Any individual or group with a personal story of working toward open government reforms. Differs from 'Impact' in that Impact would be stories about the benefits of achieving the reforms. Formerly 'Innovators'.

Investigative Journalists Are An Endangered Species - An Interview With OCCRP’s Miranda Patrucic

Miranda Patrucic is among the most famous investigative journalists in the world, having worked on the Panama Papers and investigated corruption in Azerbaijan’s ruling family. She is a part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) team, an international journalism organization investigating corruption. We spoke with Miranda about the cooperation between journalists and civil society groups, and the role of journalists in tackling corruption and wrongdoing.

“I think investigative journalists are an endangered species,” Miranda says. “There are so few of us, and it takes years to train one.”

How is OCCRP involved with OGP?

It’s our second time here; the first time we presented our collaboration project with Transparency International. Being here is very interesting because we see the governments’ perspective on opening up and being more transparent, and we also see the goals of civil society and where they would like the governments to develop.

How do you as investigative journalists begin to work with civil society on joint projects?

It is a result of natural discussion, as we need to reinvent journalism. There is so much corruption, so much wrongdoing, and governments – especially the corrupt ones – are closing in on journalists and activists, so we need to find a way to work together. Working with civil society is one of the models that we are trying out to see whether it can make things better for journalists. We had examples when we successfully worked with civil society before; for example, during some investigations in Montenegro, we worked with [the] local Transparency International team. They were our source, and they could access a lot of information on the spot, but they are not traditional journalists, so they did not do the actual reporting. It was a natural thing to consider such cooperation afterwards. Sometimes, we go to [a] conference, and we talk to people, who say they have certain information, and want to know how to share it. [M]ore and more, powerful figures are figuring out ways to make stories and journalists silent. Therefore, it is a natural thing to try something new and reinvent journalism - the way we do it.

Is it okay for journalists to be activists?

No, journalists cannot be activists, because we need to keep our independence, and we cannot call for certain solutions. We can say that a person is corrupt, but it is not our job to tell people to keep this person in power or not. It is our job to help spread the word because this is what we are working on. Yet, we cannot be activists. Even when we cooperate with civil society, we are still working independently.

 
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Inclusion, Participation, and Impact Are the Top Priorities of OGP’s Next Co-Chair

Canada is getting ready to be the next OGP co-chair, and will be hosting the Global Summit next year. The national government has included open government into its agenda, and is working on promoting more digital tools and inclusiveness throughout its provinces. I spoke with Jaimie Boyd, Director of Open Government at the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada, about OGP-related plans and international cooperation.

During #OGPGeorgia, you said that soon, all states would become resource-rich as data would be THE resource.

I see this incredible link between open and digital government, and I think that governments, which are starting to work on both of these things, have an absolutely transformative potential in their hands. Digital tools allow us to scale open government in a way we were never able to before. We can reach more users in user-centric ways, and we can really get the resources people need and want. On the flip side, open government is extremely important for digital government, because it allows for accountability using digital tools.

When we work with open and digital governments together, we can really change the way we run government, and we can benefit all, which is ultimately the point of everything that we are doing here.

How do you make sure that the new tools are user-oriented?

First, we need to design for our users. In Canada, we are very obsessive with using plain language, which is easy to follow and read. We try to provide visuals and make it easy for people to participate in the government. We also need to use feedback loops. We’ve just finished up the first stage of our engagement for Canada’s next action plan on open government, and for us, it was important to check in with Canadians to see how we are doing and how we can do better. By using digital tools, we were able to engage about 11,000 Canadians and ask them their priorities for open government in our country. Having those feedback loops and making sure that we speak directly to the users are the tools that can make open government higher impacted.

11,000 – is it a lot or little for Canada?

That was a lot. It was much more than we had in the past. I am particularly proud that the team was able to use so many different channels. We had our traditional tools such as our website where people can comment, and we also went where people were. We went physically into communities across Canada recognizing that not everybody is digital first. We also used other platforms like Reddit. We took content on Twitter and compiled all of it; it was our dataset to understand people’s stance on open government.

How do you cooperate with other governments?

Our first priority in Canada is working with subnational governments within our country because we have a federation, and there is an incredible diversity of open government efforts within the country. All the provinces and territories participate in the open government working group. We also have over a hundred municipalities in Canada working on open data. Just recently, we launched a federated search function with the province of Alberta. You can now index data from subnational government and find provincial data within federal website, which is exciting.

We are also working with international governments. Canada is the incoming co-chair of Open Government Partnership, and we are proud and humbled by this opportunity.

What are open government and digital plans in Canada?

In terms of open government, we have a number of priorities: inclusion, participation, and impact. Those are the three lenses that we would like to bring to Canadian leadership at the Open Government Partnership. When it comes to inclusion, it is about making sure that our reforms in open government benefit everybody including marginalized people. In terms of participation, we are trying to move along the spectrum as to invite citizens to use open data. In terms of impact, we want to make sure that when we reform and change the way of doing things, it does benefit people directly.

How does OGP strengthen cooperation between civil society groups?

