Great news for the open government movement: Transparency International, one of the key international actors in the fight against corruption recently announced to award grants to national TI chapters with ideas for mobilizing people through web and mobile-based technologies. Last year’s International Anti-Corruption Conference in Brasilia has already shown signs of TI’s increasing commitment to exploiting the power of Internet and technology and it seems that the Secretariat has made a significant shift in its strategic approach to explore participatory solutions of civil society.
Sunlight has already built strong relationships with some of the local TI chapters experimenting with technology and its power to catalyze government accountability. We are now thrilled to see that through its People Engagement Program, the Secretariat has indeed embraced the potential of technology to engage people in its fight towards a more transparent and open society.
Here is a taste of the awarded projects. Read more about the ideas here.
Slovakia has long been a pioneer in opening up government datasets. After several years of building engaging tools, our friends at the local TI chapter are now working hard to improve the judicial system by developing a mechanism that ranks the level of judges’ transparency and accountability. It is an especially impressive initiative as there are mushrooming projects that focus on legislative and executive transparency, but far less efforts with the aim of opening up the third branch of government.
A recent report of TI shows that a number of European countries continue to allow undisclosed contributions to political parties. It may sound surprising but one of the countries concerned is Sweden, where ‘there is a voluntary agreement among most parties to disclose their budgets, the names of specific donors are not included’ though. With the financial support of the Secretariat, TI Sweden is now dedicated to rank parties according to their level of transparency and create a visualization around the results.
With Sunlight’s growing involvement in municipal transparency, we are especially delighted to learn more about the efforts of Chile Transparente to aggregate and visualize data on the activities of all local councils in the country and to make these datasets more accessible to citizens.
While refining our goals for international transparency work, we have been doing a lot of thinking about the possible ways to harness the power of technology in countries with low Internet penetration. Online platforms definitely don’t make a lot of sense in many of the developing countries but the potential of smart phones in people engagement is well demonstrated by the idea of TI Zimbabwe to solicit reports of corruption cases via text messages.
And here is our final teaser, a project that aims at mitigating distrust instead of disclosing even more corruption: TI-Indonesia is working on a reporting tool that monitors anti-corruption court cases so that citizens can observe the progress of cases and rate verdicts.
With even more awarded projects from Cambodia, Hungary, Macedonia, Malaysia, Peru and Ukraine, Transparency International sets a great example of how a traditional research organization responds to the challenges and harnesses the potential of the digital age.