Just my thoughts on International Development – Governance, Data and Technology
Author: Oludotun Babayemi
I work on for profit or not - for - profit projects as a Project Planner, Grant Writer and Information Manager.11 years ago, I started Cloneshouse Nigeria, 10 years ago, I started Follow The Money, with a Colleague in 2012, a citizen-led movement that promotes social accountability in rural communities, which a year after, got registered legally as Connected Development [CODE]. In the past 7 years, I have evaluated projects on Water, Power, Education, Health, Disaster Risk in Nigeria, and West Africa countries with the United Nations and the Japan International Corporation Agency. Education and Fellowships include Stanford University, USA; Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; School of Data, Open Knowledge International, UK; USAID - Crisismappers. I Tweet @dotunbabayemi and am an email away at email@example.com
According to the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS, 2013), 9 out of every 10 women in Sokoto and Zamfara deliver their child at home. Also, it is highly unlikely that a woman will deliver a child, in a private hospital in – Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa, Kebbi, Yobe, Katsina and Kano. Interact with the visualization here and found out the facility that is most used by women to deliver a child in your state.
The chart above shows the Percent distribution of live births between 2008 and 2012 delivered at home and in private hospital, according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS),2013.
Twenty-three percent of deliveries occur in public sector facilities, and 13 percent occur in private sector facilities. Sixty-three percent of births are delivered at home in Nigeria. It is highly likely that you will deliver your baby at home if you are from the North Western region of Nigeria, with Sokoto and Zamfara State having the highest percentage of home deliveries. It is unlikely to give birth at home if you are from the South Eastern region of Nigeria with Imo State having the least percentage of home deliveries.
In the second quarter of 2018, popular messaging application WhatsApp achieved 450 million daily active users and it is becoming a favourite technology tool to mobilize citizens and form groups across borders. In 2017, all activists I interviewed in West Africa, for the handbook on Accountability Technologies confirmed that this is becoming a great new tool to mobilize citizens. However, it can be daunting getting citizens and government on the same platform as alluded by Abdul from Network Movement for Democracy and Human Right (NMDH) in Sierra Leone. On NMDH community service delivery project, they added government and Civil Society Organization (CSO) members to a WhatsApp group to exchange information on what concerned government officials can quickly respond to, as it regards service delivery in the health sector. After sometimes, the government officials on the platform had to leave because of false information shared.
Before the 2015 elections in Nigeria, I was able to coordinate 879 election observers in 26 states of the country using WhatsApp as one of the reporting tools for our Ushahidi platform. The WhatsApp group were created for the 26 states, while coordinators were chosen to lead the administration of each group. Police Monitor, an initiative of the Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN) uses its WhatsApp group to mobilize journalists and activists to hold the police in Nigeria accountable for human rights abuses. The WhatsApp group also had police officials who responded to these abuses. The initiative has since moved to Telegram, as WhatsApp could not contain its over 250+ members. In 2016, when CODE’s Follow The Money was initiating the decentralization of its campaigns, it piloted communications with members using WhatsApp. A group was created by regions for members. After piloting this for 4 months, it became chaotic, as knowledge was lost, and new members couldn’t have access to initiate conversations. The WhatsApp groups have been closed, while the architecture has been transferred to a niche network.
Creating groups on WhatsApp can be frustrating for the administrators, but these simple steps could make it easy to use to meet your objectives. Just in case you have more tips, feel free to put them in the comment box.
Know the objective of setting up the groups and write down your rules of engagement on the team based on this goal. It is essential to think through what you will achieve with your group, to reduce distractions.
Before adding people to the WhatsApp group, inform them about your objective and that you will like to add them to your team. This will allow you to communicate your objective to them, and get feedback from people that will decline.
Add those that agreed to be on the platform and then post guidelines and rules of engagement.
As the creator of the group, you must be ready to engage members on issues related to your objective. Set the tone. Some teams fix a time in a week to discuss accountability issues, while another post can be a discussion of the critical problems related to the group objective. Some choose a day for general topics. Most WhatsApp groups are distractions, scheduling conversations could be more fruitful than a free to post at any time, anything – group.
