How Blockchain can benefit migration programmes and migrants

Solon Ardittis at the Migration Data Portal: “According to a recent report published by CB Insights, there are today at least 36 major industries that are likely to benefit from the use of Blockchain technology, ranging from voting procedures, critical infrastructure security, education and healthcare, to car leasing, forecasting, real estate, energy management, government and public records, wills and inheritance, corporate governance and crowdfunding.

In the international aid sector, a number of experiments are currently being conducted to distribute aid funding through the use of Blockchain and thus to improve the tracing of the ways in which aid is disbursed. Among several other examples, the Start Network, which consists of 42 aid agencies across five continents, ranging from large international organizations to national NGOs, has launched a Blockchain-based project that enables the organization both to speed up the distribution of aid funding and to facilitate the tracing of every single payment, from the original donor to each individual assisted.

As Katherine Purvis of The Guardian noted, “Blockchain enthusiasts are hopeful it could be the next big development disruptor. In providing a transparent, instantaneous and indisputable record of transactions, its potential to remove corruption and provide transparency and accountability is one area of intrigue.”

In the field of international migration and refugee affairs, however, Blockchain technology is still in its infancy.

One of the few notable examples is the launch by the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) in May 2017 of a project in the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan which, through the use of Blockchain technology, enables the creation of virtual accounts for refugees and the uploading of monthly entitlements that can be spent in the camp’s supermarket through the use of an authorization code. Reportedly, the programme has contributed to a reduction by 98% of the bank costs entailed by the use of a financial service provider.

This is a noteworthy achievement considering that organizations working in international relief can lose up to 3.5% of each aid transaction to various fees and costs and that an estimated 30% of all development funds do not reach their intended recipients because of third-party theft or mismanagement.

At least six other UN agencies including the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Development Group (UNDG), are now considering Blockchain applications that could help support international assistance, particularly supply chain management tools, self-auditing of payments, identity management and data storage.

The potential of Blockchain technology in the field of migration and asylum affairs should therefore be fully explored.

At the European Union (EU) level, while a Blockchain task force has been established by the European Parliament to assess the ways in which the technology could be used to provide digital identities to refugees, and while the European Commission has recently launched a call for project proposals to examine the potential of Blockchain in a range of sectors, little focus has been placed so far on EU assistance in the field of migration and asylum, both within the EU and in third countries with which the EU has negotiated migration partnership agreements.

This is despite the fact that the use of Blockchain in a number of major programme interventions in the field of migration and asylum could help improve not only their cost-efficiency but also, at least as importantly, their degree of transparency and accountability. This at a time when media and civil society organizations exercise increased scrutiny over the quality and ethical standards of such interventions.

In Europe, for example, Blockchain could help administer the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), both in terms of transferring funds from the European Commission to the eligible NGOs in the Member States and in terms of project managers then reporting on spending. This would help alleviate many of the recurrent challenges faced by NGOs in managing funds in line with stringent EU regulations.

As crucially, Blockchain would have the potential to increase transparency and accountability in the channeling and spending of EU funds in third countries, particularly under the Partnership Framework and other recent schemes to prevent irregular migration to Europe.

A case in point is the administration of EU aid in response to the refugee emergency in Greece where, reportedly, there continues to be insufficient oversight of the full range of commitments and outcomes of large EU-funded investments, particularly in the housing sector. Another example is the set of recent programme interventions in Libya, where a growing number of incidents of human rights abuses and financial mismanagement are being brought to light….(More)”.

Selected Readings on CrowdLaw

By Beth Simone Noveck and Gabriella Capone

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of CrowdLaw was published in 2018, and most recently updated on February 13, 2019.


The public is beginning to demand — and governments are beginning to provide — new opportunities for the engagement of citizens on an ongoing basis as collaborators in public problem-solving rather than merely as voters. Nowhere is the explosion in citizen participation accelerating more than in the context of lawmaking, where legislators and regulators are turning to new technology to solicit both public opinion and know-how to improve the legitimacy and effectiveness of the legislative process.

