Civil society has been working for years on participation, transparency, accountability and governance issues. Plenty of newer initiatives (small and large) look at new technologies as a core tool in this work. But are these groups talking and learning from each other?
What good practices exist for using new technologies to improve transparency, accountability and governance? What are some considerations and frameworks for thinking about the role of new technologies in this area of work? What needs consideration under this broad theme of good governance?
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With a Little Help from the Crowd, USAID Increases Government Transparency
At USAID we’re fortunate to work on an incredible mission. But it’s an impossible one to achieve on our own. That’s why we’re always looking for creative ways to engage new problem solvers and develop new partnerships.
One of the best ways to engage the public is to open up our data. Set it free. Make it accessible. By opening up seemingly boring reams of spreadsheets to outside analysis, we have an opportunity to discover new trends, opportunities, and yes, inefficiencies.
In March, Administrator Shah wrote about how effective aid is transparent and accountable aid. This June, we took this commitment one step further when USAID’s GeoCenter and Development Credit Authority (DCA) hosted the Agency’s first-ever crowdsourcing event to open and map loan guarantee data.
Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving process whereby tasks are outsourced to a network of people known as “the crowd.” Without the staff or resources to comb through 117,000 loan records on our own, we turned to the crowd for help in opening our data to the public.
Mark Madsen is the founder of Third Nature, a research and consulting firm focused on emerging technology and practices in analytics, business intelligence and information management.
Nearly all large federal agencies are now using social media tools, according to a recent survey by the Government Accountability Office, and many have had great success. For instance, NASA has effectively used several channels to keep the public informed about its missions, and the State Department has 145,000 followers on its Facebook fan page.
Social media clearly promises many benefits to government agencies, but too many organizations — in the public and private sectors — have jumped into this brave new world without knowing what they want to achieve.
Such technology exuberance, as I like to call it, is akin to having no strategy at all, and it can be costly. Organizations without an upfront plan are likely to waste time and financial resources. They could even end up sending messages that run counter to their policies without knowing what damage they might be doing to their organizations. In those situations, it is impossible to quantify the benefits from using social media.
For all its glitter, social media is first and foremost a tool, and it needs to be treated like any other strategy or investment that is monitored, measured and analyzed.
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U.S. Launches Digital Roadmap To Open Up Government Data And Court Developers
There’s all sorts of data that the government has, but very little of it is actually accessible by developers. But the U.S. Government is trying to change that: Wednesday at TechCrunch Disrupt, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel announced a new initiative within the government to open up data that was previously locked up in government documents and arcane backend systems. That will allow developers to create new applications and services based on that data.