TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | September 13, 2017
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In case you missed it…

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Generating network effects is typically framed as a positive, but Niall Ferguson asks us to question how prepared we are for a world networked as never before. He argues networks are often far from benign – a point backed by Facebook revelations this past week and by Sarah Chayes in her discussion of kleptocractic networks that are more resistant to Roberto Rotberg’s 14 step corruption cure. Roberto draws on a range of country case studies to see what works, but in her recap of current literature Sofie Arjon Schütte of U4 confirms we simply don’t have “THE recipe for fighting corruption” and falls back on urging iterative, problem-driven approaches.

Participatory budgeting and open contracting are often touted as tools in reducing corruption. Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency’s Open Fiscal Data Package provides a guide for publishing government budget and spending data. Seeking concrete applications, Ahmad Rifai of Kota Kita, an Indonesian non-profit, reflects on Indonesia’s experience in participatory budgeting and its impact on citizen empowerment, democratic governance and accountability, while Gavin Hayman’s podcast talks to the potential of open contracting (one of the interesting Aidpreneur series).

At the recently concluded 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen China, leaders acknowledged the negative impact of corruption on sustainable development and committed to curbing black money and enhancing anti-corruption cooperation and to “achieve a fair and modern global tax system”. The Xiamen Declaration contains specific reference to strengthening Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), combatting tax evasion through the exchange of tax information and providing technical assistance to other developing countries. Interested to know more about building strong tax systems and promoting transparency in international finance? Check out the African Tax Outlook 2017 and Taxcast podcasts by the Tax Justice Network.

On a different note, Corlett Letlojane (Human Rights Institute of South Africa) and Ine van Severen (Civicus) urge South Africa (who is assuming BRICS chairmanship in 2018) to address civic space restrictions and bring in peoples’ voices as to what South-South cooperation can and should achieve. Meanwhile, civic space continues to shrink in many countries and we observe the increasing restriction of access to social media and the internet by governments as means to restrict freedoms as in the case in Vietnam, DRC and Togo.

New research shows a growing trend among African countries of user data and content removal requests from global tech companies, indicating increased government censorship and surveillance. Nigeria tops the list. In China, a new regulation was passed banning anonymous online posts and illegal content. In Malta, an NGO platform warns that the lack of government transparency and accountability is the most serious concern for human rights. So what should our collective response to shrinking civic space be? Deborah Doane of Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society claims that we talk about solidarity in response, but too often fail to walk the talk.

And while technology is used to restrict civil freedoms, in other parts of the world, technology is used to enhance citizen participation in evidence decision-making and strengthen accountability, as in the case of a small community in Bolivia. The new overview of civic tech initiatives in the South by Tiago Peixoto and others reveals that tech’s record on building more participation is patchy and often skewed (more participation if male, wealthy, urban), although there are some tactics to build on. For example, online petitions launched by women are more successful than those of men. This makes for interesting reading alongside insights on social accountability programming from DFID’s portfolio evaluation published this summer.  

How does one navigate a “tsunami” of available data? Researchers from the University of Michigan talk about the Four V’s of Big Data. A lot of people think only large companies with millions to spend on IT can harness the potential of big data. On the contrary, Forbes contributor Bernard Marr breaks down some ways we might be able to use big data to improve our personal and business lives, even without us realizing it. This past week saw data generated from 911 calls used for post-Harvey response and analysis of big data in reducing crime in the UK. Can we generate more cases of real world impacts for good governance data? Global Fishing Watch offers one example of data use to clampdown on illicit activities – Peru and Indonesia are now committed to making their vessel tracking data public.

How do we promote a data-driven economy without compromising protection of personal data and privacy? Establishing an appropriate legal frameworks is not easy. A multi-stakeholder expert groups has been pondering Brazils’ regulatory framework for trans-border data, while the world’s largest biometric database, utilized by the Indian government to reduce corruption and improve public services, now faces a challenge from an Indian Supreme Court ruling asserting Indians’ fundamental right to privacy. Meanwhile, a bill passed in New York may be the first of many requiring a city government to publish algorithms that affect decisions on government services.

What of big data use by funders? Last week we noted Geoff Mulgan’s call for applications of AI in funding processes.  This week, Michael Bamberger raises key questions surrounding the future of development evaluation in the age of big data, noting that program evaluation has lagged behind in terms of adopting big data/analytics.

Of course, even without big data analytics, funders are always always re-assessing their roles, approaches and ways of working, but Susan Wolf Ditkoff and Abe Graindle argue in Havard Business Review that it is time for more audacious philanthropy. Fondacion de France lay out 5 challenges confronting French philanthropy that may limit audacity in practice, while the Barr Foundation offers insights on ways to navigate donor-grantee power dynamics and TAI’s own Omidyar Network’s offer insights on the value of improvisation for organizational learning.


Of potential interest


Field-wide Calls for Proposals


On the calendar…

International Civic Forum, September 11-12 (Washington, DC)

Nonprofit Management Institute – Leading Change in Turbulent Times, Sept 12-13, (Stanford, CA)

Open Data Initiative Training Courses – September 19-28, (Ireland)

Stockholm Civic Society Days, Sept 20-22 (Stockholm)

Populist Plutocrats: Lessons from Around the World, Sept. 23 (Harvard Law School)

Fighting Inequality and Fiscal Injustice: Innovative Models for Successful Campaigning – Lesson from Peru and Beyond, TAI and Oxfam America, September 27, (Washington DC)

Data Transparency 2017 Conference, September 26 (Washington DC) – US focus

10th West Coast Conference on FCPA Enforcement and Compliance, Sept 26-27, (San Francisco)

7th Financial Transparency Conference, October 24-25 (Helsinki)

GPSA Citizen Action for Open, Accountable and Inclusive Institutions, Global Forum, October 31 – November 1, 2017 (Washington, DC)

6th Asia Pacific Summit on Anti-Corruption Compliance and Risk Management, Oct 31-Nov 1, (Singapore)

Feedback Lab Summit November 2-3 (Washington, DC)

OGP Summit side-event: Academic Conference on Open Government, November 17-18 (Buenos Aires)

Open Government Partnership Americas Regional Meeting, November 21-22 (Buenos Aires)

Open Contracting 2017, November 28-29 (Amsterdam)

International Civil Society Week December 4-8, (Suva, Fiji)


The TAI Weekly is an informal recap of news, research, and events relevant to our four work streams: data use for accountability, taxation and tax governance, strengthening civic space, and learning from improved grant making.The Weekly is in no way a reflection of TAI member views or thinking. The Weekly now goes to our mailing list and live on the website every Wednesday morning.

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