen Competencies, Access to Information, Strength, and Credibility. Within "strength" and "credibility" you state:
Must "honest brokers of information" be groups long established within communities? How does a group or organization become recognized as an honest broker of information if not?
Hi BJensen- a great question! There is certainly no easy answer. In our work with the Accountability Lab, however, experience indicates that trust- which is required to be an honest broker- comes not just from long-term relationships in communities (although these are often necessary) but also a clear indication that the broker is willing to listen and has citizens' best interests at heart. This is often difficult for foreign organizations- even with local staff- because of funding and strategy priorities that may not match those of citizens themselves. Trust also grows out of demonstrated success in support of citizen priorities, which relates to the political will issue outlined in comments above. Technologies are useful, but if they generate data that is not acted upon by decision-makers, for example, people will not use them for long. So long-term, listening-based, citizen-focused approaches are key.
Thanks for this great approach to these matters. For us, at Democracia en Red Foundation this is one of the key aspects of ICTs and social change. We believe that the political system insists in excluding many of us from the spaces where the decisions that impact our lives are made.
The internet has changed almost everything and it has certainly offered a lot more information. But although we think that more and accurate information is central to social change, we believe that the true challenge is to do something with it.
We have some great experiences about this, specially the creation and performance of The Net Party in Buenos Aires. This political movement declared that the candidate was always going to vote according to what citizens decided on DEMOCRACY OS (our open source vote and debate tool). This meant that in each project that got introduced into Congress, The Net Party was going to vote according to what citizens decided on an online platform. The Party got 22,000 votes, 1.2 percent of the votes, and came in second for the local options ( that wasn't enough to win a seat in Congress). http://partidodelared.org/
Democray OS is crafted for parliaments, parties and decision-making institutions that will allow citizens to get informed, join the conversation and vote on topics, just how they want their representatives to vote. Here you can see our Live Demo for the City of Buenos Aires.
And we are working on many other experiences of action + information! At the Gaining buy-in forum, we shared or DEMOS project.
Let's keep it rolling!
At the CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative, we have been developing a variety of tools to improve civic engagement. The California Report Card was launched in January 2014 to solicit input from Californians on a range of topics for which state political representatives could be responsive. These included education, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, access to services for immigrants, the legalization of marijuana, and attitudes toward marriage equality. We also offered the opportunity for participants to express their own views on issues of priority to them, and for them to rate the suggestions of others. To date, the platform has attracted nearly 12,000 participants from all 58 state counties and aggregated more than 500 suggestions. (Data is available online.)
DDI Faculty Director Ken Goldberg had developed other platforms for sentiment analysis, including OpinionSpace, which had been deployed at the U.S. State Department during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary. We combined this idea with the Citizen Report Card concept, pioneered by the World Bank and other organizations in developing regions like Bangalore, in Southern India.
In the case of the California Report Card, we measure success by the number of participants, their geographic distribution, number of ideas rated and suggested, novelty of ideas. The real measure will be whether government agencies or responsible officials undertake efforts to respond to concerns raised through the platform. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom noted the concern related to disaster preparedness and has pledged to make it a priority for his time in office.
It is important for California, and for CITRIS, as an entity that benefits from public funds, to promote open data and open government practices. California is obviously a leader in technology development, in hardware as well as software and social media; we should show the same leadership in applying advanced technology to government systems. Local city governments have supported innovations: Palo Alto, Los Angeles and Berkeley have established open data policies and portals, San Francisco and San Leandro are among a handful of U.S. cities with a Chief Innovation Officer.
It's great to see all the great examples being shared. I'm looking forward to seeing more!
I thought I would share an example of government's use of technology in the public sector as a way to overcome red tape and corruption in the area of public biding in Korea (construction, materials, services).
The Korean e-Government Procurement System was originally developed by the Public Procurement Service and is now in operation as the Korea On-Line Eprocurement System (KONEPS). It has been introduced into quite a number of countries.
I don't think it is surprising to see that a successful use of technology in government would start with the intersection of business and financial resources. I do think that the model and lessons learned can be very useful when thinking about how e-governance, or open government ideas, can be further fostered.
A terrific presentation on this E-Procurement system can be seen here: http://goo.gl/owsIS0
The system integrates the entire procurement process and is conducted online including: registration, bid notice, bidding, contracting and payment.
I'm highlighting a few points - if these can be done for the benefit of intersecting the business public to government, clearly the capacity is present and there is great potential for transparency for other public services, citizen participation and engagement areas. In the United States for example, ease and transparency in the areas of online voter registration (eliminating racial bias) and improvements in the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges.
