sharing in governance of extractive industries
The Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University has just released a report relevant to this topic.
Increased access to the internet combined with the lowering cost of digital media, such geographical positioning systems and video cameras, are supporting a wave of social and technical innovations aiming to empower citizens in developing countries to access information and organise themselves to affect positive social change.
These developments have gained momentum in the last three years, through the use of 'open' information and communication technologies (ICTs), which include open source software programmes and digital data repositories that can be freely used and modified. These resources are seen to support new architectures of participation that are enabling citizens in the South to produce and access critical information for the lives and livelihoods in settings where formal development actors have failed to do so.
You can read more here:
The architecture of the information will be determined by the nature of the information one wishes to disseminate and the targeted audience. It is not unlike designing a building; the purpose of the edifice influences its design. Whichever means of information technology planners decide on in the future for consumption by the so-called vulnerable and marginalized, the cat is already out of the bag. Information of all sorts, whether good or bad for vulnerable and marginalized people of the world is already out there through existing technologies of the transistor radio, CNN and now the ubiquitous mobile phone. And of course the worldwide internet. The latter makes me very nervous!
Because I often wonder if the "things" that I can access here are also accessible to some class one kid in say, Bulawayo whose parents happen to have a desktop with internet access. It frightens me. Because, there's danger in ideas, especially if the receipient is ill prepared for how to manage the knowledge for a good course.
Therefore, while there's now this clarion call for freedom of information for all, purpoting that those marginalized people in some god-forsaken reaches of the world will overnight rise up and throw away the shackes of oppression and rightfully claim what is due to them, let us be careful what we advocate for and how it should be achieved. In other words, let us not throw caution to the wind.
Eng. Ahmed Finoh
Dear Ahmend Finoh,
Thank you for your comment.
The Transparency and Accountability Initiative has also released a document on this.
This paper documents current trends in the way technology is being used to promote transparency in different parts of the world. It reviews over 100 projects from across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, examining how new technologies are re-energising traditional methods. In particular, it focuses on how these new technologies are helping to engage different actors from citizens, media, authorities and the private sector.
The research finds promising success stories alongside less accomplished examples. The authors argue that a key element of successful technology use in transparency and accountability efforts is their speed – both in execution and in stimulating change. Well-designed efforts produced relevant and usable information that can be used to demand accountability quickly. Technology for transparency and accountability tools need not be sophisticated, but it does need intelligent design that is relevant to the local context. Projects also have a better chance of effectively producing change when they take a collaborative approach, sometimes involving government.
The paper includes a summary of the key findings and recommendations for further research in key areas of this field.
Read more here:
Thank you for posting this report. This ties in nicely with Ian Gary's recent post on growing support for "Free, Prior, Informed Consent." http://goxi.org/profiles/blogs/growing-support-for-community
I believe that open data initiatives and digital media can play an important role in the extractive industries where, to date, clear, unbiased information and open channels of communication have been missing. The lack of meaningful information (meaningful for the concerned communities) reduces the likelihood of "informed" consent.
When company and government officials visit villages to talk about future projects ("consulting"), who attends the meetings? Do they clearly explain the pros and cons or is the emphasis on the benefits the project will supposedly bring to the communities? Can communities share information among themselves or ask follow-up questions? Do NGOs who visit communities (often with a more nuanced view of the "benefits" of a given project) have the means to get their information out to all concerned?
And once a project is underway, how do community members communicate with government and company officials? In the case of grievances, where do people go?
In my experience (limited, but I think fairly representative) the lack of accessible information is a huge problem for frontline communities. I'm particularly interested in bringing the tools of participatory, citizen journalism to communities who face the challenges of oil development. There are certainly many technical hurdles to overcome, but creating an online platform (with a SMS interface) where all stakeholders can access and share information; where citizens can ask questions, dialogue with officials (if they are willing to participate, of course), post environmental alerts, etc. ought to benefit all parties.
I am working on getting such a project off the ground in Ghana and would like to hear from people interested in these issues.