Open Government Partnership is a powerful tool because it gives us a helpful structure for organizing some of our work. The fact that there are seventy five other countries that are going through the same process as us - coming up with national action plans every two years and being subjected to the IRM process, - does allow us to see that this is the way to do it. It helps with internal resistors. This is a legitimate thing and an international movement, and it has an incredibly transformative potential when it comes to deepening our democracies, mobilizing things like open data to create businesses and innovation, and encouraging greater participation in government. Having an international benchmark and movement that we belong to helps us move some of the reforms meaningfully.

How can activists and officials in democratic countries help emerging democracies benefit from open government potential?

There are many things we can do to encourage further progress and to leverage peer learning opportunities. When we work with other governments, it’s not just Canada as ‘beautiful democracy” saying, “Oh, follow us!” It really goes both ways. A lot of countries, particularly in the Global South, have more sophisticated tools for civil society engagement than Canada. We are very good on the technical side. Our open government data is high quality, and there is a lot of it. From that perspective, we have a lot of lessons to share, but we have a lot to learn from other countries that perhaps have been more aggressive in their open government reforms.

I think we can work out loud, we can talk about challenges and brag about different initiatives, we can collect case studies. We can embrace open, so when we push out code, when we use open source to build our tools, it makes it easier for us to copy and paste and adapt to each different national context. Working out in the open is incredibly important for this movement.

 
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CitizENGAGE: Ciudadanos que crean impactos

En un mundo lleno de autocracia, burocracia y opacidad, es fácil sentirse en una constante batalla.

Hoy en día, la gente confía en sus gobiernos menos que nunca. Los gobiernos autocráticos han tomado las riendas de los países que antes pensábamos que eran los bastiones de la democracia. En las elecciones, la participación se ha reducido en todo el mundo.

Sin embargo, existe también un movimiento de ciudadanos que están aprovechando al gobierno abierto para involucrarse con las necesidades de su comunidad, acercarse a sus gobiernos y establecer un sistema más incluyente.

Podemos encontrar muchos ejemplos de ciudadanos que están tomando la iniciativa.  

En Costa Rica, están exigiendo al gobierno mejores viviendas para las comunidades indígenas.

En Liberia, están devolviendo sus derechos a las comunidades amenazadas en sus territorios por empresas.

En Madrid, están aprovechando las tecnologías para asegurar que la gente pueda participar en el gobierno, no solo cada cuatro años, sino todos los días.

En Mongolia, están empoderando a los ciudadanos para exigir sus necesidades al gobierno y, así, lograr mejoras a los servicios de salud y educación.

En Paraguay, cientos de consejos municipales están escuchando las necesidades de los ciudadanos e incorporando sus aportaciones en el diseño de servicios públicos.

Estos ejemplos son la inspiración que llevó a la creación de la nueva campaña de la Alianza para el Gobierno Abierto (OGP por sus siglas en inglés): CitizENGAGE. Esta campaña servirá para difundir las historias de ciudadanos que se han involucrado y que han logrado mejorar a sus gobiernos.

En CitizENGAGE puedes encontrar videos, ensayos fotográficos e historias sobre los ciudadanos que están logrando cambios en sus gobiernos. Estas historias demuestran que el gobierno abierto puede tener un impacto real en la vida de los ciudadanos y que puede mejorar los servicios más fundamentales como escuelas, caminos y vivienda.

Te invitamos a visitar CitizENGAGE y conocer más sobre estas reformas. Independientemente de que tu gobierno sea miembro de OGP, puedes aprender de estas historias de transformación para lograr impactos en tu propia comunidad.

Es tiempo de abrir. Es tiempo de cambiar. Es tiempo de participar.

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Introducing CitizENGAGE - How Citizens Get Things Done

In a world full of autocracy, bureaucracy, and opacity, it can be easy to feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle against these trends.

Trust in government is at historic lows. Autocratic leaders have taken the reins in countries once thought bastions of democracy. Voter engagement has been declining around the globe for years.

Despite this reality, there is another, powerful truth: citizens are using open government to engage in their communities in innovative, exciting ways, bringing government closer and creating a more inclusive system.

These citizens are everywhere.

In Costa Rica, they are lobbying the government for better and fairer housing for indigenous communities.

In Liberia, they are bringing rights to land back to the communities who are threatened by companies on their traditional lands.  

In Madrid, they are using technology to make sure you can participate in government - not just every four years, but every day.

In Mongolia, they are changing the face of education and healthcare services by empowering citizens to share their needs with government.

In Paraguay, hundreds of municipal councils are hearing directly from citizens and using their input to shape how needed public services are delivered.

These powerful examples are the inspiration for the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) new global campaign to CitizENGAGE.  The campaign will share the stories of citizens engaging in government and changing lives for the better.

CitizENGAGE includes videos, photo essays, and impact stories about citizens changing the way government is involved in their lives. These stories talk about the very real impact open government can have on the lives of everyday citizens, and how it can change things as fundamental as schools, roads, and houses.

We invite you to visit CitizENGAGE and find out more about these reforms, and get inspired. Whether or not your government participates in OGP, you can take the lessons from these powerful stories of transformation and use them to make an impact in your own community.

It’s time to open up. It’s time to change. It’s time to engage.

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Ciudadanos que son los “ojos y oídos” del gobierno en Kaduna, Nigeria

Imagina que eres un funcionario de gobierno encargado de asegurar el manejo adecuado de los fondos públicos de una comunidad. Un día te enteras que un hospital que debió construirse y que supuestamente ya se construyó solamente existe en papel.

