TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | September 27, 2017
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In case you missed it…

Only 43 per cent of citizens trusts their government, according to OECD statistics. But how do you restore citizen trust once lost? Are transparency evangelists unrealistically dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good as Ivan Krastev posits? The Open Government Partnership (OGP) has invited an interesting mix of thinkers and doers to reflect on roots of distrust and possible remedies. How compelling is the case? Judge for yourself.

What does all this mean for incoming OGP Global Steering Committee Co-chair Mukelani Dimba of the International School for Transparency? Read his insights here. At least Mukelani should be glad that, after some hesitation, Canada announced it will be lead government co-chair for 2018-2019 with a focus on inclusion, participation, and impact (so pretty much everything).

No surprise that IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and other speakers  at last week’s Brookings Institution event all agreed that tackling corruption, especially in the extractives sector, requires more than transparency. Clarity as to the other essential elements needed may come through two new programs for the sector – one testing impacts of openness and one looking at reinforcing data use. It is good to see the industry press covering the topic – see Nick Snow’s overview.

Fearing missing revenues in a different sectoral context, the EU may be implementing fundamental reforms in its international tax rules to better fit with today’s digital economy. Will this signal the beginning of the end of the arm’s length principle?  What might be a solution to tax leakages? Build a wall (sound familiar?) This time it is Tanzania’s President Magufuli urging a wall be built around the country’s tanzanite mines in an attempt to clamp down on tax dodging and smuggling.

All over the world, pockets of anti-corruption protests have been taking place – from Israel to Guatemala to Bratislava and Prague. How many of these social movements result in long-term changes needed to eradicate corruption? According to Transparency International, coalition building is key to their success. 

If tackling corruption is one pathway to boosting citizen trust, Ghana’s government may see a boost from new plans to partner with OpenOwnership on delivering a public beneficial ownership register. Meanwhile, the UK may be going the opposite direction with Brexit, according to Oliver Bullough of the New York Times. Corruption and tax avoidance was at the top of the Cameron agenda but seems to be off the radar since Theresa May took over. This may help explain why only 17% of commitments of states and organizations made at the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit have been completed.  See how your country is doing in Transparency International’s tracker and summary report.  Want to look bigger picture? The 2017 update of the Worldwide Governance Indicators is now available.

Meanwhile, some governments continue to crack down on anti-corruption activists, such as in the cases of Mexico and Azerbaijan. Sometimes, internet and social media restrictions are used to further shrink civic space. In recent Weeklies we’ve referenced cases in Cameroon, DRC, China, and Vietnam. What happens when a whole country goes into web and SMS blackout? Netizen’s reporting in Togo offers some insight.

How do activists fight back? In Russia it is in part through memes against Putin’s social media censorship. For more insights on how civil society can respond to increasing restrictions on civic freedoms and other issues, such as the push for CSO transparency and government accountability, see the summary of discussions from the International Civic Forum.

Under what conditions in democratic governance can ICT-mediated citizen engagement be transformative? This report by Making All Voices Count explores the experiences in 8 countries and provides recommendations on how public policies and programs can promote ICT for citizen engagement and transformative citizenship. But what about in countries where a significant part of the population do not have access to smartphones and where data costs are high? Omidyar Network posed the question and hope the work of their grantee Grassroots may offer some answers as they seek to develop simple but effective collective organizing tools for active citizen engagement and collective action. 

On the donor learning front, a new guide published by the Foundation Center introduces Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ Theory of the Foundation as a framework to aid funders in examining their organizational structures and strategize about their operations and capacities to increase effectiveness. And if you’re curious about USAID’s efforts to improve its organizational effectiveness, check out this podcast series on their collaborating, learning and adapting approach.

Better data use improves public service delivery. However, redesigning public service processes to use and share data is not without challenges. The Open Data Institute has launched a fund to support groups of organizations in the redesign of public services and develop resources to help others learn from their experience. But how established are open data practices in the EU? The European Data Portal measures the open data maturity of EU countries using a series of indicators. Spain tops the list while Latvia lags behind. Focusing on the local level, how do European cities use open data? Read examples and best practices. And what opportunities and challenges do cities face in opening up their data? Four cities in Ukraine who recently joined the Open Data Charter share their experiences.

Apart from better data use, in what ways can organizations improve citizens’ access to social services? Drawing on four cases in Kenya and South Africa, Francesca Feruglio concludes that organizations empower citizens through education on their rights and entitlements as well as on how to access those in power, as well as by providing legal support.

Ever heard of frictionless data? Open Knowledge International talks about their plans on streamlining data logistics for a faster, efficient and cost-effective way of transporting data from tool A to tool B. To explore the concept further, check out this YouTube video.

If “black box” machine learning systems become transparent, what’s next? Danah Boyd argues that “even when we have access to the code and have access to the data, even the most sophisticated computer scientists actually debate what’s going on. If we rely on transparency as the solution, I think we miss the point.”

Meanwhile, Open Knowledge International make the case that all software funded with public money should result in public code. If so, public-funded research should also be made public. The European Commission paid for a study on the impact of piracy on copyrighted materials, which concluded no displacement of sales. The report was never shared.  

Number of the week? 1144. The number of conflicts of interest concerns for the First Family based on a Sunlight Foundation investigation.


Of potential interest…


 On the calendar…

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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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