By Jorge Florez — September 3, 2015.
The open data and open governance communities have come a long way in recent years. Today, the challenge is not only to produce information and demand increased transparency from governments, but also to make information more useful and relevant for citizens. There are many important questions to ask, such as: what do we need to do in order to ensure that open data is useful to inform and motivate citizen engagement and collective action? How can we use data to increase our understanding of political and social problems? How can data be used to find new areas for reform and demand accountability? How can data be used to shape public policy? The challenge is how to use open data to transform the relationship between governments and citizens.
With this in mind, we have recently adopted a new strategy that aims to put us at the cutting edge of efforts to strengthen the links among research, learning and action in the open governance space. This new strategy will see us move from being known for the quality of our data, to being known for our capacity to use data, stories and evidence to support in-country partners in government and civil society in their efforts to open governance and address the challenges they face.
We are making progress! Recently, we launched our Africa Integrity Indicators with up-to-date information for all of the African countries. My colleagues are sharing our work on campaign finance at the Global Conference on Money in Politics and the Strengthening Electoral Integrity: What works? workshop, in addition, they will be sharing our experience in measuring corruption and integrity at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference. As for myself, I am gearing up to participate at the 3rd Condatos conference. I’m really excited for the opportunity to share with the open data community from Latin America and beyond.
In recent years, we have been increasing our work in Latin America. Our Campaign Finance Indicators give new entry points to work on the role of money in politics in 14 countries from the region. We hope this work can inform the efforts of leading organizations, media and communities. We are also conducting case studies in Mexico and Costa Rica about the way in which OGP commitments are used by in-country leaders to press for open governance and accountability. We want to explore new ways to collaborate and support in-country efforts to improve public policies in the region.
Following the spirit of sharing that has made Condatos famous, let me explain briefly a clear example of the way we are working with local partners like IMCO and INAI to Follow the Money and improve fiscal governance in Mexico. By building on the progress that Mexico has had on fiscal transparency, open data and state level open government action plans, we asked a simple question: is it possible to follow the flow of resources using available open data? To address this question we have designed treasure hunts, which are participatory processes that will generate evidence and insight about whether people are able to access the information that they would need to get a full picture of the flow of public resources, in relation to issues important to them. We will hold a federal level workshop in early October and support local processes on specific issues such as clean water in Durango, and public works in Veracruz.
I hope to meet many leaders of open data in Latin America, to share our experience, learn from the efforts of others, and explore opportunities for collaboration. Find me at Condatos, send me a message, or contact me through twitter. Some of the questions that we’re trying to answer are:
- How to increase the usefulness of open data to enable citizens to actively engage in efforts to solve the problems they face?
- How can we use open data to enable learning processes that help to improve the quality of public policies?
- How to make fiscal governance more open and increase the value of open budgets to better understand and shape the use of public resources?
- How to make the best of the opportunities given by international initiatives – like the Open Government Partnership or the Open Contracting Partnership – to strengthen the open data agenda and open governance in Latin America?
Jorge Florez https://twitter.com/j_florezh
Figure: Follow the Money Mexico, can citizens get a full picture of the flow of public resources?