Este escenario se vivió en el estado de Kaduna en Nigeria a finales de 2015 cuando se llevó a cabo una auditoría de sus inversiones en infraestructura.

Para abordar este reto, el gobierno del estado de Kaduna presentó una iniciativa de monitoreo de presupuestos, llamada Ojos y oídos que tiene el objetivo de manejar sus presupuestos de forma más eficiente. A través del programa, se compraron smartphones para un equipo de trabajo, quienes estaban encargados de tomar fotografías y hacer comentarios sobre proyectos de infraestructura que podían encontrar a través de sus coordenadas.

El portafolio de infraestructura del gobierno tenía cerca de 3,000 proyectos, por lo que los nueve miembros del equipo que están trabajando en el monitoreo, no pudieron reunir información sobre cada uno de ellos. Así se llegó a la idea de pedir a los ciudadanos que fueran los “ojos y oídos” del gobierno, ayudándole a dar seguimiento a proyectos como caminos y escuelas.

Para asegurar la participación de los ciudadanos en la iniciativa, el gobierno creó la aplicación CitiFeeds a través de la cual todas las personas pueden asegurar que el estado de Kaduna rinda cuentas al respecto de la implementación de los proyectos y sus costos asociados.

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Anteriormente, el gobierno tenía que enviar personas en bicicletas o motocicletas a sitios muy remotos. Gracias a la tecnología, ésta ya no es la única opción. Pensamos qué era lo más importante de los proyectos de infraestructura del gobierno: las personas.

Los ciudadanos son los que más se benefician de los servicios públicos, por ejemplo, cuando un hospital opera de forma eficiente. Así que, ¿por qué no darles la oportunidad de reportar sus opiniones?

Hoy, con la aplicación móvil, cualquiera puede identificar proyectos de infraestructura dentro de un radio de 2 kilómetros, tomar una fotografía y hacer comentarios sobre el estado del proyecto. Esta retroalimentación se centraliza en la oficina del gobernador y en la asamblea legislativa. Además, puede vincularse con datos del personal de monitoreo del gobierno para dar una idea más completa de los proyectos.

Desde su creación en abril de 2017, la aplicación se ha descargado cientos de veces y está modificando el proceso de rendición de cuentas por completo. Hoy en día los ciudadanos están interesados en sus proyectos, monitoreando al gobierno y enviando comentarios de manera directa.

Al participar en la iniciativa, los ciudadanos pueden ayudar a Kaduna a acelerar la implementación de sus planes de desarrollo. A principios de este año, a través de la plataforma de la Alianza para el Gobierno Abierto (OGP por sus siglas en inglés), el gobierno firmó un acuerdo con organizaciones de la sociedad civil para incrementar el uso de la aplicación.

A pesar de los muchos retos que enfrenta, Kaduna es uno de los estados de Nigeria más avanzados en esfuerzos de reformas económicos y tiene el potencial de ser el motor de crecimiento de la reunión.

Para lograr que Kaduna alcance todo su potencial, el gobierno reconoce que debe lograr un uso eficiente de sus recursos y que para ello deberá apoyarse en la participación ciudadana, la transparencia y el gobierno abierto.

En Kaduna, esta aplicación y los esfuerzos realizados en las redes sociales son formas en las que el gobierno está permitiendo que los ciudadanos participen en las funciones esenciales del gobierno. Además, un programa de radio es parte de la iniciativa, así como reuniones tradicionales en los ayuntamientos. Es claro que la participación ciudadana no es solo una plataforma: es todo un ecosistema.

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Empowering youth through open government commitments

There are 1.8 billion young people in the world, and it is the fastest growing age group on the planet. Although dynamic, youth is often deprived access to decision-makers, especially in developing countries. Through open government, young activists attempt to tackle the global divide and inequalities in their communities, focusing on pressing issues and promoting change far beyond the local level.

A city initiative in Medellin, Colombia, managed to inspire such change in the country and abroad. A youth-led project called City Monday (Lunes de Ciudad), which aims to connect citizens and the government, has kick-started fifteen similar initiatives across the globe. One activist from the organization, Maira Duque, says that aim is to put the citizens’ agenda into the governmental agenda. “City Monday connects people wanting to know more about what’s happening in our city and get involved to make things happen,” she explains. The initiative includes weekly conversations on the streets with academics, officials, and decision-makers to discuss local problems and look for proposals. “Our initiative is connected to OGP, because we are bringing governors and residents together to learn different views on particular issues and solve them.” Maira adds, “Young people are the biggest group involved in our project; and they are very engaged.”

City Monday is a successful case when a local open government idea turned into a national and later, international, movement. In five years, it encouraged similar initiatives across the globe, engaging citizens to discuss issues that matter for their communities. In Maira’s native Medellin, the group focuses mostly on security and co-existence because the city still suffers from street violence. “We focus on air quality because eight people die every day due to pollution,” she adds.

Open government can help youth tackle more global issues, bringing them to a local perspective. This is what Francis Ametepey doing as a part of the African Youth Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) summit. Alongside other youth leaders, Francis attempts to involve more peers in the initiative, to make sure their voices are heard. “Young people are the drivers of sustainable development goals, and through our summit, we allow them to share and learn best practices,” he says. The idea of the project goes far beyond his native Ghana, and involves activists from all over the continent working on the SDGs and relevant commitments.

