Bright Spots of open government to be recognised at global summit


Press Release of the UK Cabinet Office: “The 7 shortlisted initiatives vying for the Bright Spots award show how governments in Open Government Partnership countries are working with citizens to sharpen governance, harness new technologies to increase public participation and improve government responsiveness.
At the Open Government Partnership summit in London on 31 October 2013 and 1 November 2013, participants will be able to vote for one of the shortlisted projects. The winning project – the Bright Spot – will be announced in the summit’s final plenary session….
The shortlisted entries for the Bright Spots prize – which will be awarded at the London summit – are:

  • Chile – ChileAtiende

The aim of ChileAtiende has been to simplify government to citizens by providing a one-stop shop for accessing public services. Today, ChileAtiende has more than 190 offices across the whole country, a national call centre and a digital platform, through which citizens can access multiple services and benefits without having to navigate multiple government offices.

  • Estonia – People’s Assembly

The People’s Assembly is a deliberative democracy tool, designed to encourage input from citizens on the government’s legislative agenda. This web-based platform allows ordinary citizens to propose policy solutions to problems including fighting corruption. Within 3 weeks, 1,800 registered users posted nearly 6,000 ideas and comments. Parliament has since set a timetable for the most popular proposals to be introduced in the formal proceedings.

  • Georgia – improvements to the Freedom of Information Act

Civil society organisations in Georgia have successfully used the government’s participation in OGP to advocate improvements to the country’s Freedom of Information legislation. Government agencies are now obliged to proactively publish information in a way that is accessible to anyone, and to establish an electronic request system for information.

  • Indonesia – complaints portal

LAPOR! (meaning “to report” in Indonesian) is a social media channel where Indonesian citizens can submit complaints and enquiries about development programmes and public services. Comments are transferred directly to relevant ministries or government agencies, which can respond via the website. LAPOR! now has more than 225,350 registered users and receives an average of 1,435 inputs per day.

  • Montenegro – Be Responsible app

“Be Responsible” is a mobile app that allows citizens to report local problems – from illegal waste dumps, misuse of official vehicles and irregular parking, to failure to comply with tax regulations and issues over access to healthcare and education.

  • Philippines – citizen audits

The Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) project is exploring ways in which citizens can be directly engaged in the audit process for government projects and contribute to ensuring greater efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public resources. 4 pilot audits are in progress, covering public works, welfare, environment and education projects.

  • Romania – transparency in public sector recruitment

The PublicJob.ro website was set up to counter corruption and lack of transparency in civil service recruitment. PublicJob.ro takes recruitment data from public organisations and e-mails it to more than 20,000 subscribers in a weekly newsletter. As a result, it has become more difficult to manipulate the recruitment process.”

Visualizing the legislative process with Sankey diagrams


Kamil Gregor at OpeningParliament.org: “The process of shaping the law often resembles an Indiana Jones maze. Bills and amendments run through an elaborate system of committees, sessions and hearings filled with booby traps before finally reaching the golden idol of a final approval.
Parliamentary monitoring organizations and researchers are often interested in how various pieces of legislation survive in this environment and what are the strategies to either kill or aid them. This specifically means answering two questions: What is the probability of a bill being approved and what factors determine this probability?
The legislative process is usually hierarchical: Successful completion of a step in the process is conditioned by completion of all previous steps. Therefore, we may also want to know the probabilities of completion in each consecutive step and their determinants.
A simple way how to give a satisfying answer to these questions without wandering into the land of nonlinear logistic regressions is the Sankey diagram. It is a famous flow chart in which a process is visualized using arrows. Relative quantities of outcomes in the process are represented by arrows’ widths.
A famous example is a Sankey diagram of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. We can clearly see how the Grand Army was gradually shrinking as French soldiers were dying or defecting. Another well-known example is the Google Analytics flow chart. It shows how many visitors enter a webpage and then either leave or continue to a different page on the same website. As the number of consecutive steps increases, the number of visitors remaining on the website decreases.
The legislative process can be visualized in the same way. Progress of bills is represented by a stream between various steps in the process and width of the stream corresponds to quantities of bills. A bill can either complete all the steps of the process, or it can “drop out” of it at some point if it gets rejected.
Let’s take a look…”

Open data for accountable governance: Is data literacy the key to citizen engagement?


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:

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.

What now?

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.”

Internet Governance is Our Shared Responsibility


New paper by Vint Cerf, Patrick Ryan and Max Senges Senges: “This essay looks at the the different roles that multistakeholder institutions play in the Internet governance ecosystem. We propose a model for thinking of Internet governance within the context of the Internet’s layered model. We use the example of the negotiations in Dubai in 2102 at the World Conference on International Telecommunications as an illustration for why it is important for different institutions within the governance system to focus on their respective areas of expertise (e.g., the ITU, ICANN, and IGF). Several areas of conflict (a “tussle”) are reviewed, such as the desire to promote more broadband infrastructure, a topic that is in the remit of the International Telecommunications Union, but also the recurring desire of countries like Russia and China to use the ITU to regulate content and restrict free expression on the Internet through onerous cybersecurity and spam provisions. We conclude that it is folly to try and regulate all these areas through an international treaty, and encourage further development of mechanisms for global debate like the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).”