The Korea E-Procurment system has the capacity to do the following:
Obstacles that needed to be overcome - these sound very familiar (emphasis below are mine):
Ways they used to combat these obstacles:
An additional resource that I found very interesting from an external evaluation source a few years back:
IT and Administrative Innovation in Korea: How Does IT Affect Organizational Performance? By Tobin IM, Hye Young Shin, Eun Young Hong, Yang Ki Jin - Seoul National University, Korea http://www.napsipag.org/PDF/Tobin_Korea.pdf
Hi All- I'm not sure whether you saw this report (http://bit.ly/1LjjGqh) from the NED entitled "Using Technology to Promote Good Governance and Economic Transparency in West Africa”- but it is worth a read and pgs 9-11 has a chart outlining some great examples of ICTs for transparency from around the world.
Thanks so much for the link to the article by Kwami Ahiabenu. I warmly support his vision of using new technologies to enable transparency, fight corruption, monitor public service delivery, and promote democratic governance and economic transparency. I have worked in West African countries for several decades, and I am enthusiastic about the changes that are underway.
If is for this very reason that I am emphasising the contribution that records management/information governance can make to the transition to digital governance. This is not just an issue for West Africa but for the entire global community. It is completely understandable that the initial focus of the digtial transition should be on technology and the benefits that it can bring. However, it is inevitable that the growth of technology must be paralleled by attention to the information that it generates. A high level of transparency and service provision must be underpinned by well-developed structures for managing the integrity and preservation of the records generated and the ability to access them through time.
For instance, in Estonia, where the digital revolution is moving at a very rapid pace and citizens have benefitted enormously in terms of the services they receive and their relationship with their government, linking records management and information governance to efficient service provision is increasingly seen as a key aspect of developing fully electronic procedural processes, improving reporting, increasing transparency, and protecting the evidence base of the state. To illustrate, in Estonia, as in Norway, the mandated requirement to capture minimum metadata elements for public sector records and data makes a fundamental contribution to governance goals. Standardised metadata help ensure that the records stored in information systems are trustworthy and easy to find, and remain reliable over long periods if necessary. They make it possible to use records as evidence of facts or activities by documenting the content and the context of records creation, management and use, and their relationship to other records and organisational activities. They make it possibele to search across systems, exchange records between organisations and information systems, and archive and reuse records. Information governance is now emphasised as fundamental to the transition to the information society.
The US Government takes much the same view. With the increasing use of electronic (or digital) records, government agencies are required to ensure the trustworthiness and authenticity of the information they create, to protect digtial records from corruption or desctruction, and to make certain that that records accessed by the public are accurate and usable. The Government is open about the escalating challenges resulting from the speed of technological advance, which has radically increased the volume and the diversity of information, making it difficult to organise digital records and bringing a 'high risk' or records mismanagement. See 'Retaining and Preserving Federal Records in a Digital Environment: Background Issues for Congress'. http://fas.org/spg/crs/misc/R43165.pdf
Returning to West Africa, it is useful to mention the findings of a Government of Sierra Leone Capacity and Needs Assessment of Records Management in the Sierra Leone Public Service completed last July. The report noted that systems for managing public sector digital records are not in place. Many of the software applications already in use are not record-keeping systems: data may be changed or deleted and cannot necessarily be relied upon ot support evidence-based governacne. The key records management requirements have not been met, namely that rcords of transactions and processes are fixed in time and unchangeable, and that rules for retention and disposal are applied. The regulatory framework and capacity needed to manage them are not in place.
I think that even as we are enthusiastic about the benefits of using ICTs for promoting openness and citizen participation, we need to start to build the framework for information governance. Otherwise, we risk creating a situation where citizens are at risk of being misled and misinformed rather than empowered.
A couple other groups could be helpful allies in aggregating, standardizing and publicizing government data: libraries (see the recent announcement from the Knight Foundation of the projects it is funding: http://www.knightfoundation.org/blogs/knightblog/2015/1/30/22-projects-w...); HURIDOCS (Human Rights Information and Documentation System, https://www.huridocs.org/). HURIDOCS is hosting a conference in the Philippines in March that will bring together Benetech, Amnesty International and others to discuss topics on "Responsible Data": see https://www.huridocs.org/2015/01/responsible-data-forum-on-human-rights-....
Thank you, Camille. One last point from me as we end a very interesting week of discussion. There tends to be an assumption that making information available through right to information and open data initiatives will enable transparency and citizen participation. It is important to be aware that information integrity and reliable access are achieved through well defined control frameworks. Most of the information that we need to protect human rights, identify corruption, administer governments effectively, engage with citizens, and achieve development and governance goals is now going to be created within digital government administration systems. Building frameworks of laws and policies, establishing appropriate system functionality, and supporting new skills will be a fundamental requirement for for openness.