Using open government tools has helped Francis promote his cause, as it empowered citizens like himself and opened up more information about what was happening with governmental initiatives. “Open government is a good platform for young people, who are often involved in grassroots organizations, to get more influence,” Francis claims.

Youth-led initiatives can start on a very small scale and help communities that need it the most, believes Ysabel Vargas. A recent graduate from the Philippines, she researches the way citizens can get more engaged with the government - and the other way around. For Ysabel, the question is how to involve those who do not have access to the Internet and other digital opportunities - but who may greatly benefit from open government developments.

Ysabel’s background allowed her to learn about OGP through her school and many like-minded peers; however, she thinks the initiative can be a major change for less fortunate people, who aren’t in school. “I am an advocate for indigenous people, and I think it is important to go into the field and educate those who don’t have technology and localize the problems,” Ysabel says. She believes young people can be a leading force here by connecting with the community and talking with individuals in remote areas or with little access to knowledge.

While youth can certainly address local and regional issues, bringing activists together can generate more projects and ideas on a global scale, which will involve more citizens. As Maira concludes, “Being at #OGPGeorgia, I am learning about other open government experiences that we can replicate and bring to my city and the rest of the country.”

 

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How citizens have become ‘eyes and ears’ in Nigeria’s Kaduna State

Imagine you are a government official responsible for ensuring the proper management of public funds which are the lifeblood of your community. One day you learn that a new hospital promised to a community in your jurisdiction, and which was supposedly already built, only exists on paper. Yikes!

This is the kind of scenario the government of Nigeria’s Kaduna State faced in late 2015, when it conducted an audit of its large infrastructure investments.

To address this challenge, the Kaduna state government launched a budget monitoring initiative known as Eyes and Ears to use its budget more efficiently. The program equipped paid staff with a smartphone app that enables them to take photos and submit comments on infrastructure projects specified with GPS coordinates.

With a roster of about 3,000 projects in the state government’s infrastructure portfolio, the nine government staff members working on project monitoring couldn’t collect information quickly enough to keep close tabs on all of them. This led to the idea of asking citizens to be “Eyes and Ears” on the ground, helping the government track progress on capital projects like roads and schools.

To facilitate the participation of citizens in Eyes and Ears initiative, government created CitiFeeds, an app that allows anyone to participate in holding Kaduna State accountable for spending and project implementation.


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In the past, government had to send out lots of people on bicycles or motorcycles to go to these far-flung locations. Thanks to technology, this is no longer the only option. We thought about who has the most at stake when the government is doing infrastructure projects. It’s the people.

Citizens have the most to gain when projects are implemented on time and basic public services such as hospitals operate efficiently, so why not give them an easy way to report their observations?

Now, with the mobile app, anyone can locate public infrastructure projects within a two kilometer radius in Kaduna, take a picture, and provide feedback on the project’s status. This feedback goes to the governor’s office and the state legislature. It can be linked up with data collected by government project monitoring staff to create a comprehensive picture.

The app has been downloaded hundreds of times since its launch in April 2017. It has changed the accountability equation completely, because now we have citizens that are interested in projects in their locality, monitoring government, and putting up comments and sending them directly.

By participating in the Eyes and Ears initiative, citizen engagement can help Kaduna accelerate the implementation of its development plans. Early this year, under the platform of the Open Government Partnership, the government signed an agreement with civil society organizations to deepen the utilization of the application.

Despite its challenges, Kaduna stands out as one of the most advanced Nigerian states in embarking on economic reform efforts, and has the potential to be an economic growth engine for the region.  

For Kaduna state to unleash this potential, the government recognizes that it must emphasize efficient spending, and that value for money, citizen engagement, transparency, and open government have an important role to play.

In Kaduna, the mobile app and accompanying social media effort are just two of the ways the government is working to enable citizen participation in the essential functions of government in Kaduna. A radio program also accompanies the Eyes and Ears initiative, and the government continues to use traditional low-tech methods such as town halls. It is clear to us that civic engagement is not just one platform - it’s a whole ecosystem of engagement.

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El gobierno abierto en acción: la OEA y Alemania apoyan nuevas iniciativas en Latinoamérica

El Programa de Apoyos de Gobierno Abierto para las Américas es una iniciativa regional que busca apoyar a la siguiente generación de activistas de gobierno abierto de la administración pública, la sociedad civil y el sector privado. Entre 2015 y 2017, se creó una red de 69 becarios de 20 países de las Américas que han implementado diversos proyectos en los países de la región. Recientemente publicamos el informe Impacto y Aprendizaje sobre los primeros tres años del programa: sus actividades, socios y proyectos, para compartir lo que hemos logrado y aprendido.

Una de las limitaciones de las tres primeras generaciones fue que los organizadores no tenían los recursos para apoyar la implementación de los proyectos de los becarios y lograr impacto en el campo. La OEA apoyó el diseño de proyectos a través de sesiones de capacitación en línea en cooperación con The GovLab, con retroalimentación estructurada sobre la factibilidad y relevancia de los proyectos y estableciendo contactos con posibles donantes. Sin embargo, ni la OEA ni sus socios pudieron ofrecer capital semilla. Así, se perdió la inercia cuando los becarios presentaron sus ideas pero no encontraron fuentes de financiamiento para desarrollar e implementarlas, poniendo en peligro el éxito del programa.