Such participatory lawmaking, known as crowdlaw (also, CrowdLaw), is a tech-enabled approach for the collaborative drafting of legislation, policies or constitutions between governments and citizens. CrowdLaw is an alternative to the traditional method of lawmaking, which is typically done by the political elite — politicians, bureaucrats, and staff — working in legislatures behind closed doors, with little input from the people affected. Instead, this new form of inclusive lawmaking opens the legislative function of government to a broader array of actors.

From Brazil to Iceland to Libya, there is an explosion in new collaborative lawmaking experiments. Despite the growing movement, the field of participatory lawmaking requires further research and experimentation. Given the traditionally deep distrust of groups expressed in the social psychology literature on groupthink, which condemns the presumed tendency of groups to drift to extreme positions, it is not self-evident that crowdlaw practices are better and should be institutionalized. Also, depending on its design, crowdlaw has the potential to accomplish different normative goals, which are often viewed as being at odds, including: improving democratic legitimacy by giving more people a voice in the process, or creating better quality legislation by introducing greater expertise. There is a need to study crowdlaw practices and assess their impact.

To complement our evolving theoretical and empirical research on and case studies of crowdlaw, we have compiled these selected readings on public engagement in lawmaking and policymaking. For reasons of space, we do not include readings on citizen engagement or crowdsourcing and open innovation generally (see GovLab’s Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Opinions and Ideas) but focus, instead, on engagement in these specific institutional contexts.

We invite you to visit Crowd.Law for additional resources, as well as:

CrowdLaw Design Recommendations

CrowdLaw Twitter List

CrowLaw Unconferences:

Annotated Readings

Aitamurto, Tanja – Collective Intelligence in Law Reforms: When the Logic of the Crowds and the Logic of Policymaking Collide (Paper, 10 pages, 2016)

  • This paper explores the risks of crowdsourcing for policymaking and the challenges that arise as a result of a severe conflict between the logics of the crowds and the logics of policymaking. Furthermore, he highlights the differences between traditional policymaking, which is done by a small group of experts, and crowdsourced policymaking, which utilizes a large, anonymous crowd with mixed levels of expertise.
  • “By drawing on data from a crowdsourced law-making process in Finland, the paper shows how the logics of the crowds and policymaking collide in practice,” and thus how this conflict prevents governments from gathering valuable insights from the crowd’s input. Poblet then addresses how to resolve this conflict and further overcome these challenges.

Atlee, Tom – vTaiwan (Blog series, 5 parts, 2018)

  • In this five-part blog series, Atlee describes in detail Taiwan’s citizen engagement platform vTaiwan and his takeaways after several months of research.
  • In order to cover what he deems “an inspiring beginning of a potentially profound evolutionary shift in all aspects of our collective governance,” Atlee divides his findings into the following sections:
    • The first post includes a quick introduction and overview of the platform.
    • The second delves deeper into its origins, process, and mechanics.
    • The third describes two real actions completed by vTaiwan and its associated g0v community.
    • The fourth provides a long list of useful sources discovered by Atlee.
    • The fifth and final post offers a high-level examination of vTaiwan and makes comments to provide lessons for other governments.

Capone, Gabriella and Beth Simone Noveck – “CrowdLaw”: Online Public Participation in Lawmaking, (Report, 71 pages, 2017)

  • Capone and Noveck provide recommendations for the thoughtful design of crowdlaw initiatives, a model legislative framework for institutionalizing legislative participation, and a summary of 25 citizen engagement case studies from around the world — all in an effort to acknowledge and promote best crowdlaw practices. The report, written to inform the public engagement strategy of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, can apply to crowdlaw initiatives across different contexts and jurisdictions.
  • CrowdLaw advocates for engagement opportunities that go beyond citizens suggesting ideas, and inviting integration of participation throughout the legislative life-cycle — from agenda-setting to evaluation of implemented legislation. Additionally, Capone and Noveck highlight the importance of engaging with the recipient public institutions to ensure that participatory actions are useful and desired. Finally, they lay out a research and experimentation agenda for crowdlaw, noting that the increased data capture and sharing, as well as the creation of empirical standards for evaluating initiatives, are integral to the progress and promise of crowdlaw.
  • The 25 case studies are organized by a six-part taxonomy of: (1) the participatory task requested, (2) the methods employed by the process, (3) the stages of the legislative process, (4) the platforms used, from mobile to in-person meetings, (5) the institutionalization or degree of legal formalization of the initiative, and (6) the mechanisms and metrics for ongoing evaluation of the initiative