At the beginning of 2018, I embarked on a 26 – day ethnography study, to know the number of fake news that is shared within WhatsApp groups that I belong. The results were shocking and worrying – at least, 3 different unverified and fake news is been shared within 2 days, in six groups. That’s 18 fake stories within 2 days, and 234 fake stories within the 26 days. What is more worrying is that the target groups were civil society activist group. Today alone, you might have received tens to hundreds of WhatsApp messages, Facebook Posts, and Twitter Messages. It is highly likely that some of those messages might be unverifiable and false, most times – false alarm. So what about those from the mainstream media – TV, Radio, and Newspapers? They are complicit as well, but owing to their regulation, false information from them might not spread as fast as information dissemination medium that is internet based. As changemakers, in our various domains, we have the civic duty to verify information and use evidence-based information to engage critically. This article is about strategies you can use to halt the spread of false and unverified news. A society should not be built on propaganda, false alarms and untrue information, but by critical thinking and evidence-based discussions.
False news, misinformation and propaganda has lived with us since the beginning of the world, through the medieval age, and the renaissance time. Noam Chomsky’s classic – Manufacturing Consent, gave a detailed picture of how countries, organizations, and individuals have utilized propaganda as a tool to suppress and misinform rivals. It has become more ubiquitous because of the proliferation of the internet. As of today, there are 3.9 billion internet users. That’s about a 42% increase in people using the internet in just three years. The social media gains 840 new users each minute. Since 2013, the number of Tweets each minute has increased 58% to more than 455,000 Tweets per minute in 2017. Since 2013, the number of Facebook Posts shared each minute has increased 22%, from 2.5 Million to 3 million posts per minute in 2016. This number has increased more than 300 per cent, from around 650,000 posts per minute in 2011!
Remember, you are the first line of defence against false information. When you see one, stop it, and give reasons why the story should not be trusted. Together, we can halt the spread!
1. Consider the source. Are you familiar with the source? Is it Legitimate? Has it been legitimate in the past? If not, you may not want to trust it. If it is a WhatsApp message with no source included, ask for the source of the information from the poster.
2. Read beyond the headline. if the headline is provocative, read all the write – up before passing along the information. Even when the information is legitimate, the headline might not tell the whole story. For example, “Jonathan Bribed lawmakers with 17 billion Naira to pass the budget – Okonjo Iweala”. That is a provocative headline, which ends up untrue.
Also, there are some screaming headlines designed to pull a fast one on the reader. These posts are designed to encourage clicks and generate money for the creator through ad revenue, but they aren’t news.
3. Check the Author’s credential. If it was sent to you without an author, ask the sender who the author was. You can then look up the Author’s name using Google Search.
4. What’s the support sources? Many times, false news or stories will cite official – or official sounding sources, but once you look into it, the source doesn’t back up the claim. For example, there is a false news that the state house budgeted 70 million for the presidency haircut in the Nigeria 2018 budget, but if you check the 2018 approved budget details, Page 118 which has the statehouse budget have nothing of such in the budget line.
5. Double Check the Reference or Source Given. Some false information is not completely fake, but a distortion of real events. They take legitimate stories and twist it, or even claim that something that happened long ago is related to current events. Recently, there was a news that former minister of finance, Okonjo Iweala, in her new book – Fighting Corruption is Dangerous, The Story Behind the Headlines said Jonathan bribed the National Assembly before they could pass the 2015 budget. However, if you flip to Page 80 of the book, where you have a related story, it was not true.
6. Check your biases. Confirmation bias leads people to put more stock in information that confirms their beliefs and discount information that doesn’t. The next time you are automatically appalled at some social media post concerning, say a politician you oppose, take a moment to check it out. Try this:
What other stories have been posted to the news website that is the source of the story that just popped up in your social media feed? You may be predisposed to believe a story about a politician you don’t like but if the alleged news site also features a story about a football match involving India and Nigeria that ended 99 – 0 in favour of India maybe you should think twice before sharing. And that’s actually a fake news that has been around since the 80’s 😉
The Gambia, with a population of 203,850 spends the most per person – calculated at US$1,867 per person in 2016. In 2016, it had an estimated budget of US$380 million, just 128 million more than Guinea Bissau, which has the least budget of US$ 252 million.
Guinea Bissau with US$1359 per person and Cape Verde with US$797 per person have the second and third position of country government spending the most on her citizens respectively. Does this mean when you have a country with fewer people, your expenditure per person will be high? Yes!
Let’s compare Ghana and Nigeria. Ghana is the second most populated country in West Africa with 28 million people, while Nigeria is the most populated with 185 million people. Nigeria’s budget (US$23 billion) is a double of what Ghana budgets (US$ 11 billion) for its people. Notwithstanding, Ghana with US$ 425 is the fourth country that her government spends, the most, on her citizen, while Nigeria hangs at the bottom, fourth from the last spending US$125 per person.
