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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
South Africa has three times, the total electricity generation capacity of all the 18 countries in West Africa! Currently, the electricity sector in the West Africa States provides power supply to only about 30% of the population. The region’s maximum load is just above 10,000 MW as against a total energy demand of approximately 50,000 GWh, out of which over 85% is accounted for in the three primary electricity exporting countries (Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire), with nearly 57 % for Nigeria alone. Are solutions far-fetched?
1. Political will is essential. It will take fifteen years to get power to every household in the country. Nigeria, which has 60% of the total population of West Africa will need 200,000 MW for its growing population. With lessons from Turkey, it took them 14 years to add 42,000MW to their electricity generation capacity, to make it to the present 70,000MW. Consequently, reforms such as recasting of the earlier players involved in the privatisation deals. The Ministry of Power itself would need to invest in long years of capacity building and sophisticated information technology systems that will avail it proper monitoring and implementation mechanisms. The Ministry might also want to do away with the numbers of regulatory agencies involved in the market presently. In doing this, the government would have built credibility for private investors.
It will take fifteen years to get power to every household in the country if reforms is focused on capacity to implement.
2. Open The Market. The present framework which states that investors should return a certain percentage to the grid might be a turn in the neck for business. Gas and Coal will be dominant technologies by 2040. So, why not allow investors to propose the energy mix they will be involved in, while the Ministry of Environment intervene in making sure proper Environmental Impact Assessment is done. The present grid system needs to be overhaul as there are several deficiencies in the system and infrastructures that power it. For instance, estate associations can decide to contribute and develop their energy system, while the government focuses on generating revenue in the form of tax from such arrangement. Community associations can as well agree on affordable electricity generating systems that government can advise on.
3. The Demand Side Myth. Private investors will only survive in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Portharcourt, Abia and Kano. This is where you have the semi-urban centres of Nigeria, and also where industries are, as such, they have people that can actually pay for power. What happens to the remaining 120 million? 80% of them live under the poverty line, and might not be able to afford to pay power bills. From lessons from the present privatization, it will be advisable for the government to focus on such communities, while it leaves private sectors to operate in the semi-urban centres. Also, citizens should know that they must protect the present infrastructures from vandals. They were all constructed using our money collected as tax, bills and rates.
In the last three months, I worked as an embedded fellow, consulting with Women Environmental Programme (WEP), by sharing data skills, and working on a data project with the team in their Nigeria office. The timing seems right. Not only is the information revolution upon us but trends towards democratization, government decentralization and economic liberalization have profoundly reshaped how universities, NGOs and other public-interest organizations do their work, thus, presenting them with new challenges and opportunities.
Getting to Know the Team
But how has it been like, working with Women Environment Programme in the last few months? WEP works basically on women’s empowerment across the world, and as their name implies, most of their work is focused on advocacy for women. I spent 2 hours highlighting what the needs were for a data project, and for sustainability reasons, I developed a questionnaire to ascertain the level of knowledge and skills of the team I will be working within days to come.
In human capacity building, we refer to this as a bottom-up approach. Ninety percent of the staff mentioned that they wanted to learn more about PDF extraction. Simple right? That’s what you get from questionnaires, but in the real world, while I was conducting training, they found out that they needed more, and you know what more means in the short time-frame of 6 weeks? Information overload! Here’s a brief look at the topics we covered and the feedback we received.
Exposing the Wealth of Open Tools
While highlighting data projects we could work on, such as creating advocacy products from citizen surveys, I was focused on getting some of the team members to be able to use some of the tools I introduced them to – Timeline.js for creating project or campaign timelines; Infogr.am for creating visualizations; Google Fusion Tables for publishing; licensing data using Creative Commons; Google Form for Surveys, using the Kobo Toolbox; analyzing and visualizing qualitative data using Wordle and a bunch of tools that can save them time in achieving their various tasks.
What did I get from working with them on using some of these tools? “Strinkwish” as some of the staff will say, as we engaged in hands-on training on each tool. During one of the sessions, I had to ask, and they told me it’s an organizational coined word, meaning extraordinaire! Hope you also have an organizational dictionary.
Evaluating the effects of capacity development, such as this, is not straightforward and the short- and longer-term perspectives need to be considered.In the short term though, staff mentioned how this has been helpful in their work:
“I am so excited that I could quickly use Tabula to extract pdf files, and also create a visualization for qualitative analysis”, Evelyn Ugbe, a Programmes Officer at WEP said as she was working on her new report on women advocacy.
With hands-on training like this, one cannot really measure the level of impact until you ask what participants have learnt, and I was amazed by the response of the staff after having 3 sessions with them. Another comment from staff member Emmanuel sheds light on the organisational-level improvements:
“It’s such a right time to have you. I am head of human resources and using Google Drive, coupled with the Google Fusion Tables had made my task easier, especially that I have been able to create a collaborative way, of getting feedback from staff”.