Faria, Cristiano Ferri Soares de – The open parliament in the age of the internet: can the people now collaborate with legislatures in lawmaking? (Book, 352 pages, 2013)

  • Faria explores the concept of participatory parliaments, and how participatory and deliberative democracy can complement existing systems of representative democracy. Currently the first and only full-length book surveying citizen engagement in lawmaking.
  • As the World Bank’s Tiago Peixoto writes: “This is a text that brings the reader into contact with the main theories and arguments relating to issues of transparency, participation, actors’ strategies, and processes of institutional and technological innovation. […] Cristiano Faria captures the state of the art in electronic democracy experiences in the legislative at the beginning of the 21st century.”
  • Chapters 4 and 5, deep dive into two case studies: the Chilean Senate’s Virtual Senator project, and the Brazilian House of Representatives e-Democracy project.

Johns, Melissa, and Valentina Saltane (World Bank Global Indicators Group) – Citizen Engagement in Rulemaking: Evidence on Regulatory Practices in 185 Countries (Report, 45 pages, 2016)

  • This report “presents a new database of indicators measuring the extent to which rulemaking processes are transparent and participatory across 185 countries. […] [It] presents a nses ew global data set on citizen engagement in rulemaking and provides detailed descriptive statistics for the indicators. The paper then provides preliminary analysis on how the level of citizen engagement correlates with other social and economic outcomes. To support this analysis, we developed a composite citizen engagement in rulemaking score around the publication of proposed regulations, consultation on their content and the use of regulatory impact assessments.”
  • The authors outline the global landscape of regulatory processes and the extent to which citizens are kept privy to regulatory happenings and/or able to participate in them.
  • Findings include that: “30 of the sampled economies regulators voluntarily publish proposed regulations despite having no formal requirement to do so” and that, “In 98 of the 185 countries surveyed for this paper, ministries and regulatory agencies do not conduct impact assessments of proposed regulations.” Also: “High-income countries tend to perform well on the citizen engagement in rulemaking score.”

Noveck, Beth Simone – The Electronic Revolution in Rulemaking (Journal article, 90 pages, 2004)

  • Noveck addresses the need for the design of effective practices, beyond the legal procedure that enables participation, in order to fully institutionalize the right to participate in e-rulemaking processes. At the time of writing, e-rulemaking practices failed to “do democracy,” which requires building a community of practice and taking advantage of enabling technology. The work, which focuses on public participation in informal rulemaking processes, explores “how the use of technology in rulemaking can promote more collaborative, less hierarchical, and more sustained forms of participation — in effect, myriad policy juries — where groups deliberate together.”
  • Noveck looks to reorient on the improvement of participatory practices that exploit new technologies: a design-centered approach as opposed a critique the shortcomings of participation. Technology can be a critical tool in promoting meaningful, deliberative engagement among citizens and government. With this, participation is to be not a procedural right, but a set of technologically-enabled practices enabled by government.

Peña-López, Ismael –, Spain. Voice or chatter? Case studies (Report, 54 pages, 2017)

  • Peña-López analyzes the origins and impact of the opensource platform, a component of the city’s broader movement towards participatory democracy. The case is divided into “the institutionalization of the ethos of the 15M Spanish Indignados movement, the context building up to the initiative,” and then reviews “its design and philosophy […] in greater detail. […] In the final section, the results of the project are analyzed and the shifts of the initiative in meaning, norms and power, both from the government and the citizen end are discussed.”
  • A main finding includes that “ has increased the amount of information in the hands of the citizens, and gathered more citizens around key issues. There has been an increase in participation, with many citizen created proposals being widely supported, legitimated and accepted to be part of the municipality strategic plan. As pluralism has been enhanced without damaging the existing social capital, we can only think that the increase of participation has led to an improvement of democratic processes, especially in bolstering legitimacy around decision making.”

