What are the next steps? What is needed to make this work more effective?

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What are the next steps? What is needed to make this work more effective?

Let's use this space an opportunity to look forward.  Where are the gaps that exist now in terms of training, support, skills and expertise?

  • How can we encourage more sharing?  Regarding the technology, how can we encourage the sharing of code, software and best practices to achieve better results?  How can we encourage more collaboration with other initiatives and with the public?   How can we encourage more sharing of experiences, expertise and best practices?
  • How do you ensure a project’s sustainability?
  • How can we move the ideas shared in this dialogue forward?

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

Can we coordinate efforts? Do we need to?

Hi all - I am interested to read your thoughts on if you see a need for projects using technology to promote transparency to coordinate their efforts...and if so, how could they do this? 

In the context of one country, would it be better to have many groups working on transparency projects - or would it be better to somehow coordinate efforts?  I am thinking of things like a shared database of information collected from the government sector and civil society sector, or sharing the user interface so that users don't have to remember 5 different websites.  Or, playing devil's advocate, would it be too complicated to have one website that would allow users to access government budget information AND allow users to post a comment on a pothole AND monitor elections, etc (I think you get my point). 

I think this also touches upon the issue of sharing code for the technology side of these projects.  If code is being written to develop a program that pulls in data from the government sector database...how can that code be shared with others in the country?  Is that already being done?

It would be great to hear your thoughts on these questions!

yes and no

The technology for transparency project was/is valuable not just as a research investigation but because it documented these projects according to topic and region, so that if I were interested in creating something in India I could go there first and see what already existed. For that reason I think the site should continue to get updated, and the projects listed should be paired with some sort of contact information in case I wanted to get in touch to learn from their lessons or see if their code was open or not. 

A hub for transparency/accountability projects is hugely valuable, and would I think actually deter anyone from trying create a one stop transparency shop like the one you bring up hypothetically, Kristen. Access to lessons learned would hopefully suggest to most that creating a project that tries to cover everything runs the risk of covering nothing. 

That brings me to my answer for the last question - what is needed to make this work effectively: i think most prominent gap in this field is not in the technology (I have no doubt that there will continue to be a variety of cool new tools/apps to choose from)...but the strategy. That's why the question from earlier in the dialogue re: how you engage stakeholders with your venture is so important. Too often, both CSOs and individuals in get excited about a new technology or project and move to the implementation phase prematurely.  I worry that transparency projects will end up accomplishing little more than visualizing information if they don't complete the necessary planning, including mapping stakeholders, identifying political will - and creating it if necessary - and goals and metrics. If technology for transparency projects shift focus away from actions and accountability, will they lose value?

It seems unlikely that a

It seems unlikely that a website where all government information is shared and citizens can post complaints and groups/individuals can monitor elections and share information. What do you think about a government website that has links to all these invaluable and absolutely necessary tools? and where these tools are maintained by separate entitities (government spending by the various ministries that deal with different areas, a collaborative between local and international NGOs maintaining the election information and providing necessary information and resources and so on). Citizens needs to also have a place to express their grievances, anonymously and without fear, but they also need to know that their grievances will be heard and considered.

Sharing the basic material - code + ideas + creating community

My list of suggestions will start with encouraging people to organize less "traditional conferences" about the topic. Conferences are really a waste of time and money if there is no continuity and community built afterwards. Here some tips and ideas:

- You can organize "geek" contests so all the technology people behind the project and others can get challenges and contribute with solutions with little costs. An example of that is Code for America initiative.

- You can go one step further and organize Open Data Hackathons from time to time, challenges that require little investment of money and time and create some good results. Check the Wiki of the Open Data Day.

Any other idea?

Renata has great advice

Renata has great advice above.

One of my previous posts has some overlap -- the same methods for engaging your constituencies and entities that need more transparency are also useful for engaging across transparency activist networks.

Good ways to enable distant (time and geography) and latent opportunities to share and collaborate are of course to literally share and collaborate -- use and base your transparency technology tools on free and open source software, and share data and content (eg advocacy and educational materials) under fully free/open terms, eg CC0 (public domain), CC BY (attribution), or CC BY-SA (attribution-sharealike). Doing these things should be second nature, not only because they increase impact and are "best practices", but because copyright restrictions inherent in proprietary software and materials can be and has been used as a tool for censorship and persecution by state and corporate actors who want to crush transparency [activists].

