Technology for Transparency

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Technology for Transparency
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"Transparency as a cure for the ills of modern democracy has become such a highly prized concept that the word was banned from use at Michigans Lake Superior State University due to mis-use, over-use, and general uselessness. Such lexical protests havent stopped hundreds of websites from popping up all over the world, grounded in the belief that making government information more accessible to ordinary citizens through sexy web 2.0 interfaces will lead to greater accountability of elected officials and improved governance. But is this the reality? Do we have any concrete proof that technology projects which aim to promote transparency and civic engagement have an actual political and social impact? By looking at case studies of some of the most innovative technology for transparency projects from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa we will evaluate their effectiveness, aggregate their best ideas, and make suggestions for future improvements."
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study another shift this genomic being came out owing to the full model was a long line went into technology for transparency in the work some evidence for the gives my data for ceremonies called for the years not find following 2 in the of this in greater support so that in the and solution that David Sasaki for so this morning Yevgeny give a great talk about how governments are using technology to surveil and monitor the citizens and then just came up after him and he did all he he managed to invite everybody in this room to hang out with the naked eye tomorrow so if you weren't here for that morning I would just make the best chance and he also managed to give a really good talks about how we can use transparency to benefit ourselves the values of personal transparency and how we use it to monitor ourselves into to monitor from I want to give up a 3rd kind of angle on transparency and that is how citizens are using technology to monitor the government's and of all the government leaders accountable specifically on Example 3 questions I wanna ask what this transparency mean what are we talking about when we say transparency especially when as it relates to the holding government institutions accountable to what does the loss of investigative journalism which everyone agrees is declining means for transparency and for our ability to hold the government accountable and 3 where is the potential of technology especially network technologies to bring about more government transparency and accountability in the future so
chapter 1 to false assumptions I am apologize before I get started on this because I promise I came here to this conference and I would say nothing about the 20th year after the fall of the Berlin wall the start the or Americans favorite movie the lives of others which I think every American Diner loves but in fact the Stasi in the story that's depicted in the lives of others perfectly illustrates a tension that has always existed and exist in every society but taking new shapes now the influence of technology and that's the tension between governments who won a monitor the citizens and citizens demanding more information from the Government so the very metaphor of transparency suggest that there is a medium through which we view of things and to which others view what's and this metaphor makes the assumption that what is on 1 side of the transparency medium is conceptually separate is distinct from what is on the other side To put it simply citizens and governments are separate entities the 2nd assumption that makes is that the nature of what we're looking at through this transparency medium let's say a glass doesn't change its nature if we look at it of course both of those assumptions are faults the surveillance techniques of the Stasi are now infamous and they need to name them especially here but what's interesting is that the Stasi had once by for every 66 citizens use Germany and you had part-time informants about formula then it's once by for every 6 . 5 citizens so it's actually very difficult to distinguish who is on what side of the transparency medium because it's dynamic and flowing in changing all the time the lets you store huge amounts of information about the citizens of Eastern sifted through the garbage collected samples of their sheets and underwear to match orders for later times and was famously attacked the phone lines and listen in on a phone call the point was to spread fear as much as it was to collect information but as common as government surveillance was at the time and continues to be today although it takes shape the fall of the stuff we also illustrates another natural impulse that's been at the heart of investigative journalism since its existence for about the past 200 years and i its citizens demanding both information and accountability from the government and so on July on January 15 1998 about 40 years after the creation of the stars in a large crowd formed outside the Stasi headquarters and demanded that the information of the Stasi had been collecting about them as citizens over the past 40 years since 1950 the handover and sources are getting nervous system shredded the documents you all know the story much better than I do and the process of releasing that information of making accessible is still ongoing today and it's probably the most painful part I would imagine of German reunification but it is a fantastic example illustration of a process that's changing as happening a lot of different societies around the world and I is from a society where the government only surveilled its citizens to a society where government and citizens Savelli each other with David bring calls the transparent society where we're constantly spying on 1 another chapter 2 from the 4th to the 5th Estate question so in part of the US congressional hearings being producer of my favorite TV show of all time which is the wires and exam the said this time paraphrasing the said with our investigative journalist is going to be a great time to be a corrupt politicians country and in a statement to Congress he held little regard for for bloggers he said that we basically just copy and paste what newspapers have to say and we may be throwin sprinkle a little copies of opinions and that's about it and so I wanted to examine his statement to Congress more closely Is it really true that mainstream journalism prevents corruption from taking place in government and its