Simon, Julie, Theo Bass, Victoria Boelman, and Geoff Mulgan (Nesta) – Digital Democracy: The Tools Transforming Political Engagement (Report, 100 pages, 2017)

  • Reviews the origins, implementation, and outcomes of 13 case studies representing the best in digital democracy practices that are consistently reviewed. The report then provides six key themes that underpin a “good digital democracy process.” Particularly instructive are the interviews with actors in each of the different projects, and their accounts of what contributed to their project’s successes or failures. The Nesta team also provides insightful analysis as to what contributed to the relative success or failure of the initiatives.

Suteu, Silvia – Constitutional Conventions in the Digital Era: Lessons from Iceland and Ireland (Journal article, 26 pages, 2015)

  • This piece from the Boston College International & Comparative Law Review “assesses whether the novelty in the means used in modern constitution-making translates further into novelty at a more substantive level, namely, in the quality of the constitution-making process and legitimacy of the end product. Additionally, this Essay analyzes standards of direct democratic engagements, which adequately fit these new developments, with a focus on the cases of Iceland and Ireland.”
  • It provides four motivations for focusing on constitution-making processes:
    • legitimacy: a good process can create a model for future political interactions,
    • the correlation between participatory constitution-making and the increased availability of popular involvement mechanisms,
    • the breadth of participation is a key factor to ensuring constitutional survival, and
    • democratic renewal.
  • Suteu traces the Icelandic and Irish processes of crowdsourcing their constitutions, the former being known as the first crowdsourced constitution, and the latter being known for its civil society-led We the Citizens initiative which spurred a constitutional convention and the adoption of a citizen assembly in the process.

Bernal, Carlos – How Constitutional Crowd-drafting can enhance Legitimacy in Constitution-Making(Paper, 27 pages, 2018)

  • Bernal examines the use of online engagement for facilitating citizen participation in constitutional drafting, a process he dubs “Crowddrafting.” Highlighting examples from places such as Kenya, Iceland, and Egypt, he lays out the details the process including key players, methods, actions, and tools.
  • Bernal poses three stages where citizens can participate in constitutional crowddrafting: foundational, deliberation, and pre-ratification. Citing more examples, he concisely explains how each process works and states their expected outcomes. Although he acknowledges the challenges that it may face, Bernal concludes by proposing that “constitutional crowddrafting is a strategy for strengthening the democratic legitimacy of constitution-making processes by enabling inclusive mechanisms of popular participation of individuals and groups in deliberations, expression of preferences, and decisions related to the content of the constitution.”
  • He suggests that crowddrafting can increase autonomy, transparency, and equality, and can engage groups or individuals that are often left out of deliberative processes. While it may create potential risks, Bernal explains how to mitigate those risks and achieve the full power of enhanced legitimacy from constitutional crowddrafting.

Finnbogadóttir, Vigdís & Gylfason,Thorvaldur – The New Icelandic Constitution: How did it come about? Where is it? (Book, 2016)

  • This book, co-authored by a former President of Iceland (also the world’s first democratically directly elected female president) tells the story the crowdsourced Icelandic constitution as a powerful example of participatory democracy.
  • “In 2010 a nationally elected Constitutional Council met, and four months later a draft constitution was born. On the 20th. of October 2012, The People of Iceland voted to tell their Parliament to ratify it as its new constitution.” Four years later, the book discusses the current state of the Icelandic constitution and explores whether Parliament is respecting the will of the people.

