Camilla Monckton at UNDP’s Voices of Eurasia blog: “How can technology connect citizens with governments, and how can we foster, harness, and sustain the citizen engagement that is so essential to anti-corruption efforts?
UNDP has worked on a number of projects that use technology to make it easier for citizens to report corruption to authorities:
- Serbia’s SMS corruption reporting in the health sector
- Montenegro’s ‘be responsible app’
- Kosovo’s online corruption reporting site kallxo.com
These projects are showing some promising results, and provide insights into how a more participatory, interactive government could develop.
At the heart of the projects is the ability to use citizen generated data to identify and report problems for governments to address….
Wanted: Citizen experts
As Kenneth Cukier, The Economist’s Data Editor, has discussed, data literacy will become the new computer literacy. Big data is still nascent and it is impossible to predict exactly how it will affect society as a whole. What we do know is that it is here to stay and data literacy will be integral to our lives.
It is essential that we understand how to interact with big data and the possibilities it holds.
Data literacy needs to be integrated into the education system. Educating non-experts to analyze data is critical to enabling broad participation in this new data age.
As technology advances, key government functions become automated, and government data sharing increases, newer ways for citizens to engage will multiply.
Technology changes rapidly, but the human mind and societal habits cannot. After years of closed government and bureaucratic inefficiency, adaptation of a new approach to governance will take time and education.
We need to bring up a generation that sees being involved in government decisions as normal, and that views participatory government as a right, not an ‘innovative’ service extended by governments.
In the meantime, while data literacy lies in the hands of a few, we must continue to connect those who have the technological skills with citizen experts seeking to change their communities for the better – as has been done in many a Social Innovation Camps recently (in Montenegro, Ukraine and Armenia at Mardamej and Mardamej Relaoded and across the region at Hurilab).
The social innovation camp and hackathon models are an increasingly debated topic (covered by Susannah Vila, David Eaves, Alex Howard and Clay Johnson).
On the whole, evaluations are leading to newer models that focus on greater integration of mentorship to increase sustainability – which I readily support. However, I do have one comment:
Social innovation camps are often criticized for a lack of sustainability – a claim based on the limited number of apps that go beyond the prototype phase. I find a certain sense of irony in this, for isn’t this what innovation is about: Opening oneself up to the risk of failure in the hope of striking something great?
In the words of Vinod Khosla:
“No failure means no risk, which means nothing new.”
As more data is released, the opportunity for new apps and new ways for citizen interaction will multiply and, who knows, someone might come along and transform government just as TripAdvisor transformed the travel industry.”