En septiembre de 2017, se firmó un acuerdo con el Gobierno de Alemania para establecer un fondo especial para ofrecer el financiamiento necesario para los proyectos más prometedores del programa de los últimos años. El programa lanzó una convocatoria y recibió 29 propuestas para un total de 42 becarios. Un jurado de expertos internacionales seleccionó siete proyectos que a principios de 2018 recibieron capital semilla de entre 5 y 20 mil dólares para permitirles implementar sus ideas. Hoy, nos da mucho gusto anunciar los esfuerzos que los equipos han logrado en los últimos años.

1. Transparencia y derechos humanos en las cárceles

Las cárceles, por naturaleza, son una de las instituciones menos “abiertas” de las sociedades y las consecuencias de esta falta de transparencia tienden a ser desastrosas. Como resultado de negligencias, tabúes y la corrupción, existen terribles abusos a los derechos humanos y las condiciones de vida son muy precarias, especialmente en temas de salud, higiene y alimentación. Un equipo de becarios de Argentina, Brasil, El Salvador y Uruguay han trabajando en este tema desde que inició su participación en la generación de 2016.  Ahora, tienen la oportunidad de dar el siguiente paso. En abril de 2018, organizaron en Montevideo un congreso internacional y aprovecharon esta oportunidad para presentar los resultados de su trabajo: una plataforma en línea que busca mejorar la situación de derechos humanos de los presos de Latinoamérica a través de una mayor transparencia. El sitio incluye una base de datos con los 60 indicadores que el equipo desarrolló para medir estándares de transparencia en las cárceles de la región (con énfasis en información institucional y de salud, los derechos de los presos y con base en las normas de acceso a la información, derechos humanos y específicamente los derechos de los presos como las “Reglas de Mandela” de la ONU). En su fase inicial, el proyecto analiza y visualiza la información de ocho cárceles en los países de los becarios al respecto de la transparencia y la respuesta a solicitudes de información. Además, presenta recomendaciones de política e incluye un video animado que lo explica, una base de datos, un blog y otros materiales. Entérate en abriendoprisiones.org.

2. Minas de dados

Aceptémoslo: cuando vemos a las comunidades de datos abiertos de muchos países, la diversidad no es lo suyo. Una becaria brasileña de la OEA de 2015 quería cambiar esta situación e impulsó una iniciativa en la que buscaba incluir a las mujeres afro-brasileñas en el debate de datos abiertos y fortalecer su participación política en el país. Junto con varios colegas, lanzó una convocatoria y seleccionó a cinco mujeres de Río de Janeiro, Salvador y Sao Paulo con experiencia en activismo cívico o en análisis de datos y programación. Las cinco “minas de dados” recibieron una pequeña beca para trabajar de tiempo completo en un programa de cuatro semanas de desarrollo de capacidades sobre datos abiertos y visualización de datos, raza y feminismo y transparencia y participación cívica. Además, participaron en un hackatón en Sao Paulo. Durante la capacitación, el grupo desarrolló un proyecto en común que llamaron “Umannas – Mulheres Negras decidem”, una red que promueve la participación de mujeres negras en la política, apoyadas con datos sobre este grupo demográfico. Recientemente, el equipo presentó un proyecto en un evento de Rio de Janeiro y actualmente está discutiendo la posibilidad de contar con financiamiento de largo plazo por parte de un donante importante. Sigue sus actividades en su cuenta de Instagram y entérate de su trabajo.

3. Belisar.io para presidente

La falta de conexión entre los ciudadanos y sus representantes políticos es una de las causas principales de la falta de confianza en las instituciones democráticas y del desencanto generalizado con la política. Un equipo de tres becarios de la OEA de Bolivia, Guatemala y México busca cambiar esta situación con ayuda de la tecnología. “Belisar.io” es un chatbot que responde las preguntas de los ciudadanos en Facebook. El programa reactiva la figura histórica de Belisario Domínguez, senador mexicano que fue asesinado tras dar un discurso en contra del presidente Victoriano Huerta en 1913. Desde su lanzamiento a principios de 2018, “Belisar.io” ha interactuado con cerca de 2000 usuarios, estableciendo una comunidad de ciudadanos que se encuentran activamente discutiendo el proceso electoral de México. El uso que se le dé a esta herramienta definirá si en efecto podrá reducir la brecha entre los ciudadanos y los legisladores. Por ahora, el Senado lanzó una versión especial de “Belisar.io” como el más reciente canal de comunicación. Visita el sitio web del proyecto para enterarte de todas las noticias o interactúa con “Belisar.io” en su página de Facebook.