Mitozo, Isabele & Marques, Francisco Paulo Jamil – Context Matters! Looking Beyond Platform Structure to Understand Citizen Deliberation on Brazil’s Portal e‐Democracia (Article, 21 pages, 2019)

  • This article analyzes the Portal e‐Democracia participatory platform, sponsored by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. Since 2009, the online initiative has provided different opportunities for legislators to engage with constituents and representatives through various methods such as surveys, forums, and collaborative wiki tools. Hence, the article examines the participatory behavior of Brazilian citizens during four particular forums hosted on Portal e-Democracia.
  • The researchers confirmed their hypothesis (i.e., that debates with diverse characteristics can develop even under the same design structures) and also drew several additional conclusions, suggesting that the issue at stake and sociopolitical context of the issue might be more important to characterizing the debate than the structure is.

Alsina, Victòria and Luis Martí, José – The Birth of the CrowdLaw Movement: Tech-Based Citizen Participation, Legitimacy and the Quality of Lawmaking

  • This paper introduces the idea of CrowdLaw followed by a deep dive into its roots, true meaning, and the inspiration behind its launch.
  • The authors first distinguish CrowdLaw from other forms of political participation, setting the movement apart from others. They then restate and explain the CrowdLaw Manifesto, a set 12 collaboratively-written principles intended to booster the design, implementation and evaluation of new tech-enabled practices of public engagement in law and policymaking. Finally, the authors conclude by emphasizing the importance of certain qualities that are inherent to the concept of CrowdLaw.

Beth Simone Noveck – Crowdlaw: Collective Intelligence and Lawmaking

  • In this essay, Noveck provides an all-encompassing and detailed description of the CrowdLaw concept. After establishing the value proposition for CrowdLaw methods, Noveck explores good practices for incorporating them into each stage of the law and policymaking process
  • Using illustrative examples of successful cases from around the world, Noveck affirms why CrowdLaw should become more widely adopted by highlighting its potential, while simultaneously suggesting how to implement CrowdLaw processes for interested institutions

Public Brainpower: Civil Society and Natural Resource Management

Book edited by Indra Øverland: ” …examines how civil society, public debate and freedom of speech affect natural resource governance. Drawing on the theories of Robert Dahl, Jurgen Habermas and Robert Putnam, the book introduces the concept of ‘public brainpower’, proposing that good institutions require: fertile public debate involving many and varied contributors to provide a broad base for conceiving new institutions; checks and balances on existing institutions; and the continuous dynamic evolution of institutions as the needs of society change.

The book explores the strength of these ideas through case studies of 18 oil and gas-producing countries: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi, UAE, UK and Venezuela. The concluding chapter includes 10 tenets on how states can maximize their public brainpower, and a ranking of 33 resource-rich countries and the degree to which they succeed in doing so.

The Introduction and the chapters ‘Norway: Public Debate and the Management of Petroleum Resources and Revenues’, ‘Kazakhstan: Civil Society and Natural-Resource Policy in Kazakhstan’, and ‘Russia: Public Debate and the Petroleum Sector’ of this book are available open access under a CC BY 4.0 license at….(More)”.

Can we predict political uprisings?

 at The Conversation: “Forecasting political unrest is a challenging task, especially in this era of post-truth and opinion polls.

Several studies by economists such as Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler in 1998 and 2002 describe how economic indicators, such as slow income growth and natural resource dependence, can explain political upheaval. More specifically, low per capita income has been a significant trigger of civil unrest.

Economists James Fearon and David Laitin have also followed this hypothesis, showing how specific factors played an important role in Chad, Sudan and Somalia in outbreaks of political violence.

According to the International Country Risk Guide index, the internal political stability of Sudan fell by 15% in 2014, compared to the previous year. This decrease was after a reduction of its per capita income growth rate from 12% in 2012 to 2% in 2013.

By contrast, when the income per capita growth increased in 1997 compared to 1996, the score for political stability in Sudan increased by more than 100% in 1998. Political stability across any given year seems to be a function of income growth in the previous one.

When economics lie

But as the World Bank admitted, “economic indicators failed to predict Arab Spring”.

