ICA Africa-Ghana 2018: Conference Call

Call for Papers

ICAfrica 2nd Biennial, 2018

The Africa Regional Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA)

Theme: African Digital Cultures: Emerging Research, Practices and Innovations

Date:  7-9 November, 2018

Organisers: School of Information and Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon

Digital technology has become an inherent part of contemporary African life. Fueled by increasing internet penetration, changes have occurred to accommodate a more digital-driven lifestyle across various sectors of African societies. Compared with other parts of the world, Internet use in Africa is still relatively low, but digital technology is rapidly changing how people on the continent communicate with one another, produce and consume goods and services, enact citizenship, and construct narratives about themselves. New configurations in the communication, information and media landscape resulting from digitalization provoke new questions and challenge old assumptions about mediation practices for scholars. Traditional media such as radio, for example, may be still dominant in the information and communication ecology of Africa, but their practices are constantly being impacted and transformed by emerging digital cultures, especially amongst the youth.

The dynamic nature of technology-driven transformations in mediated communication in Africa calls for deeper insights into the cultures forming around the appropriation of digital technologies. In a world in which the face of communication is constantly evolving, we believe Africa can provide fresh thinking on how people adopt, appropriate and deploy digital technologies in various communicative contexts and the impact(s) that has on their lives.

The School of Information and Communication Studies (SICS) of the University of Ghana, in collaboration with the International Communication Association (ICA) is hosting the 2018 Regional ICA conference on the theme African Digital Cultures: Emerging research, practices and innovations. The conference seeks to bring together scholars from within and outside the continent to share their research and perspectives on the cultures forming around conceptualizations, production and consumption of the digital space in Africa.

Kindly visit the link below for further information

http://sics.ug.edu.gh/icaafrica-ghana

An Update on African Governance: the Africa Integrity Indicators 2018

Originally published by the Africa Integrity Indicators Team on the 4th of April 2018

The 2018 edition of the Africa Integrity Indicators data is available! We invite interested stakeholders to examine the data and share any feedback that can help increase the quality and usefulness of the data. Please get in touch with us by May 30th.

What is the Africa Integrity Indicators Project?

Every year since 2013, the Africa Integrity Indicators (AII) project assesses the state of governance and aspects of social development in all African countries. It produces qualitative data for 102 indicators across 13 categories from “Rule of law” and “Civil service integrity” to “Rights” and “Health and education.” The data can be found here.

How is our data unique?

The versatility of our data sets AII apart from other indices. It combines:

  • Scale and granularity: the AII data presents the big picture across the African continent while zooming in on specific questions in specific countries;
  • Timeliness and evolution: the AII data provides a snapshot of each country for any given year since 2013 while showcasing the trends in each country over time;
  • Comparability and context-specificity: the AII data is comparable across countries and over time with clear scoring conditions that determine what is measured and how it is assessed. At the same time, researchers provide specific comments on context and evidence that  highlight individual countries’ challenges and opportunities. Each of these comments is supported by multiple sources;
  • De jure and de facto: the AII data examines both the legal frameworks in force and the implementation of these frameworks in practice, thereby measuring the implementation gap.

Another strength of the AII data is the robustness of the quality control. To ensure that our data is credible, we follow a rigorous double-blind peer-review process that involves country and subject-matter experts.

How can the data be used?

The AII data is a stand-alone index published by Global Integrity. Measuring the implementation gap and providing snapshots of evidence for each question together with a score and the sources used by researchers to make their assessment, we endeavor to provide an objective and trustworthy assessment that can help reformers identify entry points and ways forward as regards reform they deem important and worth pursuing.

A number of questions also feed into the Ibrahim Index of African Governance and into the Worldwide Governance indicators (WGI) by the World Bank. Through the WGI, the data also provides the Millennium Challenge Corporation with information that informs its decisions about country eligibility for MCC compacts.

Three main features of our dataset make it a practical entry point for research, advocacy and action:

  • Accessibility: our methodology and sources are transparent and the data is open source;
  • Ease of use: for each indicator, scores make it quick and easy to identify patterns across countries and across time;
  • Actionability: for each indicator, qualitative, fact-based comments make it possible to understand the country-specific context and help to identify priorities for reforms.

How is our data relevant?

Like any organization that strives for impact, we believe that producing reliable data is only the first step toward enabling reformers to take action. It is our hope that the AII data will foster and inform discussions about governance reforms and social development across Africa, both at the regional and at country levels, within and outside government.

For several years, the dataset has served as a platform for dialogue with several governments that have reached out to us as part of their efforts to pursue institutional and policy reforms. In 2018, we look forward to resuming these discussions and starting new ones with both governments and civil society.

We also look forward to continuing the conversation on how governance data in general and the AII data in particular can be improved to be more useful to stakeholders and have a bigger impact.

Preliminary findings

To illustrate how the AII data can support discussions on governance and social development, we have selected a sample of preliminary findings for the period that covers September 2016 to September 2017.

