Financial Mail: Check up on government

Screengrab from Financial Mail site
Screengrab from Financial Mail site

In 2017 I did quite a lot of research and writing on civic technology – how technologies are being used to strengthen links between people, their governments, civil society organisations, and services. Civic tech is used to give citizens a voice, to help them access public or civil society provided services and – critically – to help them keep government accountable.

One of the features I did was for the Financial Mail – rounding up what open data (in South Africa) is available, from where, and how is it being used:

Below is an extract of the article. For the full piece, click here.

Civic Technology
Check up on government

SA is behind on its commitments to make “open data” more easily accessible to its citizens, despite having signed an undertaking to do so.

The term “open data” refers to freely available and sharable public information. The argument behind the open data movement is that information about, for example, service provision, budgets, crime stats and population demographics, must be at hand (and needs to be scrutinised) to promote accountability and responsive governance.

SA is a signatory to the Open Government Declaration, and has been a founding member of the Open Government Partnership since 2011.

The partnership is a voluntary organisation that promotes commitment to open data, and the declaration calls on members to “increase the availability of information about governmental activities”, “support civic participation”, “promote administrative integrity”, “increase access to new technologies for openness and accountability” and “lead by example” in these endeavours.

The efforts are guided by country action plans, and SA’s is co-ordinated by the department of public service & administration.

But as Corruption Watch reported earlier this year, SA has made good on just one of the 15 commitments — establishing an anticorruption hotline — over two terms. And that hotline was set up before it signed the declaration.

SA’s second end-of-term report by the partnership found that by the end of 2015 the country had made “substantial” progress on three commitments and “limited” progress on four. As to whether these efforts opened up government, the report qualifies the metrics as “did not change” and “marginal”.

A third national action plan was launched for the period up to the end of this year that includes some new and some carry-over commitments, including “open budgeting”.

So where is SA on the open data journey? What is now available, and how is it being used?

Again, for the full piece, click here.

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