Usual economic performance indicators, such as gross domestic product, trade, foreign direct investment, showed higher economic development and globalisation of the Arab Spring countries over a decade. Yet, in 2010, the region witnessed unprecedented uprisings that caused the collapse of regimes such as those in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

In our 2016 study we used data for more than 100 countries for the 1984–2012 period. We wanted to look at criteria other than economics to better understand the rise of political upheavals.

We found out and quantified how corruption is a destabilising factor when youth (15-24 years old) exceeds 20% of adult population.

Let’s examine the two main components of the study: demographics and corruption….

We are 90% confident that a youth bulge beyond 20% of adult population, on average, combined with high levels of corruption can significantly destabilise political systems within specific countries when other factors described above also taken into account. We are 99% confident about a youth bulge beyond 30% levels.

Our results can help explain the risk of internal conflict and the possible time window for it happening. They could guide policy makers and international organisations in allocating their anti-corruption budget better, taking into account the demographic structure of societies and the risk of political instability….(More).

South Sudan: Satellite Images Used to Track Food Insecurity

Salem Solomon at VOA news: “The world is watching closely as food shortages grip parts of Africa and the Middle East. As humanitarian groups respond to the crisis, they have to solve a major problem: how to track food security in areas that are simply too remote or too dangerous to access.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) has come up with an innovative answer. The U.S.-funded organization is working with DigitalGlobe, a Colorado satellite company, to crowdsource analysis of satellite imagery of South Sudan.

The effort will rely on thousands of volunteers — normal people with no subject matter expertise — to scour satellite images looking for things like livestock herds, temporary dwellings and permanent dwellings. The group has selected an area of 18,000 square kilometers across five counties in South Sudan to analyze.

“The crowd can identify settlement imagery, they can identify roads, hospitals, airplanes, you name it. It allows us to tap into this network of folks around the world, not necessarily in country, but they are folks who are interested and compelled by whatever the campaign is,” said Rhiannan Price, senior manager of the Seeing a Better World Program at DigitalGlobe….(More)”.

Information for the People: Tunisia Embraces Open Government, 2011–2016

Case study by Tristan Dreisback at Innovations for Successful Societies: “In January 2011, mass demonstrations in Tunisia ousted a regime that had tolerated little popular participation, opening the door to a new era of transparency. The protesters demanded an end to the secrecy that had protected elite privilege. Five months later, the president issued a decree that increased citizen access to government data and formed a steering committee to guide changes in information practices, building on small projects already in development. Advocates in the legislature and the public service joined with civil society leaders to support a strong access-to-information policy, to change the culture of public administration, and to secure the necessary financial and technical resources to publish large quantities of data online in user-friendly formats. Several government agencies launched their own open-data websites. External pressure, coupled with growing interest from civil society and legislators, helped keep transparency reforms on the cabinet office agenda despite frequent changes in top leadership. In 2016, Tunisia adopted one of the world’s strongest laws regarding access to information. Although members of the public did not put all of the resources to use immediately, the country moved much closer to having the data needed to improve access to services, enhance government performance, and support the evidence-based deliberation on which a healthy democracy depended…(More)”

Design thinking and health communication: learning from failure

Priyanka Dutt at BBC Media Action: “Anyone working in international development will attest that human-centred design (HCD) has been a ‘trending topic’ in recent years. Design thinking has been applied to a range of challenges, from supporting democratic transition in Libya to building an all-terrain wheelchair for under $200. Melinda Gates even hailed HCD as the innovation changing the most lives in the developing world.

But what exactly is design thinking? It involves bringing together multi-disciplinary teams – think creative writers working alongside ICT specialists – to address challenges through rapid prototyping and repeated testing. At the core of HCD is building empathy with the people you’re designing for with the overarching aim of producing something genuinely valuable to them.