Gender – bridging the gap

Both the legal and customary frameworks regarding women’s rights have remained largely unchanged, and mostly restrictive. In practice, however, the new AII data has captured renewed efforts by governments to improve the condition of women, especially in the labor market. For instance, in 2017 the government of Burkina Faso launched training and entrepreneurship programs for the benefits of female professionals while Chad conducted national awareness campaigns with the support of development partners.

In another positive development, the representation of women in national cabinets has significantly improved in 10 countries compared to the previous study period. The increase has been the largest in São Tomé and Principe and Somalia where, as of September 2017, one cabinet member in five was a woman, up by 10 percentage points.

Revolutions – the cases of Gambia and Tunisia

Political upheavals make headlines; but real change is often slow to materialize. The 2018 data takes stock of governance reforms in Gambia and Tunisia, respectively ten months and seven years after regime change.

Within one year of President Barrow taking office after the watershed election of December 2016, Gambia had achieved meaningful progress toward better governance. Change was, in practice, most remarkable in the independence of the judiciary, access to information, and freedom of association. The government also denounced as unconstitutional the restrictive sedition, criminal defamation, and false publication laws.

The situation in Tunisia has continued to improve across many governance dimensions. In practice, progress was most momentous in public management, where a culture of transparency permeated public procurement and natural resource exploitation. Tunisia, however, suffered consequential setbacks in other areas. One of the most worrisome concerns relate to existing and new NGOs, against which the government has started erecting administrative barriers. Despite permissive legislation, it has now become very difficult for NGOs to obtain the authorization to operate in the country.

Let’s start the conversation

Today’s release of provisional data marks the beginning of a 2-month feedback period during which we invite all interested parties to examine our data prior to final publication in June 2018. If you have comments on specific facts and narratives or if you have suggestions related to the accuracy of our research, please contact us at elsa.peraldi@globalintegrity.org.

If you have general comments and suggestions about how you find the data useful, how you use it, and how it can be improved, please send your feedback using this form or the aforementioned email address. You can also connect with us on Twitter (@GlobalIntegrity).

The original article can be access on the Global Integrity website https://www.globalintegrity.org/2018/04/an-update-on-african-governance-the-africa-integrity-indicators-2018/

State of Access to Information in Africa 2017

In celebration of International Right to Information Day in 2015, the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Campaign and fesmedia Africa released a research study on the state of access to information in Africa. The research provides a useful snapshot of the state of access to information on the continent while providing clear and simple summaries and infographics, measured against the APAI Declaration of Principles.

The study examines Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Of the twelve countries examined, ten have specific access to information laws. Only Namibia and Madagascar did not, though both did have an Access to Information Bill in process. This is encouraging – particularly as in our last survey in 2015 three of the countries we looked at, which we have examined again now, only had a Bill in progress (Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania).

The results across the countries examined revealed that the existence of an ATI law is a necessary, but insufficient, step for ensuring a positive access to information environment. Problems with the implementation of ATI laws often cited a lack of awareness of the laws, and weak political will for implementation, as key inhibitors. Both of these factors highlight the important role ATI activists must play in developing the positive discourse around ATI to both encourage users, as well as bureaucratic and administrative actors.

There is also generally a very weak implementation of proactive disclosure, and low levels of utilisation of Internet and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to facilitate access. Both of these indicators make the reality of open government data, in particular, a problematic area on the continent. Proactive disclosure and open data are vital avenues for access – particularly when we consider the non-existence or weakness of laws, coupled with discriminatory access practices.
A further identified trend is that not a single country cited a practice in the domestic contexts that demonstrated a presumption of openness. While some countries have laws, which provide such a presumption – practice does not correspond with this obligation. This is not surprising when we consider the notes on implementation, but it again means that the reality of trying to access information for citizens is still a struggle on the continent.
There are positive trends however – a steadily increasing number of countries with laws, as well as the growing breadth of application of laws. The AU Model Law stands as a real opportunity, particularly given its credence, for advancing
access to information laws. And the APAI Declaration provides a useful, practical standard for helping to capacitate and reinforce positive access to information practices in the region.

You can download the full report STATE OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION IN AFRICA 2017

 

Authoritarian accountability and accountable authoritarianism

This article was written by Mariz Tadros and first published on the IDS website here

With the proliferation of donor-funded accountability programmes, including in authoritarian settings, are we in danger of mistaking the means for the end? Do accountability tools such as community scorecards, workshops and roundtables, or participatory budgeting provide a convenient “citizen engagement” gloss without seriously probing uneven distribution of power or the stifling of marginalised groups?

It may seem unusual to talk about accountability and authoritarianism in the same breath. And yet multilateral and bilateral donors invest enormous amounts of funding into implementing accountability programmes in authoritarian contexts.

Given that accountability is still important in donor circles, this is unlikely to change any time soon.

