Paul Maassen – notes for Open Data Meet-up #3 (January 24, 2013)
difficult to get change in the way we do things, in norms, policies and political will and to restore thetrust of citizens in society.
So, technology is a brilliant tool but not enough. I have worked for more than a decade in the field ofmaking use of ICT & media for societal change, for civil society advocacy, and for increasing access toinformation and expression. I know the excitement the ICT possibilities and promises bring. But also howdifficult it is to get it right, to smartly integrate it into the things we are already doing and to make itwork for longer-term policy changes. That asks for strategic thinking, taking risks, an open mind andenough time.
SOME EXAMPLES OF CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT AND TECH
Let’s first turn to some examples of citizen engagement and technology just to give you a flavour.
Rahvakogumeaning people’s assembly. An Estonian initiative to crowd-source proposals from thebroader public, discuss them online, analyse, group and select them and then actually discuss themin parliament. A nice way to see how a technology tool can result in policy making. It is a newinitiative, so far 1155 proposals from 1400 different (registered) users
Daraja/Twawezain East Africa did a pilot on water monitoring. On paper a brilliant example. Startwith 1) a topic people care about - water, 2) enable citizens to report broken water pumps by textmessage in real time, 3) make sure the follow up and feedback are organized, 4) plan a massivemedia campaign to make people aware of what it is and how it works. The organisation howeveronly collected 53 texts that could be used. It seemed so simple, but getting it right is difficult. It isabout changing deeper beliefs, for example that there really will be a reaction or that sendingcritique will not harm you down the line. Tech is never enough.
Kenya Open Data portalwas part of their OGP commitments: they were the first, they worked with arange of national and international actors, had a very good start, but are now facing problems.Datasets are not coming online fast enough (reluctance from the entities holding them), keepingthem updated is difficult, making them useful is even more difficult. A good follow-up project on-going is to place open data fellows with media and civil society organisations to make the data workfor reporting and for advocacy. At the moment just a couple of 100 datasets, but interesting ones onhealth and education. Related initiatives: the US data.gov has 380,000 data sets. You can makesuggestions if you want more…. Data.gov.uk has 9,000. The numbers are astonishing, no?
M-pesa, mobile banking. That is where entrepreneurship, innovation and tech really came together.People had phones, phone networks and shops reached to the deepest veins of the country, bankservices were highly needed but hardly available (especially for the poor/rural). Then M-pesa came.Cheap, simple, building on existing networks. Now they have more customers than the bankscombined, got duplicated in a range of countries, and introduced other services (savings, loans).
Visualisation of data and information, from info-graphics (OGP hasone: ) to videos to Hans Roslingsbrilliantgapminderto visualize trends over time. Absolutely crucial to make data understandable.