Marrying these principles with our own core value of putting audiences at the heart of everything we do, we decided to set up a ‘laboratory’ in Bihar, in northern India, which aimed to improve child and maternal health through communication. We saw Bihar as a great site for HCD-style innovation because it offered us the scope to test and fine tune new ways of using communication to promote healthy behaviours for women and children alike.

Bihar is home to 29 million women of reproductive age, who give birth 3 million times every year. And although Bihar’s maternal mortality rate has declined in recent years to 93 per 100,000 live births, it is still well above the Sustainable Development Goals target of 70. As for the communication challenges, less than a fifth of these women watch TV and only 12% listen to the radio.

Yet the lab’s early creations achieved a great deal. Over 50,000 people have graduated from our Mobile Academy training course, which is delivered through mobile phone audio messages. The course teaches health workers how to communicate more effectively to persuade families to lead healthier lives.

We also produced a set of cards and audio messages delivered via mobile phone – called Mobile Kunji – for health workers to use during their visits with families. The evidence shows that families subsequently asked health workers more questions and were more likely to follow advice on preparing for birth, family planning and how to feed babies.

Rethinking strategy: learning from failure

High on our early successes, we set about developing Kilkari (a baby’s gurgle in Hindi). This programme sends weekly audio messages about pregnancy, child birth, and child care, directly to families’ mobile phones, from the second trimester of pregnancy until the child is one year old. The aim was that Kilkari would be listened to across Bihar, by the most vulnerable families, with the greatest need and least access to information and services.

Drawing on lessons from two similar services from around the world, Mobile Midwife and BabyCenter, in addition to our own prior experience in Bihar, we were confident Kilkari would be a success. Just to be certain, we ran some tests before rollout and found that we had failed in our vision – and spectacularly so. We weren’t getting through to our main audience, women, as we weren’t using the right channels and language.

In the end, we went back to the drawing board on Kilkari four times, simplifying and stripping down the content time and again, until we got it right. Through repeated prototype-test-redesign cycles, we made the vitally important discovery that our basic assumptions about our audiences were wrong. So we went back to basics and asked ourselves the following questions to push us to rethink our strategy:

1. Is the content relevant and easy to understand?

2. Are we getting through to our target audience?

3. Can we do more to keep our target audience engaged?…(More)”

Using Crowdsourcing to Map Displacement in South Sudan

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network: “…partnering with Tomnod to improve population information in five South Sudanese counties by using crowdsourcing to gather evidence-based food security analysis.

Through Tomnod, volunteers from around the world identify different elements such as buildings, tents, and livestock in satellite images that are hosted on Tomnod’s website. This approach creates data sets that can more accurately assess the level of food insecurity in South Sudan. …

This approach will help FEWS NET’s work in South Sudan obtain more information where access to areas of acute food insecurity is limited…(More)”.

Fighting famine with mobile data

Steve Schwartz at Tableau: “For most people, asking about the price of a bag of rice is inconsequential. For Moustapha Toure, it is a question of life and death for thousands.

A Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) Officer with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Moustapha and his team are currently collecting price data and assessing food security in a corner of the country wracked by the effects of the Boko Haram insurgency.

When the conflict broke out in 2009, the threat of violence made it difficult for humanitarian workers like Moustapha to access the communities they serve.

“The security situation made it impossible for the team to go to local markets, talk to vendors, or even chat with people in their homes—all the things they usually do to gather data on local food prices,” said the WFP Nigeria Country Director, Ronald Sibanda.

To overcome this challenge, WFP, in collaboration with the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), turned to an innovative new approach for collecting data via mobile phones, known as mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM). Using mVAM, WFP and its partners can remotely collect food security and price data. Not only does this approach provide a way to hear from people in inaccessible areas, but it also makes near real-time reporting to local decision-makers possible. That means WFP staff like Moustapha are able to make reliable, data-informed decisions that may impact the lives of more than one million people across the affected Nigerian states.