The implementation of accountability-promoting programmes in authoritarian contexts is informed by a number of assumptions about how change happens, assumptions very similar to those that informed advocacy promotion initiatives of the 1990s and early 2000s.

These assumptions are that:

  1. Governments have the political will and/or capacity to respond to citizen demands in some way
  2. There is a democratic space (or at least a modicum of it) which allows for expression of citizen voice
  3. There is an understanding of how policy influencing pathways and policymakers work (broadly speaking)
  4. Technical know-how in claims-making will empower local actors to challenge power-holders

The absence of these conditions, or, uncertainty over how they will develop due to high levels of unpredictability, leads to a wide array of relationships that allow for the co-existence of authoritarian rule alongside accountability initiatives. It is probably best to think of them as a spectrum of possible power configurations, that extend from one extreme with authoritarian accountability, to the other with accountable authoritarianism.

Neither, however, are absolute and both shift temporally and spatially as opposed to being binary.

What exactly is Authoritarian Accountability?

At one extreme end of the continuum is when authoritarian systems of governance are kept intact or even strengthened by being associated with Western-style accountability programmes.

When it comes to identifying their impact, this phenomenon very much resembles the democratisation programmes being implemented in authoritarian settings during the 1990s and early 2000s, which Steven Heydemann has described as “upgrading authoritarianism”. Although the case studies he presents are from the Arab world, they are easily applicable to other contexts where authorities are able to effectively accommodate the introduction of measures that give a semblance of tolerating non-state political contestation but in a deeply controlled manner so that they do not pose a threat to the status quo.

Accountability programmes that function in authoritarian contexts without disturbing the status quo in substantial or even marginal ways initially generate win-win situations for donors and governments alike: the former can tick the ‘doing accountability’ box, and the latter can project an image of good relations between the governed and the governing.

In most cases, the label “accountable” is latched onto donor-funded programmes that essentially focus on applying tools and implementing activities. For example:

  • community members using score cards to rank priority measures/areas
  • roundtables between communities and local officials
  • school council meetings involving parents asking for improved educational services, etc.

These measures in and of themselves can be highly participatory and may sometimes even give access to officials that would otherwise not be possible. The problem is, however, they have no teeth because they are undertaken in a very controlled manner and have no roots in the community.

A given regime gains facade of accountability – but little more.

In essence such programmes can be interesting exercises in the application of accountability tools on the ground, which if we acknowledge them as such, at least we are realistic about the limits of donor-induced authoritarian accountability. The tragedy is that they are celebrated, lauded, and applauded as if they are genuine expressions of citizen power.

And what about Accountable Authoritarianism?

At the other end of the spectrum is accountable authoritarianism – when pockets of people or sub-sections within the governance system become responsive to citizen-led demands. Authorities may not  admit to it and their responsiveness doesn’t drastically shake up the status quo.

If the problem with authoritarian accountability discussed above is that it’s an apolitical, technical fix, the problem with accountable authoritarianism is that it does not fit the critics’ conceptual framing of what kind of effect qualifies as an accountability outcome.

In some respects, perhaps they are right. In some contexts where space is so deeply circumscribed, accountability, understood through in the traditional meaning of answerability and sanctions-enforcement, is not going to happen except rarely and on a limited scale, unless there is regime overthrow.

But the tragedy is that this results in accountability struggles being overlooked because we forget that they are operating in contexts where democratic prerequisites, such as enforcement of rule of law, fair process, freedom of expression, freedom of association, etc., are missing.

In fact, there are many accountability struggles occurring in highly authoritarian contexts: how they have framed the issue, their pathways and the kind of power configurations they have shifted have often been nothing short of ingenious.

Take, for example, women and men mobilising in a highly authoritarian context to institutionalise an anti-sexual harassment policy by establishing a unit to respond to violations on a university campus which liaises with police and ensures justice is served. The fact that they are able to make elements of authoritarian systems carve out pathways through which claims-making and redress are possible is highly significant. And it makes authoritarianism accountable in some small way.

These initiatives may not shout “accountability” to an audience acquainted with jargon and recognisable tools/methods (as described above). Instead, they are locally–led, non-projectised and premised on working with the grain of changing political opportunities of influence.

And above, all, the key difference with accountable authoritarianism, is that shifts in power do occur, even if these are temporally and spatially limited.

Authoritarian Accountability and Accountable Authoritarianism: two sides of the same coin?

Some would argue that whichever way you look at it, accountable authoritarianism or authoritarian accountability, the hazards are the same: the appropriation by repressive regimes of accountability initiatives to enhance their external (or even internal) image of tolerance and reasonableness.

For example, in Mubarak’s Egypt, well-intentioned multilateral agencies such as the UNDP sought to foster a culture of respect for human rights among security personnel by inviting them to capacity building workshops with human rights organisations.

Ultimately the programme had the unintended outcome of extending security personnel’s outreach within the human rights sector.