so will that process of holding governments accountable and increasing information about government disappears as those institutions disappear and they are disappearing and other disappearing here is and at a faster rate in the United States so the best book that I was able to find about this about the role of media in in holding governments accountable improving governance was published last year it's called the public sentinel but that the Norris she is the editor of a church the idea of the the press as a for the state as an institution that exist primarily toehold institutions and those in power accountable so as Thomas Jefferson famously said I think this is at the heart of the idea of the 4th estate the basis of our government being the opinion of the people the very 1st object we should use the very 1st object should be to keep that right and we're left you need to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter so this idea of watchdog journalism this idea of the press as a democratic institution was built into the founding of the 1st modern representative democracy and there are many examples and countless movies of how investigative journalism inches justice transparency and accountability I don't think I need to list all the cases and Brockovich was 1 that was actually turned into a movie but based on a true story and more than just investigative journalism watchdog journalism also monitors the day-to-day practices of government official so that citizens are more informed and can assess the efficacy and the performance so washed journalism can expose the corruption of traffic policemen the wrongdoings of a priest or a billion dollar financial scandals and the best investigative journalism doesn't just expose corrupt individuals but entire systems butterflies in need of reform
so after the fall of the Berlin wall in a lot of countries around the world were moving from authoritarian governments to more democratic styles of governance and new industry was created called media development and a lot of the came and the donor field in the United States and elsewhere and so donors like the Ford Foundation USA idea from United States government and the world bank started funding projects to create the media institutions and specifically to train reporters and editors and a lot of different countries especially in the former Soviet Union investigative journalism techniques so it started in the former Soviet Union it moved to Serbia and the Balkans after the 2nd Balkan war and these projects are very common around Africa and Southeast Asia but there are a lot of criticisms of the development and of teaching investigative journalism and what journalism as well as some of the observers argue for example that the adversarial nature of watchdog journalism rose trust in government and presents government as more inefficient and wasteful as really others say that a constant variety of all these scandals and corruption stories desensitizes people to actual stories of corruption so of every single day you see a newspaper article about this that corruption you just assume that is regular practice and when something really comes up you don't have much attention to it through even suggestions that countries that are new democracies thereby consciously attacking what democratically elected leaders are doing the roads trust in democracy and also many people in East Asia has said that Western-style watchdog journalism doesn't lead to the type of social harmony that many East Asian societies value and should be forced upon them despite these criticisms washed journalism still exists it's been washed journalists are still treated as heroes often a noble endeavor but these Western journalists have come up against 2 major obstacles to their work and it's changing the 1st major obstacle is the state and the 2nd is the market the state sensors their work and friends the safety the market demands that they make their work entertaining enough to sell newspapers magazines and websites subscriptions so a lot of media companies privatized to shield themselves from state censorship so we don't wanna be ponds of state anymore sorghum become private companies only to find that there is no longer a sustainable business model to keep them going so rather than painter newspapers we have our found 1 of so this this
decline in sustainable business model of the private media industry has led to a lot of concern about the idea of the 4th state and about newspapers as an institution of accountability but it's also led to a lot of excitement enthusiasm about the rise of the so-called fit the state of network of bloggers existing media types of all of us in a room in this room who were using different platforms to try our governments more accountable and 1 of those platforms that people are very excited about especially this week receiving a lot of attention is called wikileaks which published a video of US soldiers firing on advance that was picking up injured Reuters journalist and it's the same for any system was a lower can honestly upload a leaked document exposes wrongdoing so this is a video interview on Russia today with WikiLeaks founder Julian sort of review the volume of work what's the release experience said about the role
of your website and web sites like that in the media are essentially now move toward a stay lost stars so this will work orders of the reaction some degree of nothing useful to say and what keeps people honest and what keeps of management of this civilization going to understand how the world actually works through the 1st step In the 4th stage is to get information about about the real world the 2nd step is the comment on it and to think about that we need sources of the 2 candidates a structured information out public restricted information is very interesting economically so when information is held back by by bank or the Pentagon an extra attention is used to suppress it in this particular case the it is applied this information for information and spent the last 2 and a
half years trying to get and what not able to usually that suppression is the result of the so in this
particular case it seems that the Pentagon of US military at some level was scared all that information coming out the cause all of the Uniform Effect overcoming this traditional media
attention and get their hands on this footage was the area in its entirety the way that you guys
stand on their website where things I don't know but I
don't think so I think that it's quite unlikely but in