Finally, in one sense transparency projects are free speech projects, so look to engage librarians -- who I tangentially mentioned before -- and other free-speech activists, and realize that transparency is not a pony :-)

Coordinating efforts

Hi Kristin,

I think a first step is to have these conversations and more often and more widespread. I hope to be able to access what has been written here after today since I simply do not have time to process everything. As mentioned when replying to Mendi talking about Huduma, we are working on a project and I am sure we are not the only ones. There is soooo much more to share.

Kind regards, Hubert

You are welcome to continue to share in this dialogue...

linders wrote:

I hope to be able to access what has been written here after today since I simply do not have time to process everything. As mentioned when replying to Mendi talking about Huduma, we are working on a project and I am sure we are not the only ones. There is soooo much more to share.

Thanks, Hubert!  Glad you found this dialogue useful.  The dialogue will remain here and is accessible to anyone so yes come back and review what everyone shared!  You can also continue to share here if you like.  We will also write up a summary of this dialogue and post it on the front page of the dialogue.  I'll send an email to you and everyone else that participated in this dialogue to let you know the summary is posted.  Thanks for sharing, Hubert!

Examples of transparency

Examples of transparency between governments seem to be more common and governments more likely to achieve – such as this partnership between Nigeria and the G8 countries to “Promote Transparency and Combat Corruption”.

However, this does seem to be changing, as just last week, on September 20th, Brazil and seven other countries, joined by civil society organizations, become founding members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). OGP aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. For Brazil, the Minister of State, Office of the Controller General of Brazil (CGU) described this move as fitting perfectly with the work of this national body that is in charge of promoting transparency and ending corruption.  

From the Open Government Partnership website on Brazil:

In 2004, CGU decided to launch its Transparency Portal and provide free access to the all federal budget data. It was a very bold idea for that time, one that not many people considered as valuable or as important as we did.

Besides dealing with the usual challenges of publishing online data from different government datasets – in most cases not build on the same platforms –, we faced opposition from those who would not wish to see this information online and accessible to every citizen.

Today the Portal is a beacon of accountability and transparency. A proud symbol of a country that places citizen oversight and access to information on a very high standard. 

The more such initiatives are put in place, the more other organizations and governments will do the same to keep up. And once they have engaged in this kind of transparency, perhaps sustainability might lie in the fact that no government would want to be the first to back out. But then again, how do we get governments to participate in the first place and ensure security?

Coordinating Development of Applications for Transparency

There is a need for coordination in both national and international in the development of the use of technology in transparency. Many times an idea has already occurred to someone, and by having the ability to see what has already been developed and adapting it to the needs of a country/region/ organization can be a useful way to share work and make better and more effective applications- and also not reinvent the wheel!

A good example of combating the issue of duplication, developing sustainable programs, and sharing codes is the digital community, Random Hacks of Kindness. Any individual from anywhere in the world can register a social problem on Random Hacks of Kindness that they would like to have solved. The description of this social problem is available to any developer online who can register to “solve” that problem by making an application for it. Basically, it connects solving social problems with technical solutions. Random Hacks of Kindness is also a platform that houses hacking events. It has all applications made by the developers available online so that anyone can adapt them.

For the event Desarrollando América Latina (Developing Latin America) we will be coordinating with other countries- Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, México, Chile, Peru in a 36 hour event to develop web applications to solve selected social problems. As Renata mentioned, many times there isn’t continuity or effectiveness in “traditional conferences”, which is why we are holding an event that will not only allow people from all of the various countries with their own data sets to make applications, but allow for them to continuously be used after. For the event we will partner with Random Hacks of Kindness, which will list our event online, and house all of the developed applications online after the event so that any one, anywhere can use them and share them. Desarrollando América Latina will be considered a Random Hacks of Kindness event, and all applications developed for it will be available after on the site. RHOK has had events in which organizations in Latin America have participated, but never any specifically in Latin America. This event will be the first time developers in Latin America come together for this type of event, and hopefully generate a new community of developers to work together.

 The actual codes and technical information that the developer makes and are on Random Hacks of Kindness are directly available on GitHub, which is like a giant home for coding, and allows for other developers to use this code and to adapt applications to their own needs. They will be a sponsor for Desarrollando América Latina.

 This event and new way of coordinating the development of applications allows for people and governments to see the power of Open Data. Plus, the ability to have the application and code available to all will empower individuals to continuously develop their project and ensure its sustainability. It also allows for collaboration yet adaptation of web applications that help encourage transparency!

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