4. Blockchain para el gobierno

Se ha hablado mucho sobre Blockchain y sobre lo que puede hacer para incrementar la transparencia y rendición de cuentas del gobierno y para fortalecer la confianza de los ciudadanos en las instituciones democráticas. Sin embargo, el debate se ha caracterizado por tener un alto nivel de expectativas y un bajo nivel de conocimientos. Cuatro becarios de la OEA de la generación de 2017 de Argentina, Honduras y México establecieron un proyecto piloto, firmaron un acuerdo con la ciudad Bahía Blanca de Argentina y probaron la tecnología asignando subsidios a través del Fondo para las Artes del municipio. Aunque el proyecto ya había recibido apoyo de la OEA y de la Alianza Latinoamericana de Tecnología Cívica (ALTEC), el jurado decidió apoyar la documentación de la experiencia de Bahía Blanca para publicar los resultados y lecciones del proyecto para toda la comunidad de gobierno abierto. Si quieres saber más sobre esta tecnología y enterarte de los aciertos y errores de Bahía Blanca y de las oportunidades que puede haber para tu gobierno, lee este artículo y el sitio web del municipio.

5. Bogotá Indígena

La capital de Colombia tiene una población indígena que se estima en 37,000 personas de diferentes pueblos indígenas. Sin embargo, la mayoría de los bogotanos saben muy poco de estos conciudadanos y muchos han sido desplazados durante el conflicto armado que duró 50 años. Un becario colombiano de la OEA decidió cambiar esta situación: Junto con 13 periodistas indígenas y no indígenas, videógrafos y desarrolladores web, impulsó una iniciativa intercultural colectiva que trabaja con ciudadanos y periodistas de inmersión para mostrar la realidad de los más desprotegidas. El resultado es un reportaje que muestra las realidades diversas de los grupos indígenas de Bogotá, documentar sus condiciones de vida y contar sus historias personales. El reportaje, con materiales en multimedia como visualización de datos, texto y fotografía, videos de 360 grados. Encuentra estos materiales en el sitio web.  

6. Mapatón Ciudadano de Xalapa

En 2016, en la ciudad mexicana de Xalapa se llevó a cabo el primer ejercicio colaborativo de mapeo en el que participaron ciudadanos, representantes de gobierno y de la sociedad civil que ayudaron a reunir y generar datos sobre el transporte público. La mejora del transporte público es un reto común a una infinidad de ciudades de Latinoamérica y la participación ciudadana ha demostrado ser un mecanismo innovador para mejorar esta agenda. El jurado le aceptó un proyecto al equipo de México de la generación 2015 de la OEA para ayudarle a documentar la experiencia de Xalapa y desarrollar una guía y un set de herramientas para otras ciudades de la región. Si quieres saber cómo organizar un Mapatón en tu ciudad, aprender a identificar y establecer alianzas con otros actores, trabajar con voluntarios, estructurar los datos, implementar una campaña de publicidad, etc., visita el sitio web del proyecto, un video sobre el “Kit de Mapeo” y el Facebook live sobre la presentación del proyecto.

7. Escuela de verano de gobierno abierto

Cuatro mujeres becarias de la OEA de Argentina, Brasil, Chile y Uruguay fundaron GIGA, una iniciativa que busca desarrollar las capacidades sobre gobierno abierto en el cono sur (y más allá). En esta ocasión, el equipo recibió financiamiento para establecer la Escuela de Verano de Gobierno Abierto que habían propuesto, un seminario público sobre transparencia, acceso a la información, datos abiertos, participación ciudadana e innovación pública en Santiago en abril de 2018. Con una columna rígida, invitados de alto nivel y mucho café, 30 estudiantes y jóvenes profesionales tuvieron la oportunidad de aprender de sus compañeros con una perspectiva regional sobre casos y ejemplos de toda Latinoamérica. Aunque existen varios seminarios de gobierno abierto en algunos de los países de la región, muchos de ellos son organizados por el gobierno o instituciones académicas y muy pocos son iniciativas ciudadanas como GIGA.

El equipo que recibió la beca de la OEA y el donante se impresionaron de lo mucho que los siete equipos pudieron lograr con tan pocos recursos y en tan poco tiempo, gracias a su arduo trabajo y a que establecieron alianzas con otros becarios, gobiernos y actores de la sociedad civil que trabajan en los mismos temas.

En este blog solo podemos presentar un breve resumen sobre los proyectos, así que les pedimos a los equipos que escribieran sobre sus iniciativas ellos mismos. Cada uno de ellos publicará más detalles sobre sus resultados, retos y lecciones aprendidas en las próximas semanas. ¡Espéralos!

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Open Government in action: OAS and Germany support new initiatives in Latin America

The OAS Fellowship on Open Government in the Americas is a regional leadership initiative for the next generation of Open Government activists from public administration, civil society, and the private sector. Between 2015 and 2017, it has built a network of sixty-nine Fellows from twenty countries across the Americas that implemented numerous projects in their countries and the region, and continue doing so. Recently, we published an Impact and Learning Report on the program’s first three years – its activities, partners, participants, and projects – to share with the community what was achieved and learned.

 

 

One of the shortcomings of the Fellowship’s first three cohorts was that the organizers lacked the resources to provide funding for the implementation of the Fellows´ projects to achieve the desired impact on the ground. The OAS supported the design of the projects with online coaching sessions in cooperation with The GovLab, with structured expert and peer feedback on the projects’ feasibility and relevance, and by establishing contacts with potential donors. However, neither the OAS nor its partners were able to provide seed funding. Therefore, important momentum was lost when Fellows presented their project ideas but did not find financing sources to further develop or implement them, which in turn jeopardized the impact and success of the Fellowship itself.