So in the short term, increases in knowledge and skills can be measured and in the longer term, one can measure whether people are doing things differently as a result of the capacity building by applying the skills they learned. I will be looking out for this, in the coming months.
Building Infrastructural Capacity Building is Paramount
With my experience of training and coaching staff and individuals, I have come to realize that skills and knowledge of trainees might not be enough, especially when it is within an organization: the system development capacity and organizational development capacity (described above) are more important and often unrecognised. As such, I was not surprised at times when some hands-on sessions became frustrating for the team because of the unreliable and slow internet. At one point I needed to bring my internet router, so I could get my rhythm on. Also, when one of the staff members, Elizabeth, tells me her computer just keeps going off because her laptop battery isn’t working and power isn’t stable, I was drawn to how critical infrastructural efficiency lies at the foundation of successful open data capacity building.
I was also able to identify that WEP needs a simple and slick website together with an email hosting service that allows staff to easily exchange information for its kind of work. Gai Cliff, a Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at WEP asked in one of the sessions about one of the those I had introduced to them, “So how do we get the paid version, we are limited to some added functionality. Do you always get this when you do hands-on training using open-source tools?”. I had this several times! I like the fact that we had some talks about this challenges, and how going forward this can be sorted so we can easily publish some of the advocacy works I will be producing from the data projects.
“Olu, we will love to continue this in the coming year so you can produce our advocacy materials. These sessions have been helpful for my team, and also that you can play an advisory role on the organizational capacity development”, Priscilla Achakpa, the Chief Executive Officer at WEP mentioned. “Absolutely” I replied while thinking of my calendar for the first quarter of the coming year, and also visualizing the support each of the staff had requested for, which I think could do well to accomplish the long term goals of this fellowship, and as such, ensuring the 1,110 minutes committed to this first phase, can become sustainable!
So what’s the fuss about this #Opendata party in the South South of Nigeria – It will be held inone of the cleanest city in Africa–Calabar, and will be hosted in a state that has the most comforting tourist attraction in West Africa – theObudu Mountain Resort! If you think there is another like it in the region, please comment below 😉 and one other thing about Calabar is theattributes to their women, and just for clarification – Calabar remains the capital city of Cross River State.
Right on time at the popular Mirage Hotel on October 15, 2014 was the Open data party that had 15 participants from different NGOs, citizens and this time we had some government officials – thus making it interesting. Whenever you have these three groups locked on a round table – questions like: why didn’t you make the data available, why didn’t you reply our FOIA, didn’t we make funding available for you to monitor, what happened to all the international aid you get, all come up, and as a facilitator – you are lost!
With my experience teaching data with NGOs, journalists and citizens, it is still clear that few of the practitioners know where even the little data available is hidden online. “It is appalling that we all here don’t know where the federal government budget is being published” affirmed Onoche Mokwunye. I get this answer often in all my sessions, which makes us conclude at times that the simple skill of finding data (secondary) itself and what their interest was in data, remains important.
In trying to figure out what kind of data they were interested in 40% of the participants were interestedin budget data of the country; 30% were interestedin contract data(in essence, the issue of money, and how it’s been used is important), while the remaining 30% was shared amongstelection data,environmental data,infrastructure data, and transport data (which seems not to be available). Going forward did they really know where to find this data? KNOW! Well, it will be important to state that the Nigerian government has recently focused on some open data initiatives, even though it is not as if these portals make data available in machine readable format.
One may think, since we wouldn’t know where to find, or how to get the data, analyzing data might be a great challenge, of course NO! This group had great knowledge of diving into excel spreadsheets – maybe I knew only one way of handling some task before, now I learnt two more ways – that was the most interesting part of this data party! So what else, how do we present this datasets using several visualizations and infographic. “I have seen several colourful visualizations (online) that people in our communities cannot relate with, as such we still need to break it down in the language they will understand (offline) – maybe that’s an added task for us” explained Benny from AfterSchool Peer Mentoring Project
Just before the end of the sessions, participants already concluded to have another 2-day Open Data Party,, while they declared having step down training in their own communities. When our Open Data party ends within 8 hours, participants are at times heartbroken! “Are we going to continue tomorrow, I seem to be an information and skill overload in a short time” – mentioned Ndoma Mayor in a phone call with me. Truly, does our party end in 8 hours? What happens to the” party” behind Open data – we always rock the club, after all, we are in Calabar, where the female become goddess at night! And if you want to know where our next open data party will be happening:most definitely – Abuja, No thanks toConnected Development[CODE]andIndigo Trust UK
– See more at: http://schoolofdata.org/2014/10/28/catch-us-if-you-can-the-opendata-party-moves-to-calabar/#sthash.Edn8fXTa.dpuf