fact they find it seems that the Washington Post reported at some stage had access to this material he writes in writes about part of the transcript part in 1 of his book The Good Soldiers divided between shingles about the reader didn't come out and you had access to at some stage didn't come out and didn't really address the issues with the victim of this to join makes a very important distinction there between
the raw source information and reporters used to report on the story and then the indicate contextualization around that source information and in the past the journalists were the custodian of that Ross source information making sense of it and delivering it to the citizens but increasingly all of that source information is being ML being published sometimes being released by the government agencies themselves onto the Internet and in much more chaotic fashion itself to every internet user to make contextualization around the information in order to hold the government leaders accountable so during talks about how did the people from the Washington Post had access to video and he made a nice book about the the incident he wrote some stories about it but it can actually lead to much attention not nearly as much as the video itself public from Wikileaks has led probably not as much contextualization because in the end of lots and lots of people are now doing more research about this but it is important to note that in the n neither WikiLeaks nor David think will have been successful in transition this information to accountability over those who were in charge of the situation to those who gave the go-ahead to the soldiers to shoot on so we we don't know yet it will be 2 more accountability in the future but seems like it has hasn't not yet chapter 3 the role of technology in the transparency movement so there's also been a lot of attention given to projects like they work for you in Britain which monitors the work of UK parliamentarians and assemblies and open congress in
the united states which monitors the work of Congress and a lot of detail there's tons of information out there because he free who's speaking tomorrow my talk a little bit about this
but there's been much less attention in research and analysis of similar web sites that are propping up all over developing countries so for the past 5 years i've been working for an organization called Global Voices which just mentioned earlier today and we are a kind of a journalism review before the blogosphere so we look on which weekly sometimes on a daily basis at the blogosphere is a different countries we translate that material we contextualize we translated in English from English has been translated into up to 20 different other languages and during this 5 years of monitoring the global bloggers here we've come across a lot of projects a lot of citizen media and blogging projects that specifically aim to improve governance and we document them we interviews some the project leaders but we haven't had the time or resources to systematically look and evaluate these projects for impact what actually happened do they improve governance is there any impact offline that we
can measure so force were approached by 2 different funders Open Society Institute and you made your network both interested in the role of technology in the transparency and accountability movement and they give us some funding to launch the technology for transparency network which you can find a transparency . Global Voices Online the award and the heart of this is we're going to right now we have 23 projects by the end of the month wouldn't have 40 case studies of technology projects mostly in projects in developing countries that aim to promote government transparency in political accountability and civic participation and we're also going to publish a research paper at the beginning of next month that kind takes in all of this on roster building a toolbox of all the tools of these projects you so you can see what tools are most used by which projects can we found 4 major categories of these types of projects in developing countries so for the 1st category is a complaint type website which takes and complaints from citizens and sometimes that stuff with those complaints websites that track parliaments and parliamentarians websites that try to make elections more open and transparent and just and budget for financial accountability websites on a give some examples of all of them so this is the speed of harm it's based in the Middle East specifically in Jordan was started by 4 during technologists who were just so tired of going to cafes and reading blogs in Jordan where there's complaints and complaints and complaints about everything that's going wrong in the same complaints that cropped up over and over again but they don't go anywhere there's no archive of all of these components there's no way that you can look and see who else is making similar complaints so they created this website which acts as sort of a complaint brokerage it's early on right now all they're doing is just accepting and aggregating and linking to the different components in Malaysia there's very similar website called meaning what it also accepts complaints on the website or you can phone in your complaint where you can text messaging you complain but beyond just collecting all of these complaints these guys at thing about 5 of them the volunteers and the Goldie whole process city officials until the plane complaints answered in some way so they will write e-mails 1st they will make phone calls they will visit City Hall if they need to they will continue to write letters and they won't give up for for those of you who do software design and development and and you know about software bug trackers this is basically a software as a citizen Pacific bug tracker for this value in the name where the based charity is a similar initiative This is based in India actually about 5 different cities on in India and users who she a lot of projects that were there were looking at User she which is a crowdsourcing but platform that incorporates SMS text message you can submit information either by SMS text message or online or by Twitter now and this allows people to make some complaints or a civic issues in India and when we interviewed the guy found this project he said actually the city websites themselves should be doing this should be a city services but since they're not someone else needs to fill in the space and lastly in this category there is c . 