Index: Participation and Civic Engagement


The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on participation and civic engagement and was originally published in 2013.

  • Percent turnout of voting age population in 2012 U.S. Presidential election: 57.5
  • Percent turnout in 2008, 2004, 2000 elections: 62.3, 60.4, 54.2
  • Change in voting rate in U.S. from 1980 to most recent election: –29
  • Change in voting rate in Slovak Republic from 1980 to most recent election: –42, the lowest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Change in voting rate in Russian Federation from 1980 to most recent election: +14, the highest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Percent turnout in Australia as of 2011: 95, the highest rate among democratic countries surveyed
  • Percentage point difference in voting rates between high and low educated people in Australia as of 2011: 1
  • Percentage point difference in voting rates between high and low educated people in the U.S. as of 2011:  33
  • Number of Black and Hispanic U.S. voters in comparison to 2008 election: 1.7 million and 1.4 million increase
  • Number of non-Hispanic White U.S. voters in comparison to 2008 election: 2 million decrease, the only example of a race group showing a decrease in net voting from one presidential election to the next
  • Percent of Americans that contact their elected officials between elections: 10
  • Margin of victory in May 2013 Los Angeles mayoral election: 54-46
  • Percent turnout among Los Angeles citizens in May 2013 Los Angeles mayoral election: 19
  • Percent of U.S. adults that used social networking sites in 2012: 60
  • How many of which participated in a political or civic activity online: 2/3
  • Percent of U.S. social media users in 2012 that used social tools to encourage other people to take action on an issue that is important to them: 31
  • Percent of U.S. adults that belonged to a group on a social networking site involved in advancing a political or social issue in 2012: 12
  • Increase in the number of adults who took part in these behaviors in 2008: four-fold
  • Number of U.S. adults that signed up to receive alerts about local issues via email or text messaging in 2010: 1 in 5
  • Percent of U.S. adults that used digital tools digital tools to talk to their neighbors and keep informed about community issues in 2010: 20
  • Number of Americans that talked face-to-face with neighbors about community issues in 2010: almost half
  • How many online adults that have used social tools as blogs, social networking sites, and online video as well as email and text alerts to keep informed about government activities: 1/3
  • Percent of U.S. adult internet users that have gone online for raw data about government spending and activities in 2010: 40
  • Of which how many look online to see how federal stimulus money is being spent: 1 in 5
  • Read or download the text of legislation: 22%
  • How many Americans volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2011 and September 2012: 64.5 million
  • Median hours spent on volunteer activities during this time: 50
  • Change in volunteer rate compared to the year before: 0.3 decline

Sources

Putin Puts OGP Entry on Hold


Moscow Times: ” President Vladimir Putin has postponed Russia’s entry into the Open Government Partnership planned for the second half of this year, a news report said Monday.
“We are not talking about winding up plans to join, but corrections in timing and the scale of participation are possible,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Kommersant.
OGP is an international partnership with over 50 member states aimed at promoting human rights, budget transparency and fighting corruption.
In December, Medvedev had confirmed plans to join the partnership in Sept. 2013 noting that Russia needs membership for its own benefit, and not for the sake of becoming “part of a global shindig”.
Open Government Minister Mikhail Abyzov said Russia will join the organization if the latter implements the newcomer’s recommendations, namely, linking transparency assessments provided by the OGP to investment ratings, Kommersant said.
Furthermore, Russia proposes expanding the OGP’s format, increasing the number of member and observer states, as well as changing the principles of financing the organization.”

When the Crowd Fights Corruption


New Harvard Business School Research Paper by Paul Healy and Karthik Ramanna  (Harvard Business Review): “Corruption is the greatest impediment to conducting business in Russia, according to leaders recently surveyed by the World Economic Forum. Indeed, it’s a problem in many emerging markets, and businesses have a role to play in combating it, according to Healy and Ramanna. The authors focus on RosPil — an anticorruption entity in Russia set up by Alexey Navalny, a crusader against public and private malfeasance in that country. As of December 2011, RosPil claimed to have prevented the granting of dubious contracts worth US$1.3 billion. The organization holds corrupt politicians’ and bureaucrats’ feet to the fire largely through internet-based crowdsourcing, whereby often-anonymous people identify requests for government-issued tenders that are designed to generate kickbacks. Should entities like RosPil be supported, and should companies fashion their own responses to corruption? On the one hand, there are obvious public-relations and political risks; on the other hand, corruption can erode a firm’s competitiveness, the trust of customers and employees, and even the very legitimacy of capitalism. The authors argue that heads of many multinational companies are well positioned to combat corruption in emerging markets. Those leaders have the power to enforce policies in their organizations and networks, and they enjoy the ability to organize others in the industry against this pernicious threat.”