Tools for Transparency: A Look from Abroad – Transparency Tools in Latin America

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Today, our guest post is written by Mario Roset and Rosario Gonzalez Morón of Wingu, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Wingu is a Latin American NGO that helps local non-profits leverage technology for the benefit of civil society.

For some years, we have been working with nonprofits all over Latin America to improve their use of the Internet to fulfill their missions. The region has many challenges in terms of technology, starting from low – though fast growing – bandwidth penetration, to a common lack of incentives in the public sector to jump into the digital age.

Like any other, public advocacy organizations also have their own issues: they are poorly financed, understaffed, and usually prefer a “let’s repeat what has worked before” offline approach for their programs, cutting back on innovation. For them, the Internet may be the big thing, but also the unknown.

Our answer for them to this dilemma is simple: don’t invent anything; just adopt what’s out there. We believe that the best way to be innovative in the context of extremely limited resources is to find new uses for mainstream, standardized tools, or to adapt successful initiatives to your context. Here are some examples:

Dinero y Política is an initiative of Poder Ciudadano Foundation (“Citizen Power Foundation”) is an interactive database and a wiki that aggregates political finance data in real time from 23 different provincial databases and tracks 713 recognized political parties (414 of which participate as members of 97 different coalitions).

Drug Map of Argentina is a citizen-lead initiative, created by the Anti-drug Association of Argentina that uses a blog and Google Maps to gather information about drug production and distribution around the country.

Congreso Averto is a Brazilian initiative that makes public the information about lawmaking in the national congress. It follows the path of many other proven projects, like OpenCongress (US), and TheyWorkForYou (UK). Vota Inteligente is a similar initiative from Chile that takes information from Congressional websites to make it accessible to citizens. Congreso Visible, from Colombia, depends exclusively on a massive volunteering force to keep their site updated with information that is not on the Congress’ website.

Cuidemos el Voto is a Mexican website that uses Ushahidi standard technology to crowdsource information about improper conduct and fraud in Mexican elections, and display it on a map. There are many more examples of Ushahidi implementations here.

If you’re interested in a more detailed account of each of these initiatives, and also want to discover many others from all around the southern hemisphere, we recommend that you visit David Sasaki’s Technology for Transparency Review.

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