Perhaps another way to describe authoritarian accountability is as “Accountability-lite”. It manifests itself as externally-funded, technical fix-its which are far different from accountability struggles that go some way to making their authoritarian regimes a little more accountable.

The former may not endure because the face-lift it gives to authoritarianism is so contingent upon external drivers in projectivised forms.

The latter are part of people’s struggles to find spaces and niches in which they can extract some accountability while at the same time knowing that the “redlines” of what is politically permissible are changing and unpredictable, and require constant adaptation.

Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) – IDS-led research set in fragile, violent and conflict-affected contexts

In the Action for Empowerment and Accountability programme (A4EA) we continue to explore the tensions and complexities of how accountability “sits” with authoritarian and highly unpredictable systems of governance.

Across very different contexts (Pakistan, Mozambique, Nigeria, Egypt and Myanmar), we at least know that we need to avoid two extremities: overlooking the dangers of donor-led authoritarian accountability programmes that give window-dressing impressions of citizen contestation and under-estimating the potential for power shifts occurring on the margins of the governance systems which go some way to making authoritarianism a little more accountable.

Along the spectrum of different configurations of how authoritarianism and accountability sit together, there will always be many unintended outcomes and ripple effects of both positive and negative kinds, as will be discussed in a forthcoming blog.

This article was written by Mariz Tadros and first published on the IDS website here

Data for Development: What’s next? | Concepts, trends and recommendations

Originally posted by Transparency Initiative and Web Foundation

A major new study by GIZ, World Wide Web Foundation, and IDS suggests this tension between data access and privacy will be impossible to resolve and that privacy “may be used as an excuse to withhold public sector data that could be made open for citizens to advocate for better public services, hold governments accountable and tackle corruption in the public sector.” This is one of six trends the authors chart in big data, open data, citizen-generated data and real-time data.

The exponential growth of data provides powerful new ways for governments and companies to understand and respond to challenges and opportunities. This report, Data for Development: What’s next, investigates how organisations working in international development can leverage the growing quantity and variety of data to improve their investments and projects so that they better meet people’s needs.

Investigating the state of data for development and identifying emerging data trends, the study provides recommendations to support German development cooperation actors seeking to integrate data strategies and investments in their work. These insights can guide any organisation seeking to use data to enhance their development work.

The research considers four types of data: (1) big data, (2) open data, (3) citizen-generated data and (4) real-time data, and examines how they are currently being used in development-related policy-making and how they might lead to better development outcomes.

The full report can be accessed on the Web Foundation website on this link  https://webfoundation.org/research/data-for-development-whats-next-concepts-trends-and-recommendations/

Alternatively, you can access the report on this site’s resource library under literature, social accountability; conceptual.

Which Citizens? Which Services? Unpacking Demand for Improved Health, Education, Roads, Water etc

By Ruth Carlitz of the University of Gothenburg. Originally posted on the From Poverty to Power blog.

Clean water. Paved roads. Quality education. Election campaigns in poor countries typically promise such things, yet the reality on the ground often falls short. So, what do people do? Wait for five years and “throw the bums out” if they fail to deliver? For many people, the stakes are too high, and they may have well-grounded doubts about the ability of democracy to deliver anything other than a new set of bums. It’s worth asking, then, what other actions citizens take to improve their lives.

Building on Richard Batley and Claire Mcloughlin’s work on service characteristics as well as my own research on the politics of service delivery in East Africa, I’ve identified various factors affecting the likelihood that people will mobilize for improved public services. These include how frequently people experience (problems with) a given service, their ability to pay for private alternatives, and their expectations about the likelihood of improvements in response to their actions.

To better understand such dynamics, I’ve begun exploring data from the Local Governance Performance Index survey implemented in Malawi in 2016. The survey asked respondents what problems they faced with a range of issues related to service delivery. Those reporting problems were then asked if they turned to someone for help with the problem, who they turned to and why, whether and how the problem was resolved, and whether they were satisfied with the response.

Carlitz fig 1The figure depicts the main actors people turn to for help. In general people are most likely to turn to family members, friends or neighbors, followed by village leaders. Higher-level government officials are in a distant third place, despite the fact that they may hold much more sway when it comes to influencing outcomes on the ground.

Next, we can look at how demographics affect the likelihood of people turning to different actors. Wealthier respondents and those with more education are less likely to turn to friends and family, perhaps because they have the resources to solve problems on their own. This may also reflect their ability to exit the public system (e.g., going to a private clinic when the public health system falls short). On the other hand, such people are more likely to turn to other government officials, and to school officials – suggesting they may feel more empowered to approach authority figures. Gender also matters. Women are less likely to turn to village leaders or any other government officials but more likely to turn to school officials with their problems – perhaps because they are more involved in their children’s education. Finally, civic skills (having attended a community meeting in the past year) is positively associated with seeking assistance from all actors.