In a recent survey of 23 non-profit organizations, working in 18 countries in West Africa, on making their government accountable, 86% affirmed that the radio had become a useful tool in mobilizing citizens to take action. 74% of the respondents also said that Radio is the most effective tool to use in getting a response from a government agency. Furthermore, in my case study of 9 non – profit organization in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, I found out that the most effective technology tool to mobilize citizens and also to get government response is the Radio. Its reach, cost-effectiveness, and popular culture set it apart from new technologies such as Facebook and Twitter whose growing penetration are stagnated by the accessibility and affordability of the internet in this region.
Almost every household in Africa has a Radio, and it has become the most used medium to get information. In the four countries – Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia, 8 in 10 people have mobile phones. The proliferation of mobile phones is commendable, which has also led to the integration of the Radio, and the Internet. However, only 3 out of 10 are using the internet in West Africa according to the 2017 United Nations World Statistics Pocketbook. Although one might argue that access to the internet has been encouraging in the region, I think its effectiveness remains in the kind of usage. For instance, does the larger population use the internet to listen to music, mobilize themselves or use it for intellectual research or discussion?
A recent study of the report published by Cable UK on the cost of broadband internet in 196 countries showed that the average price paid for internet in 10 West African countries is $226 in a month. In this region, six out of ten people live under US$1.90 in a day, as such, it becomes difficult to afford US$50 for internet per month. It is only a few people living in city centres that can afford to pay for internet to access Facebook, Twitter or even read emails. On the other hand, with less than US$1 you can purchase a Radio, and get information from several channels. Nevertheless, one might not want to overlook the partnership initiated by Facebook with some mobile internet providers, in which Facebook is accessed free of charge on feature phones. Whether this will become a norm, we will see in the near future.
In Africa, it is not unusual to see people craving to listen to someone speaking in their local language. 22 out of the 30 most linguistically diverse countries in the world are in Sub – Saharan Africa. 7 out of them are in West Africa. It is a culture, and this is how Radio is used to take the conversation of citizens engagement to people in West Africa. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are put together in languages that are not inherent in West Africa countries. This might point to the cultural norms theory which indicates that media tend to establish the standards or norms which define acceptable behaviour in society. The use of local languages in radio programming is becoming more appealing to the larger population in West Africa as seen in countries like Nigeria, where stations using local languages have the highest listeners.
If it is true that technology is moving faster than the human race, then the potentials in early technologies like the Radio, might be revisited. Perhaps, several integrations to make it more responsive to 2 -way conversations might be a welcome idea. For democratic enthusiasts, if Radio is still the favourite media in which the bottom billion gets their information, it would be of interest to curate programming that promotes democratic values in local languages. Again, It is no gainsaying that social media is becoming popular among the young generation in this region, however, I can argue that only a few participate in governance issues on-the-ground. If you feel otherwise, or think something might be missing, please feel free to comment below.
These are some of the results of my research on digital tools used by civil society organizations in West Africa to promote democratic accountability.A more detailed version of this topic will be published in an online handbook titled Accountability Technologies.
However, in Sub-saharan Africa, Cote d’Ivoire internet price is ranked 5th cheapest behind Reunion, Mauritius, Mayotte, and South Africa. Comparing it to the world price, it is ranked 102nd cheapest. Cheaper than Norway, Australia, New Zealand and the United States!
Burkina Faso is the most expensive country to use the fast internet in West Africa and amongst 196 countries of the World. You will need to pay US$977.63 monthly to get a fast internet in the country, that’s more than the total amount you pay in a year if you are in Cote d’Ivoire.
Recently, I have heard my mentees ask networks they could join since they are interested in Nonprofit Management. I took time to do some research on available ones, and also the one that I have joined, and in which their conversations have really helped in my work. Please find below this nine, and if you know of any other great ones, please add them in the comment box, I will add them to the list. The world will be glad you did!
With 17,582 members (last accessed, November 6, 2017), the group is focused on developing a strong image for your non-profit. Discussions are around accounting, fundraising, marketing and human resource.
Have 22,920 members (last accessed, November 6, 2017). It provides a forum to discuss new ideas, strategies and challenges faced by professionals, and also a platform for networking with other professionals.
This is the largest nonprofit group on LinkedIn with 254,716 members (last accessed, November 6, 2017). There are general discussions from organization management to program management, trade, sustainability et al. Members can actually invite other members.
