Technology plays an important part – a huge one, many might argue – in the success of the worldwide open government movement. People are creating apps, websites, databases and many other digital ways of enhancing and fostering government transparency. Our friends over at techPresident are tracking this wonderfully through their WeGov series, which we highly recommend.
The Internet, the principal conduit of this wave of innovation, has certainly made the world smaller. But it has also created a chasm for those who live in countries where access to technology is still primitive or completely non-existent. In many parts of Latin America, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, citizens are more in need of transparency than ever before, thanks to years of rampant corruption, arcane laws, and lack of infrastructure. But they are often unable to fully leverage the high-tech tools born elsewhere.
These citizens have learned, thanks to the open government and transparency boom of recent years, that they have the right to be treated with respect by their governments. Their lack of access to cutting-edge technology will not stop them.
At times with support from overseas organizations, at times working with their own resources and innovative instincts, these brave folks are using blackboards and chalk, “dumb phones”, radio transmitters, billboards on the street, and many other low-tech media to hold governments to account and foster greater public sector transparency. We want to tell their stories.
Why? To remind the world that open government and transparency are more than a fad, more than a “hashtaggable” word, more than an app or a dataset. They are fundamental human rights that pre-date the Internet. They are valuable tools for development, tools that many people are hungry for and and are willing to push for by any means possible.
At the same time, we don’t want to festishize low-tech approaches or cover hackneyed anecdotes (no, we won’t be reporting on how MKSS painted budget figures on mud huts in India). We’re looking for new, fresh ideas that expand the knowledge base and broaden our horizons.
Feel free to share your thoughts with us about this series, and send us leads through Twitter @GlobalIntegrity, our Facebook page, or via email by clicking on my name below. Who in your community works on making the vision of open government a reality regardless of the technology at their disposal?