 

 

In September 2017, an agreement was signed with the government of Germany to set up a special Project Fund to provide the necessary seed funding for the most promising among the OAS Fellows’ Open Government projects of the last years. After a call for applications, the Fund received  twenty-nine proposals from a total of forty-two OAS Fellows. A jury of international experts selected seven projects, which in early 2018 received seed funding between five and twenty thousand dollars to allow them to pilot and/or implement their ideas. Today, we are happy to share what these  teams have come up with in the last months.

 

 

 

1. Transparency and Human Rights in prison

 

 

 

Prisons, by definition, tend to be one of the least “open” institutions in our societies, and the consequences of this lack of transparency are often disastrous. An explosive mix of general neglect, societal taboo, and rampant corruption leads to massive human rights abuses and precarious overall living conditions, in particular when it comes to health, hygiene, or food. A team of Fellows from Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, and Uruguay had been working on the topic since their participation in the Fellowship’s 2016 cohort, and had now the chance to take the next step. They organized an international conference on the issue in Montevideo, in April 2018, and used this opportunity to launch the results of many months´ work: an online platform that aims at improving the human rights situation in Latin America’s prisons through enhanced transparency. The site includes a database with the sixty indicators the team developed to measure transparency standards in the region’s penitentiaries (focusing on institutional and health information and based on international norms on access to information, human rights, and the specific rights of prison inmates such as the UN´s “Mandela Rules”). In its initial phase, the project analyzes and visualizes the situation in eight penitentiaries in the Fellows´ four home countries regarding active transparency and the response to access to information requests. It also provides policy recommendations and contains an animated explainer video, the database, a blog, and other materials –check them out at abriendoprisiones.org!

 

 

2. Minas de dados

 

 

Let’s face it: If you look at the Open Data community in many countries, diversity is not exactly the name of the game. A Brazilian OAS Fellow 2015 wanted to change that and started an initiative aimed at better including afro-Brazilian women in the debate about Open Data and political participation in her country. Together with several colleagues she launched a call for applications and selected five young women from Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and São Paulo with a background in either civic activism or programming/data analysis. The five “minas de dados” received a small scholarship to be able to work full-time on an intense four-week capacity development program on Open Data and data visualization; race and feminism; and transparency and civic participation, as well as the participation in a hackathon in São Paulo. During their training, the group developed a common project they call “Umunnas – Mulheres Negras decidem”, a network to promote the participation of black women in traditional politics backed by data about this demographic group. The team presented the project at a recent pitching event in Rio de Janeiro and is currently discussing long-term funding with a major donor – follow their activities on the project’s Instagram account and see what they’re up to next!

 

 

3. Belisar.io for president!

 

 

The missing connection between citizens and their political representatives is one of the main reasons for the lack of trust in our democratic institutions and the general disenchantment with politics. A team of three OAS Fellows 2016 from Bolivia, Guatemala, and Mexico aims at changing that – with technology. “Belisar.io” is a chatbot that answers citizens’ questions on Facebook. It reactivates the historical figure of Belisario Domínguez, a Mexican senator who was murdered after he gave a public speech against President Victoriano Huerta in 1913. Since its launch in early 2018, “Belisar.io” has interacted with almost 2,000 users, creating a community of citizens who actively discuss the 2018 election process in Mexico. Whether this information and accountability tool can indeed reduce the communication gap between citizens and legislators will depend on the use citizens make of it. For now, the Mexican House of Representatives launched a special version of “Belisar.io” as the Chamber’s newest communication channel. Check out the project website for the latest news or interact with “Belisar.io” on his Facebook page.

 

 

4. Blockchain for Government

 

 

There’s a lot of buzz these days about blockchain and what it can do to improve government transparency and accountability and increase citizens’ trust in democratic institutions. However, the debate has been characterized by high expectations and a low level of knowledge. Four 2017 OAS Fellows from Argentina, Honduras, and México set up a blockchain pilot, signed an agreement with the Argentinean city of Bahía Blanca, and tested the technology in a real-world scenario –the allocation of cultural subsidies through the municipality’s Art Fund. While the project had received support from the OAS as well as the Latin American Alliance for Civic Technology (ALTEC) before, the jury now decided to sponsor the documentation of the Bahía Blanca experience to make the results and lessons learned of this pilot project available to the wider open government community. So if you want to understand the technology, know what went well in Bahía Blanca and what didn’t, and learn what the pitfalls and opportunities of Blockchain for your government might be, check out their paper and the municipality’s pilot website.

 

 

5. Bogotá Indígena

 

 

The Colombian capital has an estimated indigenous population of 37,000 belonging to several different native peoples. However, most Bogotanos know little about these fellow countrymen (and women) in their midst, many of whom have been displaced during the country’s fifty-year armed conflict. That’s what a 2015 OAS Fellow from Colombia decided to change: Together with 13 indigenous and non-indigenous journalists, videographers, and web developers, she started a collective and intercultural initiative that works with citizens and immersion journalism to portray the realities of those often overlooked. The result is rich reportage that shows the diverse realities of Bogotá’s indigenous groups, documents their often harsh living conditions ,and tells their personal stories. The reportage, with extensive multimedia materials from data visualization, to classic text and photo, to extensive 360-degree-videos, can be found on the project website.