If you are looking for a learning community on the responsibility of board members in a nonprofit organization, then you should be here. Every founder, board member, aspiring nonprofit professional should endeavour to share experience and learn from this group. There are 11,085 members (last accessed, November 6, 2017) that discuss challenges facing nonprofit boards!
Have 18,014 members (last accessed, November 6, 2017) sharing ideas, asking advice from people who work in the same thematic areas. Are you trying to get your head around a burning issue with your nonprofit, then get – in now!
Have 119,496 members (last accessed, November 6, 2017). In this group, you can connect with other nonprofit professionals, find out about latest online events and job openings. Welcome to the World of Philanthropy!
Know of any other great group, kindly comment with the name of the group and link to the group. I will be glad to add them to the list. Holla!
The Third most downloaded World Bank document is the 2016 World Development Report titled Governance and Law. Perhaps, for two reasons – There is a significant drop in trust for the government of countries (both developed and developing), as such citizens and government are curious about how to strengthen governance while upholding the rule of law. Secondly, there are now more people having access to the internet.
“Corruption undermines development. We are committed to radical transparency to solve government problem especially in service delivery” said Jim Yong Kim, President of The World Bank Group at the opening of the 4th Global Partnership for Social Accountability Forum held between October 30 – November 1 at the World Bank Headquarters. 250 expected participants flew over 50 countries and attended ten plenary sessions. My initial thoughts were what can the bank do differently, especially with political distrust in governance, and the quest for people to survive, rather than hold government accountable by grassroots mobilization or the use of technology (where it is affordable and useable). Amidst networking and meetings, I pulled off these takeaways, while hoping the bank, its lenders and monitoring teams will take heed. If you are paranoid or feeling Jiggy like me, please feel free to add your comments as well, maybe relief will come, after our medicine.
For citizens to trust the government, the government needs to become politically accountable, and it will not happen overnight. However, significant progress can be made if the bank can create new metrics to provide loans for its borrowers (government of countries who still live large at the expense of their poor citizens). If there is less trust in government, the resultant will also be in the Bank as well. Perhaps, it might be pertinent for the Bank to re-initiate its approach of giving more emphasis to building capacity and institutions within developing countries. The Bank itself needs to start talking to political power by proposing policies that must address the underlying conditions that create corrupt incentives as highlighted by Michael Johnston in the Syndrome of Corruption
In some of the discussions regarding technology, it affirms my experience working with government institutions in Sub Saharan Africa, that capacity to implement remains low. In my last evaluations of four countries in Africa, only Cape Verde has government official email. That’s not encouraging. The government in Sub Saharan Africa still lacks fundamental skills relevant to today’s business. It means government response to citizens yet entails the traditional method. It means the ease of doing business with prospective investors and regulation of private sectors remain tasking for both sides. Metrics could be developed on ensuring performance metrics of government officials are made available by countries requesting financial instruments from the bank. Radical civil service reforms like the thoughtful reshuffling of personnel and recruitment practices could be encouraged.
The Civil Society Space is becoming endangered. Only 26 countries in the world allow people to freely share opinions, robustly debate ideas and hold those in power to account. “Government are thinking social accountability noise is becoming more and more, and also it’s becoming uncomfortable to the traditional development enterprise” Tom Carothers, Senior Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace mentioned during the closing panel of the forum. We might want to think that when the civil society has more capacity than that of the government, the government gets frustrated, and resort to delegitimizing them – a case we have seen in most countries coming up with new regulations to shut down civil societies. There are growing threats, more than before. Non-Government Organizations and Civil Society Organizations might need to strengthen their legitimacy while aligning their strategies to be more social movement focused, in a way where the marginalized they speak for, act as advocates for themselves. How can the international community help? Already there are international principles protecting civil society around the world, I will think international financial institutions should step up enforcement in this regards, so this instrument might not just serve as paper documents!
Technology is a tool and not the end while Social Media is not Social. In Africa, only 3 out of every 10 people have access to the internet while 2 out of 10 are on Facebook. This means a larger percentage of the population are left out on access, and maybe, affordability. What this might mean to me might be that a significant amount of people that vote during elections, might not have access to these tools to mobilize themselves. But who mobilized them at first to go to the poll? How can we learn from that, and use the same way to mobilize citizens to hold their leaders accountable? Whether we still need to rely on offline technologies to mobilize people. Prints, radio and TV – That’s the real work for civil society organizations. In sub-Saharan Africa, 8 in 10 people have mobile phones. Not smartphones. But the silicon valley has moved 100 times farther away from its bottom billion, failing to realize that the feature phones remain ubiquitous in the hands of these people that we need to move out of poverty. When we can mobilize more people, “living no one behind”, perhaps the government will respond.