In neighboring Tanzania, recent survey data finds that nearly a quarter of all respondents took action to improve service delivery (education, health, or water) in 2015. The chart on the right unpacks what people meant by “taking Carlitz fig 2action.” Overall, Tanzanians were more likely to attend committee meetings than take any other action. We also see that people were generally more likely to raise issues in smaller group settings rather than more publicly (e.g., by calling in to the radio). Finally, note the low proportions of respondents who report tracking things like drug stockouts, teacher attendance, or water point functionality – suggesting that the focus of many citizen monitoring initiatives (report cards, etc.) may not jibe with people’s normal way of doing things.

When it comes to which citizens are taking action, we see similar results to Malawi. Specifically, civic skills are associated with increases in all forms of action-taking. Women on the other hand are less likely to take action across the board. Wealth matters, though only for actions related to education and health. Respondents who are more informed (listen to the radio more frequently) are also more likely to take actions of all kinds, though it is interesting to note that education levels do not demonstrate any relationship with action-taking. Finally, internal efficacy (belief in one’s own ability to make effective demands) is positively associated with actions related to all sectors, while external efficacy (expectations of government responsiveness to such demands) only seems to matter for water.

The paper I prepared for Twaweza’s recent Ideas & Evidence event digs into these relationships in greater detail. While preliminary, it highlights the importance of paying attention to the ways in which service delivery differs twaweza conferenceacross and within sectors. This is critical when it comes to supporting initiatives to enhance the efficacy of citizen engagement, which, despite having generated mixed results to date, continue to benefit from considerable amounts of funding.

As a final thought, practitioners may wish to consider which aspects of service delivery might be amenable to influence. For instance, establishing community groups could create greater scope for users to share information and coalesce around shared needs. Such groups will likely be more effective when they build on existing institutional channels rather than set up parallel structures. This implies taking time to learn about people’s existing routines for problem-solving, and supporting those strategies which seem to be generating more results. In other words, working with the (local) grain.

Public goods and services can also be distributed in such a way that reduces the availability of exit options. For example, a recent study of handpump distribution in Kenya advises against clustering, as people will be more motivated to maintain their local water points if they don’t have ready alternatives.

Finally, it may also be possible to shift expectations about the possibility of improved service delivery — in particular, providing information in a way that facilitates bench-marking. For instance, learning that everyone in the neighboring district has water piped into their houses when you are spending hours each day collecting buckets from a far-away tap could serve as a tipping point

Where does this leave us? For those of us who earn our keep by cranking out conference papers and journal articles (and the occasional blog) there is much work to be done. Hopefully, such work can help to guide donors when it comes to making impactful investments, and practitioners when it comes to making actual impact.

Originally posted on the From Poverty to Power blog.

Could the open government movement shut the door on Freedom of Information?

By: Suzanne J. Piotrowski, Rutgers University Newark ; Alex Ingrams, Tilburg University, and Daniel Berliner, London School of Economics and Political Science

For democracy to work, citizens need to know what their government is doing. Then they can hold government officials and institutions accountable.

Over the last 50 years, Freedom of Information – or FOI – laws have been one of the most useful methods for citizens to learn what government is doing. These state and federal laws give people the power to request, and get, government documents. From everyday citizens to journalists, FOI laws have proven a powerful way to uncover the often-secret workings of government.

But a potential threat is emerging – from an unexpected place – to FOI laws.

We are scholars of government administration, ethics and transparency. And our research leads us to believe that while FOI laws have always faced many challenges, including resistance, evasion, and poor implementation and enforcement, the last decade has brought a different kind of challenge in the form of a new approach to transparency.

Technology rules

The new kid on the block is the open government movement. And despite the fact that it shares a fundamental goal with the more established FOI movement – government transparency – the open government movement threatens to harm FOI by cornering the already limited public and private funding and government staffing available for transparency work.

The open government movement is driven by technology and seeks to make government operate in the open in as many ways as possible.

This includes not just letting citizens request information, as in FOI, but by making online information release an everyday routine of government. It also tries to open up government by including citizens more in designing solutions to public policy problems.

One example of this hands-on approach is through participatory budgeting initiatives, which allows citizens to help decide, via online and in-person information sharing and meetings, how part of the public budget is spent. Thus, while open government and FOI advocates both want government transparency, open government is a broader concept that relies more on technology and encourages more public participation and collaboration.

One type of open government initiative is data portals, such as Data.gov. Governments post lots of data that anyone can access and download for free on topics such as the environment, education and public safety.

Another popular open government reform is crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing asks the general public to come up with ideas to solve government problems or collect data for government projects. Two popular crowdsourcing initiatives in the U.S. are Challenge.gov and citizen science projects, such as the ones for Environmental Protection Agency where citizens are testing water quality.