 

 

6. Mapatón Ciudadano de Xalapa

 

 

In 2016, the Mexican city of Xalapa saw its first “Mapatón Ciudadano”, a collaborative mapping exercise between a broad coalition of citizens, government, and civil society actors who all helped collect and generate data on public transportation. Since improving public transportation is a challenge countless cities in Latin America are facing, and citizen participation has proven to be one innovative way forward in this agenda, the jury awarded a grant to a team around one 2015 OAS Fellow from Mexico, to help them document the Xalapa experience and create a guide and toolkit for other cities in the region. So if you want to know how to organize a Mapatón in your city, learn how to identify and build alliances with other players in the field, work with citizen volunteers, structure and clean the data, run a publicity campaign, etc. – check out the project website, a video about the “Kit de Mapeo”, or a Facebook live of the toolkit’s presentation. The project team is currently discussing a potential replication of the Xalapa experience in cities in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Tabasco, and Puebla.

 

 

7. Open Government Summer School

 

 

Four women OAS Fellows from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay founded GIGA , an initiative to provide capacity development on open government in the Southern Cone (and beyond). On this occasion, the team received funding to conduct an Open Government Summer School they had proposed, a public seminar on transparency, access to information, open data, citizen participation, and public innovation in Santiago in April 2018. With a rigid curriculum, high-level guest speakers and lots of coffee, 30 students and young professionals had the chance to learn the ropes of Open Government from their peers, with a regional perspective and cases and examples from across Latin America. While there are a number of seminars on Open Government in some of the region’s countries today, most are organized by government or academic institutions, and very few are citizen initiatives like GIGA.

 

 

 

The OAS Fellowship team and the donor were amazed how much the seven teams were able to achieve with very limited resources over a short time, through hard work and partnering up with other like-minded OAS Fellows, governments, or civil society actors working on their issues.

 

 

 

Since this blog post can only give a brief overview of the projects, we asked the teams to share insights from their initiatives themselves, so all seven projects will publish more details on their results, challenges, and lessons learned in a series of posts right here in the coming weeks – stay tuned!

 

 
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Kenya's Elgeyo Marakwet County Hosts Africa OGP Convention

Three African regional governments converged in Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya on May 2 to share experiences and successes of efforts made in making their governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.

It was the first time the local governments were meeting since their inclusion in the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Representatives from Kaduna State in Nigeria, Kigoma Ujiji in Tanzania, and Sekondi Takoradi in Ghana held a peer to peer learning workshop at Kerio River Lodge, attended by Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, OGP’s Local Program Manager Brittany Lane and Senior Program Officer Gustavo Perez, and Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) researcher Ruth Kendagor.

Elgeyo Marakwet, Kaduna, Kigoma, and Sekondi are among twenty regional governments chosen to participate in OGP, alongside 76 national governments worldwide.

Speaking at the workshop, Governor Tolgos appreciated the participation of the regional governments in OGP, saying it would help shape a new and progressive citizen-centric governance style.

He said governments in Africa should adopt reforms to make governance more inclusive, and expand decision-making in development.

“Gone are the days when government was a closed shop. We are in a new era where we should be responsive and accountable to our citizens. We should inform, consult, involve, and collaborate with them in governance,” he said.

Under OGP mentorship, Tolgos cited milestones made in Elgeyo Marakwet in the area of public participation, including the recent process of developing the next County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) for 2018 to 2022.

He said the County is among the few counties where 60 percent of its annual budget is decided on by the public, under the County’s Equitable Development Act.

“In the new CIDP  process, we moved from just engaging our people to separating them into sectors where they have local expertise, to give their input on the County development agenda for the next five years,” said Tolgos.

The Governor also said the County had forged close collaboration with civil society organizations operating in Elgeyo Marakwet, enabling their involvement and participation in county governance.

Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe cited a program initiated by the Kigoma Municipality that keeps track of medical supplies bought for local health facilities.

“Ever since we adopted this program, we have seen a drastic reduction of loss of medical supplies, which now go into the intended purposes of treating our people,” he said.

Yusuf Auta, a government official from Kaduna State, said the state was working towards e-governance, and cited the development of a mobile phone-based application that helps citizens locate and access public projects.

“The app enables citizens to post concerns or complaints which are then relayed in a web-based dashboard to senior government officials for action,” he said.

Sekondi-Takoradi City’s Development Planner, Mr Isaac Aidoo, highlighted a move by the regional government to involve citizens in policing by hiring neighbourhood watch groups to supplement the work done by police.

“The volunteers are given equipment and uniform by the regional government to help the police in a community policing program,” he said.

Aidoo also highlighted an initiative to engage the public through radio talk shows bringing together city officials and the public to discuss the affairs of the government.

“The shows are held in a town hall and aired live to a listening audience who get to ask questions and make recommendations on the running of the city,” said Aidoo.

The convention was attended by civil society partners based in the local governments, who appreciated OGP for creating a platform for government and civil society to work together for the betterment of their communities.

“The new concept of co-creation introduced to us by OGP has provided an avenue for synergy building between civil society and government. Indeed, we have become stronger together through OGP,” said Timothy Kiprono, from the Centre for Innovation in Open Governance (CIOG) based in Kenya.

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