Meanwhile, we should not let it look like demanding social accountability is going to be easy. It is easier where the literacy level is high. I guess. We must start from somewhere! It starts with people exchanging knowledge and networking in a forum like this. I will like to read your thoughts as well, and I look forward to reading your comments below.
Because the world needs a radical solution right now, accepting to attend the Radical Networks Conference in Brooklyn, New York City between October 19 – 22, wasn’t a bad idea. It was thorough days of examining the exegesis of technology, and I think many participants will accept we need to re-think how we are churning out technologies and how it is being used.
Many thanks to Andy for insisting I must attend, and that there are radical people like us that will want to connect with my work. Likewise, this a core area of my work as a Reagan – Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).I liked the progressive but was the three days event radical enough, I think so. Aside from that, I enjoyed my stay in Brooklyn – bringing back memories of Biggie and the great poet rapper -Nas. At least a memorable get-away from the official life of Washington DC, and I would not have stayed without sharing this five big takeaways from the erudite presenters at the event.
It is more rewarding to create technology for community networks that meet the needs of its communities. For instance, a community might decide to build its internet and use the internet for sharing security alerts within its neighbourhood. An example is the Redhook Wifi in Brooklyn; Peoples Open Network in San Francisco; Commons Telecommunications Network in Catalonia, Spain. “Less is more, the initiation of technology need not be sacrificial, and should not be done by sense of obligation” Dave Evans mentioned as he relates technology networks to the medieval Europe where the monks have to abstain from sensual pleasure for pursuing spiritual goals. In essence, you can decide to opt out of Facebook and create your network of communication. I refer to it as your decolonization from “their internet”.
2. Technology is making us inhuman as described by Bret Victor in “The Humane Representation of Thought.” In the last twenty years, technology has been about the four rectangle screen, changing from computers, to mobile phones, to smartphones. The real representation of thoughts and knowledge remain in the print technologies, in the form of books. “The kind of connection you have with books is not same as the one you have on a computer” Noah Cawley, A Senior Software manager at Nike mentioned in his presentation. The rate at which silicon valley is churning out technology is inversely proportional to the way the human brain will adapt or adopt the technology. Consequently, we should be thinking of how to decentralize critical infrastructures of technology, so it will be easier for niche networks to co-operate, coordinate, identify and take consensus on their network.
3. The Internet Wave is not meant to protect you by default, and you must defend yourself and be tactical in using tools associated with it. “Social Media is cool, but Facebook is a fuss” Nick Briz highlighted. I think this is not far-fetched anymore with the revelations from the voting influence pattern of the 2016 elections in the USA, and how “powerful people” that can control the internet can make bots and trolls to pass false information to millions of people on the internet. Brannon Dorsey shared how he used bots to generate Terabytes of Data in 24 hours! Danja Vasiliev and Julian Oliver, known as Critical Engineers, defined the internet as a deeply misunderstood set of technologies upon which we increasingly depend.In as much as I agree with them, I also think there is the other edge, in which internet has allowed people to collaborate more than before, and it has taken more people out of poverty. However, in doing this, we need to pay attention to literacy, and those that do not have access.
5. But if technologists or programmers are not paying attention to peoples core needs, how do we then reverse engineer technology that can change the society? “Technology can solve every problem we mention in the world” affirmed Alfredo Lopez of May First, who asked all participants to discuss what we can do better to make this happen. After a 30 minutes group discussion, out of the 17 outlined pertinent issue, we should be considering, education and governance of technology came out resounding. Maybe this might be the way to go, as technology alone itself remains a tool, but other factors like “edugovernance” might be worth focusing on. What do you think? I will like to read your thoughts on this.
The 17 countries in West Africa has a population of 374, 691, 249, and the median age of citizen in these countries remain at 18. But what’s the age of their leaders? As at October 9, 2017, the average age of the leaders of all West African countries stands at 65. That’s 17 years older than the moribund Transrapid 449km/hour train used in Germany between 1969 and 2008! Alpha Conde of Guinea, a country with a population of 12 million, remains the oldest West African president. Faura Gnasibe of Togo, at 51, is the youngest president in West Africa.