2 democratic in Brazil and this takes a different approach to rather than just collecting complaints or rather than collecting those complaints and relaying them to government officials they asked the users to make complaints or problems but they also you ask the users to come up with proposals for solutions for each of those problems so this conversation's going around the problems and more than just proposals also strategies for how to enact the proposals that have come out of them and so far they've come up with about 2 or 3 successful proposals that turned into actual projects that are known in motion is still pretty early on for the project but if you go to the case study the website you can you can see the actual offline practice has so far so I another under the category of project that we've looked at have to do with tracking the work of parliament and parliamentarians in Kenya this is underlined those the brand new website design that the putting together and this started by 2 a survey to Kenyan bloggers when the Kenyan parliamentarians took down the Parliament website because they were unhappy with the CV been shown to the world and so these 2 Kenyan bloggers in the larger Canyon blogsphere said if you're not gonna put up a website showing activities of Parliament working into it for you and as volunteers they went to parliament they start taking notes they started tracking bills in discussions and published all that information to a very simple WordPress blogs another trying to get I'm a little bit more complicated with in a good way to actually can use Parliament perhaps because of the pressure put up on this website is now publishing a lot more information about the activities but as long as not stopping they're going to try to get some this information and distributed an offline fashion so they're going to print up a booklet and try to distributed offline in Nairobi and in other cities but entirely based insulin and it was really specifically for the election but it continues today To make profiles for each of the parliamentarians who lived in Chile and if you search on Google for each of these individuals you oftentimes come up the profile page before their own websites you'll get a much more objective much more informative view of what she lanes have to say about about the officials and this is actually a very interesting case study because they had to have a project that they're doing at election time 1 by a very small group of people who created an index to rate the campaign websites of the different presidential candidates and say a presidential candidate should have at least this basic information on the web site in order for their In order for voters to make informed decisions and at the end 4 of the strength of the 1st ranking that they did they found on average the most of the candidates had about 20 % of the information that they should have according to this organization then they created big media fast went on CNN in Spanish they worked with a lot of newspapers and by the 4th survey that they did the Canada websites actually up to 80 per cent so it's a really nice way to show how you can have an online campaign and directly leads to quick accountability you can see and measure however those them by small thing the people they then had another project called the scene was entirely entries which use the fixed Maestri platform to try to crowdsource information about a legal campaign banners and a legal campaign that was done in neighborhoods where it should have been done at times when it should have been done and they figured well maybe we can get hundreds of different shillings all these reports will come in and all the automated we won't have to do anything will have automatically sent to whoever the the
districts the election chief is in that area but then updates of like reports and mostly by their friends and family members so 1 of the conclusions that we've come up with in our research is that crowdsourcing is actually very difficult to do that usually mostly projects just like Wikipedia just like there is a solution that Wikipedia was a crowd-sourced platform when in fact the team of about 20 years 30 very active individuals and then just veterans of other contributions that come along and it's the same when most of projects that we've been looking at here today this is the 3rd in the final day of the of elections in Sudan and the 1st multiparty elections that Sudan has seen the entire country for more than 20 years you can go on to see them but 1 direct and it's a gamble monitor that word right now and see reports that are coming in and this is the 3rd
category websites that we've been looking at which are trying to promote a more just and transparent elections by showing you you can see the categories deformation of disturbances in access to Boeing vote tampering any sort of voting irregularities and there are a lot of these products that have come out sample wonders 1 is a clear most of all tho in Mexico there's a book report India was another big 1 that again we find that these websites and they have very little participation by some very active members what amount of ECU is
a website that is not really about elections so much as the appointment of certain officials so in what the volume you elect most of your officials but for certain positions like Supreme Court justices and 1 of those are appointed by others and for a long
time actually for most of the history of what the most democracy they how those people get appointed is because they have connections with whoever the elected officials are rather than being appointed on their merits so what a the wanted to make action 1 make go all the information more visible about the the justices and the other appointed officials who are appointed so I thought a little bit about how these elections sites oftentimes have very
little participation by a small group of people what I really like about will report Philippines the elections in the Philippines are happening next month I think may 9 something like that and this is the 1st time that elections in the Philippines are going to be using automated computers for the voting so this organization of volunteers is going around the country to different islands and showing people how to use these automated computers so it's doing voter education workshops but while they do it they're also teaching those people of those workshops how to submit reports of regularities using usually platform and that's something I think is really necessary for for these election watchdog on website you have to train people to use it if you expect them to