Advocates of FOI and open government talk about them in similar ways and indeed participate in many of the same initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership. That initiative is a global partnership of countries that develop multiple types of open government practices like anti-corruption programs, open budgets or crowdsourcing events.

Movements complement each other

The open government movement could help FOI implementation. Government information posted online, which is a core goal of open government advocates, can reduce the number of FOI requests. Open government initiatives can explicitly promote FOI by encouraging the passage of FOI laws, offering more training for officials who fill FOI requests, and developing technologies to make it easier to process and track FOI requests.

There’s a lot to the Freedom of Information Act.
U.S. Department of Justice

On the other hand, the relationship between open government and FOI may not always be positive in practice.

First, as with all kinds of public policy issues, resources – both money and political attention – are inherently scarce. Government officials now have to divide their attention between FOI and other open government initiatives. And funders now have to divide their financial resources between FOI and other open government initiatives.

Second, the open government reform movement as well as the FOI movement have long depended on nonprofit advocacy groups – from the National Freedom of Information Coalition and its state affiliates to the Sunlight Foundation – to obtain and disseminate government information. This means that the financial stability of those nonprofit groups is crucial. But their efforts, as they grow, may each only get a shrinking portion of the total amount of grant money available. Freedominfo.org, a website for gathering and comparing information on FOI laws around the world, had to suspend its operations in 2017 due to resources drying up.

We believe that priorities among government officials and good government advocates may also shift away from FOI. At a time when open data is “hot,” FOI programs could get squeezed as a result of this competition. Further, by allowing governments to claim credit for more politically convenient reforms such as online data portals, the open government agenda may create a false sense of transparency – there’s a lot more government information that isn’t available in those portals.

This criticism was leveled recently against Kenya, whose government launched a high-profile open data portal for publishing data on government performance and activities in 2011, yet delayed passage of an FOI law until 2016.

Similarly, in the United Kingdom, one government minister said in 2012, “I’d like to make Freedom of Information redundant, by pushing out so much data that people won’t have to ask for it.”

Open data, no substitute for FOI

But the World Wide Web Foundation, the founder of the global open data ranking system called the Open Data Barometer, reported in 2015 that the United Kingdom government was using its first place ranking in the Barometer to “justify a (government) mandate to review, and allegedly limit, the Freedom of Information Act.”

Open government programs not mandated by law are easier to roll back than legislatively mandated FOI programs. In the U.S., the Trump administration took down the White House open data portal. The move was immediately condemned by open government advocates, to no avail. In other cases, new open government efforts could hinder existing FOI implementation due to a limited number of staff members assigned to transparency work.

One indication of this is a 2015 Mexican reform that increased the categories of information that government agencies were required to post in the online Portal de Obligaciones de Transparencia.

But the job of identifying and digitizing this information was given to agencies’ existing FOI response units – without any additional staff or resources. This led to severe administrative burdens and, in some cases, slower response times to FOI requests. Meanwhile, the updated portal was criticized for a complicated interface and unreliable or missing information.

Is it possible for open government and FOI to avoid the mistakes seen in the Mexican case? Some experts are optimistic. Beth Simone Noveck, who served as the first United States deputy chief technology officer and director of the White House Open Government Initiative from 2009 to 2011, suggests that “in the long term, FOIA and open data may themselves converge as we move to a future where all government data sits in a secure but readily-accessible cloud.”

The ConversationSuch a happy convergence would require a commitment by government to have any new or merged systems reflect the goals of both FOI and open government. That would mean a system that both supported existing avenues for transparency while also adding new ones. As scholars, we are unclear which direction government will take and thus, whether the public interest will ultimately be served.

Suzanne J. Piotrowski, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), Rutgers University Newark ; Alex Ingrams, Assistant Professor, Tilburg University, and Daniel Berliner, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: FAILURE TO INSTITUTIONALIZE PAST GAINS WEAKENS TRANSPARENCY

Originally published by BY DANIEL HILLER, JASON LAKIN, PH.D., AND JOEL FRIEDMAN INTERNATIONAL BUDGET PARTNERSHIP— MAR 08, 2018

The Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2017 records the first halt in progress on global budget transparency since the survey was launched in 2006. Unlike the small but steady increases seen in past rounds, the global average score on the Open Budget Index (OBI) — the part of the survey that measures budget transparency — actually decreased from 45 to 43 between 2015 and 2017 among the 102 countries included in both rounds.

The modest decline in the global average OBI score is primarily due to changes in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the regional average score fell by 11 points between 2015 and 2017. This decline represents a significant reversal for a region that had been a major driver of the increase in the global average score the previous round. Consider these facts:

  • Between 2012 and 2015, of the 26 Sub-Saharan African countries included in both rounds, 12 increased their scores by more than five points, and only two countries saw their OBI scores decline by more than five points.
  • In contrast, between 2015 and 2017, of the 27 Sub-Saharan African countries surveyed in both rounds, only one country (Senegal) increased its OBI score by more than five points, while the scores of 15 countries in the region declined by more than five points.The decline in this round of the survey largely results from Sub-Saharan African countries publishing 27 fewer documents in 2017 than in 2015, a 21 percent drop.  This included six fewer Executive’s Budget Proposals, a document that receives a significant weight in the OBI as it is the core document that presents and explains a government’s revenue and spending policies and its outlook for the economy. Failure to publish this key document typically results in a much lower country score.

