Searching High and Low for Better Governance

Ashley Hinson & Craig Beyerinck, Kathmandu

Around the world there are countless initiatives that seek to promote more open and democratic government. Success for these programs means allowing citizens direct access to their governments via open communication and reciprocity.

Today’s increasing population and ever decreasing funding for government programs demand greater efficiency, which is why citizens need to be involved.

It is time for the eyes and ears of civil society to give feedback to government on the services being provided to them so as to allow for better allocation oftime and resources. After all, who better than the intended beneficiaries of government activities to report on their effectiveness?

Currently, the most popular strategy for this type of engagement is technology – mainly mobile. It’s easy to understand the popularity of this idea because,according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency, there were 6 billion mobile telephone users (and 2.1 billion internet users)worldwide in 2011.

With an estimated world population of just over 7.1 billion people however, many still remain voiceless. Nepal, for example,has an estimated 18.1 million citizens who have access to mobile phone technology out of a total population of 30.4 million (10% of whom have access to the internet).

Looking at these numbers, it becomes clear that technology should not be the only medium to increase transparency. So what can be done?

Local Interventions Group is a southern non-profit that works with data-driven solutions for smarter governance in a country where around 40% of the population does not have access to mobile technology. Implementing both high and low-tech programs to increase good governance and make citizen/government communication more inclusive is the only answer in a country like Nepal.

Making use of new technologies for this purpose is an inspired use of available resources and can, in fact, lead to improved governance. This being said, we see the importance of making sure that populations with little technological access are not left behind by initiatives that seek only to implement technology-based better governance projects.

So, what does success look like in Nepal?

First, the data that is collected through “high-tech” projects (mobiles, internet, etc.) will be disseminated to all in a meaningful way – those that contribute must know that their opinion matters by seeing that the information they shared actually went somewhere – an online platform, for example.

Meanwhile, those who can’t contribute to the dialogue using technology should still be heard by initiatives that go into remote areas to listen to what these people have to say. They can also access the collected information via e.g.info-graphics posted in villages and radio broadcasts.

Lastly, success means that government responds – first through words, then through actions.

LIG is joining the ranks of organizations around the world that seek to close the gap between government and its citizens. We are figuring out how to make the citizen/government connection more meaningful, and more reciprocal using solutions that are a little high-tech, a little low-tech, but 100% inclusive.

1. http://www.opengovpartnership.org/

2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/benkerschberg/2012/03/21/how-crowdsourcing-is-tackling-poverty-in-the-developing-world/

3. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

4. http://www.localinterventions.org.uk

5. http://globalwireonline.org/2013/03/25/how-technology-and-data-support-better-governance/

7. http://www.localinterventions.org.uk/programmes.php?post=22

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