finally the 3rd category projects that we've been looking at you have to do with financial accountability and in the United States recently we passed the largest economic stimulus program in our country's history to track how the money was used the Obama administration for the recovery . gov which has tons of information but more than most of us can process the put in use of code and you can see which recovery projects there in your area how the money is being spent was in charge of the and when in addition there's
investigative journalism project called properly come and they also have eye on the stimulus which is also tracking the money using different investigative techniques and also a lot of databases you can see on the right hand side we have all sorts of visualizations of how the money is being used in Kenya they had their own economic stimulus
program the start of the 2003 is called the constituency development funds and this was a way for the federal containing government to give money to local government constituencies and to have them in in charge of their own development projects so it was a great way to build up the local infrastructure and capacity and local governments I and there was little tracking that was being done of how that money was being spent so this budget tracking tool shows you how the money is being spent on every single districts in Kenya and also allows people to leave comments and go to these other ones real
quick summary of time this is in Israel is is a project that gets the keep there the whole on budget out of PDF format you can really analyze and visualize in the Excel format this is the memory of the political which is
in Argentina all these case studies are available on the on the technology for transparency website and this looks at campaign finance and visualizes it in Argentina and again this information is made available but on TV of documents that are given the text enables so they have to use optical character recognition to get the data and to visualize that and they do have very quickly there are still
a couple projects that don't really fit into these categories but 1 of them for example in Brazil there's a Dutch inventor or which is a a doctor local alderman or a local council person and all they do is ask 1 Brazilian blogger to blog about 1 local official once a week that's it is very simple but I think it's a very effective way to show elected officials that they're being watched at least by somebody and not just to watch them but also to help the knowledge they need help if they have some new plan and wanna get community input on it and it ends with a project in in Cabrera it said the largest slum in Kenya should from outside of Nairobi and I think it reveals the difficulties that so many of these projects have are going to have an just the long difficult path that is to really create information program to improve governance in areas so this project they handed us some GPS devices to the residents of the barrier had them map their own neighborhood and created the 1st online now the 1st freely licensed not that exist in the community now the train them they're using the cameras and train them to make news reports going the local cyber cafes file reports which show up on this map it's everything from history to corruption to garbage cans they haven't been collecting yet and it's actually been pretty easy to do these technical components book what they've had the most difficulty doing what they spent the most time on is it is working with local we elected officials and also with tribal chiefs to make sure that they support the project also and that the receptive to the information is published on the site as an input into their policy and legislation choices because otherwise all this information all this work that is done isn't going to have any sort of effect in government unless the government is involved my last some conclusions that we've come up with 1 Open Government Data is necessary for sustainable projects these projects need to be automated we talked to too many people who were too burned out are not making any money don't have any support because they have to do a lot of the reporting investigative work instead the open that it should come directly from government issue common formats where they can create tools that will look at automatically and they don't have to bring themselves up otherwise they just don't look like the sustainable products in the probably and to the best projects increased participation in government rather than producing scepticism and distrust in political processes I think that's an important point otherwise you have a lot of disgruntled angry people rather than a lot of people using these tools to try to build a better society we have information in the context of would infer divergency if you have 10 different complaint platforms in 1 city then you can't expect that the that your local politicians can be able to know where to look for the information so it's important to aggregate information into presented in it in a way that makes sense and also in a way that differentiates it so if you have a light that a light post is out in your city and then you have the police department it's not working at all those are 2 projects of the same priority it's important to prioritize to differentiate with happen otherwise you just get overwhelmed with a lot of information bridge opposing echo chambers there's already a lot of civic participation and are a lot of information that exists out there on the internet on blogging platforms and what not but it tends to happen in different idealogical spheres so a lot of people on the left will talk to each other like people on the right will talk to each other but they don't come together to shape policy on issues where there is a common ground and they don't dissect and contextualize the differences but we came up with issues of verifying identities the difference between seeking answers and seeking accountability or sanctions and shift from issues the process is a lot of what we see is that a group of people will come up in the protester particular law in particular new policies but that's actually a symptom of something that's more indicative of larger problem of an entire system that needs reform and so some of the most advanced projects and the ones that we really think of making the big the biggest difference are looking at the larger system and so missed skip that I think that's it thank you will if anyone has any questions about anything we can having the loss in the middle of an attack across the whole itself I had run through the thank you very much thank you have seen alleged lower than they would also
assume the ones of unfortunately expected but also on the level like vitamin topic that was something what