    This notable decline in the number of published budget documents in Sub-Saharan Africa can be partially attributed to an update in how IBP measures “public availability” — i.e., whether citizens have access to the comprehensive and timely information they need to participate in budget decision making and monitoring. For the OBS 2017, only those documents published on a government website in a timely manner are considered to be publicly available. Documents that are posted on the internet are significantly more accessible to the public than hard-copy documents that few may be able to obtain. Internet penetration has expanded rapidly, and civil society organizations can easily print online documents to share with others who do not have internet access. Furthermore, any document that is produced as a hard copy can now easily be posted to a website at minimal cost.

    This update, however, does not account for the entire decline. Absent this change, there still would have been 10 fewer documents published in 2017 than in 2015, including four Executive’s Budget Proposals. IBP undertook various analyses to approximate the impact of this update in the OBS definition of public availability on OBI 2017 scores (see Annex B of the Open Budget Survey 2017). We concluded that even under very generous assumptions, the average score for the region would have fallen, albeit by a smaller amount.

    CAUSES OF THE DECLINE

    IBP has not yet conducted in-depth analyses to determine the factors driving this sharp drop in the average OBI score for the region. But a superficial review reveals that changes in OBI scores in Sub-Saharan Africa are not strongly correlated with changes in indices measuring democracy, income, oil dependence, or human development. These preliminary findings require further investigation.

    The OBS 2017 results suggest that whatever factors contributed to improvements in transparency in the region between 2012 and 2015 were insufficient in maintaining these gains in 2017. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that increased their OBI score by more than five points between 2012 and 2015 declined by more on average between 2015 and 2017 than the countries that were not substantial improvers between 2012 and 2015.

    While this decline in transparency could be reversed in the next round of the OBS, the Sub-Saharan African case highlights the importance of preserving gains over time. Governments should prioritize institutionalizing transparency practices through laws and regulations. Concurrently, civil society should remain vigilant in monitoring their governments to ensure they do not waver in commitments to more transparent and accountable budget systems, and by continuing to advocate for transparency and participation in budgeting and engaging in budget debates.

    The original article can be accessed on https://www.internationalbudget.org/2018/03/sub-saharan-africa-failure-to-institutionalize-gains-weakens-transparency/

The impact of land corruption on women

As part of International Women’s Day, Transparency International is launching the Women, Land and Corruption resource book. This is a collection of unique articles and research findings that describe and analyse the prevalence of land corruption in Africa – and its disproportionate effect on women – presented together with innovative responses from organisations across the continent.

Corruption hits the poorest the hardest, undermining efforts to break the cycle of poverty and further distorting how income, resources and services are shared between women and men. Worldwide, one in five people report having paid a bribe for land services, however, in Sub-Saharan Africa every second client of land administration services is affected.

Women, Land and corruption

Corruption exacerbates gender inequalities in society. Women experience and perceive corruption differently from men and are more vulnerable to specific types of corruption – particularly sexual extortion – due to their social, political and economic roles.

The links between land corruption and women’s wellbeing and prosperity are evident across Africa. Women’s strong dependency on land as a resource means that land corruption disadvantages them more than men. Such corruption takes many forms, including traditions preventing women from inheriting land, bribery and sexual extortion by community leaders and land officials, and multinational investors appropriating land traditionally worked by women. Land corruption increases gender disparities, which undermines women’s livelihoods and social standing and, ultimately, perpetuates poverty.

While awareness of land corruption as a phenomenon has increased over recent years, understanding and recognition of how women are affected differently from men has been lacking. There has been no single source of background information, lessons learnt and approaches to tackling land corruption – as it affects women – to inspire civil society and inform effective policy-making.

Latest research, varied perspectives and diverse responses

The Women, Land and Corruption resource book addresses the need for a consolidated source of information on gendered land corruption. By providing fresh insights from initiatives and organisations – woven together with the latest research from eight African countries – it presents evidence on how women are affected by land corruption together with tailored responses to addressing gender-based inequalities over land.

It includes the following three collections:

Country findings

Empirical evidence on land corruption together with information on legal and policy frameworks drawn from research conducted by Transparency International’s national chapters in eight African countries – CameroonGhanaKenyaLiberiaMadagascarSierra LeoneUgandaZimbabwe. Key findings include:

  • Women are often excluded from negotiations with investors during land deals.
  • Women are less likely to receive adequate compensation for land acquired by external parties.
  • In countries where legislation supports women’s land rights, enforcement is often weak and women’s claims are frequently undermined by traditional practice and custom.
  • Women are particularly vulnerable to sexual extortion, including demands for sexual favours in return for land services.