A Vital Lifeline for a Looming Famine

The mVAM team could be in demand now more than ever. Along with Yemen, Somalia, and South Sudan, Nigeria is one of the four countries at risk of famine. Stephen O’Brien, the United Nation’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, recently described this global food security emergency as the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

For seven years, the Boko Haram conflict has affected communities in north-eastern Nigeria, leaving some 5.1 million people food insecure in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states and forcing an estimated 1.9 million people to leave behind their homes, land, and livelihoods.

Without this remotely-collected information, little would be known about these areas and how the conflict is affecting food security. However, this data—collected on a regular basis—actually presents a unique opportunity. In the new system, WFP’s VAM team can take a leap forward from traditional PDF reports which take at least a few weeks, to produce a near real-time look at the situation on the ground…(More)”.

Can social media, loud and inclusive, fix world politics

 at the Conversation: “Privacy is no longer a social norm, said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, as social media took a leap to bring more private information into the public domain.

But what does it mean for governments, citizens and the exercise of democracy? Donald Trump is clearly not the first leader to use his Twitter account as a way to both proclaim his policies and influence the political climate. Social media presents novel challenges to strategic policy, and has become a managerial issues for many governments.

But it also offers a free platform for public participation in government affairs. Many argue that the rise of social media technologies can give citizens and observers a better opportunity to identify pitfalls of government and their politics.

As government embrace the role of social media and the influence of negative or positive feedback on the success of their project, they are also using this tool to their advantages by spreading fabricated news.

This much freedom of expression and opinion can be a double-edged sword.

A tool that triggers change

On the positive side, social media include social networking applications such as Facebook and Google+, microblogging services such as Twitter, blogs, video blogs (vlogs), wikis, and media-sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr, among others.

Social media as a collaborative and participatory tool, connects users with each other and help shaping various communities. Playing a key role in delivering public service value to citizens it also helps people to engage in politics and policy-making, making processes easier to understand, through information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Today four out of five countries in the world have social media features on their national portals to promote interactive networking and communication with the citizen. Although we don’t have any information about the effectiveness of such tools or whether they are used to their full potential, 20% of these countries shows that they have “resulted in new policy decisions, regulation or service”.

Social media can be an effective tool to trigger changes in government policies and services if well used. It can be used to prevent corruption, as it is direct method of reaching citizens. In developing countries, corruption is often linked to governmental services that lack automated processes or transparency in payments.

The UK is taking the lead on this issue. Its anti-corruption innovation hub aims to connect several stakeholders – including civil society, law enforcement and technologies experts – to engage their efforts toward a more transparent society.

With social media, governments can improve and change the way they communicate with their citizens – and even question government projects and policies. In Kazakhstan, for example, a migration-related legislative amendment entered into force early January 2017 and compelled property owners to register people residing in their homes immediately or else face a penalty charge starting in February 2017.

Citizens were unprepared for this requirement, and many responded with indignation on social media. At first the government ignored this reaction. However, as the growing anger soared via social media, the government took action and introduced a new service to facilitate the registration of temporary citizens….

But the campaigns that result do not always evolve into positive change.

Egypt and Libya are still facing several major crises over the last years, along with political instability and domestic terrorism. The social media influence that triggered the Arab Spring did not permit these political systems to turn from autocracy to democracy.

Brazil exemplifies a government’s failure to react properly to a massive social media outburst. In June 2013 people took to the streets to protest the rising fares of public transportation. Citizens channelled their anger and outrage through social media to mobilise networks and generate support.

The Brazilian government didn’t understand that “the message is the people”. Though the riots some called the “Tropical Spring” disappeared rather abruptly in the months to come, they had major and devastating impact on Brazil’s political power, culminating in the impeachment of President Rousseff in late 2016 and the worst recession in Brazil’s history.

As in the Arab Spring countries, the use of social media in Brazil did not result in economic improvement. The country has tumbled down into depression, and unemployment has risen to 12.6%…..

Government typically asks “how can we adapt social media to the way in which we do e-services, and then try to shape their policies accordingly. They would be wiser to ask, “how can social media enable us to do things differently in a way they’ve never been done before?” – that is, policy-making in collaboration with people….(More)”.

The Conversation