Supporting arguments

Key international frameworks and critical perspectives, necessary to fully understand – and adequately address – land corruption as it affects women, are offered by a range of authors. They help to place the issue and necessary responses firmly within the global context. Included in this collection are articles that explore the importance of feminism, human rights, international frameworks (such as the Sustainable Development Goals), important African initiatives and much more.

Developing responses

The final section includes a wide range of innovative responses to the intractable challenges of land corruption affecting women, as applied by various civil society organisations across Sub-Saharan Africa. This collection of 14 different practical approaches to overcoming land corruption includes descriptions of:

  • citizen journalism platform for Kenyan women to investigate and document a historical land dispute
  • participatory video project for Ghanaian women to analyse how land corruption prevents widows from realising their land rights
  • open days in rural Uganda that provide unique opportunities for exchanges of information on land governance between women and local officials

Women, Land and Corruption was created as part of Transparency International’s Land and Corruption in Africa programme. It is available to download as a free PDF.

This article was originally published on the Transparency International website: https://www.transparency.org

New South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pledges to ‘turn tide’ on corruption

Originally published on Independent by Christopher TorchiaNqobile Ntshangase

‘We should put behind us the era of diminishing trust in public institutions and weakened confidence in our country’s public leaders,’ says Mr Ramaphosa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a message of optimism and renewal on Friday in his first state of the nation address, saying it’s time for South Africans to put discord behind them and that the country will “turn the tide” on corruption in state institutions this year.

Mr Ramaphosa’s address capped a dramatic week in which he was elected by ruling party lawmakers following the resignation of predecessor Jacob Zuma, whose tenure was marked by corruption scandals. Mr Zuma was supposed to give the speech last week, but it was postponed because of the leadership crisis that fuelled uncertainty and anxiety in the country of 57 million people.

“We should put behind us the era of diminishing trust in public institutions and weakened confidence in our country’s public leaders,” said Mr Ramaphosa, who was Mr Zuma’s deputy before becoming South Africa’s fifth president since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

“A new dawn is upon us,” he said in a speech in parliament that drew applause but was criticised by the opposition as short on meaningful solutions.

“Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan for South Africa is too much of a continuation of the Zuma era,” said Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance. “There is no major policy reform, only some tinkering with the current policies that have not brought change to the lives of our people. There were too many conferences and summits announced, and not enough clear plans for fixing the problems.”

Mr Ramaphosa, 65, faces the hard task of rooting out corruption that flourished in both state enterprises and the private sector under Mr Zuma, implicating figures in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party that he now leads. In addition, he must tackle sluggish economic growth, high unemployment and economic inequality that are among South Africa’s most deep-rooted problems.

The new president said his administration would concentrate on creating jobs and attracting investment, while also possibly downsizing bloated government departments and restructuring state-owned enterprises that are inefficient and prone to corruption.

“This is the year in which we will turn the tide on corruption in our public institutions,” Mr Ramaphosa said. “The criminal justice institutions have been taking initiatives that will enable us to deal effectively with corruption.”

South African authorities want to arrest a key member of the Gupta business family accused of using its links Mr Zuma to influence Cabinet ministers and secure state contracts. The suspect, Ajay Gupta, is considered a fugitive after failing to turn himself in, according to police. Eight people, including a member of the Gupta family, have already been arrested as part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving the Guptas, who deny any wrongdoing.

The family is a flashpoint for national anger over “state capture,” the term used by South Africans to describe an allegedly wide-ranging effort to loot state enterprises under Mr Zuma. Mr Ramaphosa said he supports the work of a judicial commission that is about to investigate the phenomenon, but one opposition leader said the new president would have to turn on his own political party if he is serious about fighting graft.

“He must arrest his own colleagues because they are corrupt,” Julius Malema, head of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, told eNCA media.

A figure under scrutiny over his relationship with the Guptas is Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, who is scheduled to unveil the South African budget in parliament next week. Opposition parties say Mr Ramaphosa would be sending the wrong message if he allows Mr Gigaba to deliver the budget speech, though the new president has yet to announce any Cabinet reshuffle plans.

 Mr Ramaphosa was a lead negotiator in the transition from apartheid to democracy and became one of South Africa’s most prominent businessmen. He now leads a government anxious to shed months of political limbo and public frustration, and the strengthening of the South African currency, the rand, against the dollar is an indicator of optimism over Mr Ramaphosa’s ascent.

However, the new leader indicated he is aware there are no easy fixes to South Africa’s challenges, which date from the era of apartheid a generation ago.

“We remain a highly unequal society in which poverty and prosperity are still defined by race as well as gender,” he said.

The original article can be found on this link http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/south-africa-president-cyril-ramaphosa-speech-corruption-turn-tide-a8214911.html