So have you heard about the Colorado Springs? Our team members – Emmanuel Njoku and Babatunde Adegoke are there to observe the United States Presidential Elections in Colorado, on the auspices of Ford Foundation, Independent Republican Institute and the Institute of International Education. On November 7, 2016, They met the Chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation – William J. Hybl and his team of very cool people hosted them to a luncheon alongside Secretary of State of Colorado – Wayne Williams, and some wonderful young observers from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia at the prestigious Penrose House in Colorado Springs, where they discussed Leadership, Democracy, Governance and the November 8, 2016, presidential elections and processes that have been put in place to ensure that the polls is credible and trusted by all.
From right, Colorado Secretary of State, Emmanuel Njoku, Tunde Adegoke and a state representative during a meeting on November 4 at the Broadway
Interestingly, they were informed that the State of Colorado has about 3.5million registered voters, and about 2.6million of these people are expected to vote, of which 2 million of these votes have already been cast, which simply means that just about 600,000 persons will be voting during the elections today across the 64 Counties(LGA) of Colorado. So that you know, you can cast your vote 21 days before the real election day!
This early voting practised in the state of Colorado will completely eliminate all the pressure that usually will be witnessed on a typical election day. This brings me back to Nigeria, where elections are held in one day, and the economy of the whole country is put to a halt, due to the elections. Perhaps, the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) should take a cue, and leverage technology to make voting possible even before the election day.
Group picture of African Observers meeting with the Secretary of State of Colorado at the El Pomar Foundation
That sounds like a pinch of salt, right? if INEC is to achieve this feat, it must yield to a whole change management system which should be initiated by the leadership of INEC. Again, I will not subscribe to lack of funds as an excuse, INEC only needs few dedicated experts that can always look up to the leadership for unflinching support in providing a methodology and system that allows for early voting. Unfortunately, I just remembered, INEC is still struggling with the registration of voters like myself, while you can register on the day of elections in the state of Colorado – See you in 2019!
“Amongst the 70 member countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), African countries has the most ambitious commitments, and also has the least number of implementations of their commitment as seen in the independent reporting mechanism but Nigeria can reverse that order as the country has made huge commitment at the London Corruption Summit and hopes to make it tandem with its anti-corruption campaign in the country” says Sanjay Pradhan during the first day of the OGP retreat in Nigeria on October 24, 2016 at the Hotel Seventeen in Kaduna .
The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP during the retreat in Nigeria
Looking at the panel to discuss commitments around the Nigeria OGP National Action Plan, I was deluded by the fact that the government representatives except for two, were not appropriate enough to discuss pertinent issues around beneficial ownership, open budget, open contracting, transparency in extractives, access to information, and open data. I quite understand that the people in authority, in this ministries are hard to get for such conversation, but if it were really a “government – driven initiative” we should be seeing them coming to talk about these issues in the public.
I would have expected to see Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning making commitments of publishing online, location – based infrastructure data with their baseline indicators (current state) to the public by December 2017, so this can aid better planning; also the out-spoken Funmi Adeosun, the Minister for Finance committing that “detailed” government spending will be made available to the public by default as from November 2017, and also that the Bureau of Public Procurement will upgrade their website to include procurement plans, tender notices, bid evaluation,contract award documents, and termination information, while connecting it to a citizen feedback platform that can help make sure projects are really been implemented by contractors.
Nevertheless, there were some takeaways from the panel Joe Abbah, of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms had stated that by 2019, all FOIA request will be responded to in 2 minutes! In – fact, they have started something that looks like that in the Bureau, if you want to request for an information from the government, [APPLY HERE] I am sure you are all looking forward to this, it might not be rocket science! Also, the representative from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) mentioned that for beneficial ownership to work, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Companies and Allied Matter Act must be amended immediately to disclose beneficial ownership of companies, and not just the publishing of company names that are registered with the CAC which anyways, is a step in the right direction.
Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs
But why does it take the government a longer time than the 7 days proposed in the law to get a response to an FOIA request, the representative from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning stated that the oath of secrecy signed by civil servants prevents most of them to disclose information requested for through the FOIA. That’s so unimaginable! However, Joe Abbah, stated clearly, that we need to amend the public service rules because civil servants abide by rules and not laws!
My worry is not that leadership in the executive arm of government would not come out and make commitments, my worry is that implementing such commitment on the basis of a system that would not allow it to work efficiently is the reality, and such is the case for most African countries. As much as this becomes a drawback for me in this “government – CSO “driven movement, I am certain that few positives might be recorded, as we have started seeing from the Ministry of Justice, the agent of the state where the OGP is domiciled in Nigeria.
So finally, after 3 years of intent, Nigeria got admitted into the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in July 2016 , a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance while creating a platform for civil society organizations to collaborate with government institutions on ensuring transparency, accountability, citizen participation, and technology and innovation.
In view of this, I had to visit the city of Kaduna, to attend the CSO Day on Sunday, October 23 and the retreat with government institutions on Monday, October 24. The CSO day brought together civil society organisations from every part of the country to discuss the CSO draft national action plan and the future of CSO engagement with the OGP. One resounding issue during the day was coordination – not only amongst government agencies but also amongst the CSO, and a consensus was reached, that the Open Alliance continue to lead and coordinate CSO engagement for the actualization of the OGP in Nigeria.
A cross section of participants at the OGP CSO Day
It is expected that as part of the coordination, CSOs that focus on the values of OGP at the sub-national level can become responsible in that area once they have been admitted as a member of the Open Alliance, who presently has about 40 members intending to join it, and 10 members already. As OGP success hinges on partnership, trust and coordination, it will be important to “think strategically with coordination, find champions in the government and to be able to overcome the issue of partnership, you must trust the government and the government must trust the CSOs” as taken from the words of Maureen Kariuki, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East.
One other take away from the CSO Day was the conversation around how to encourage citizen participation and government feedback, using the platform OGP has created. With many citizens platform in the country without government feedback, I think it will be relevant and mostly appreciated if the National Action Plan been drafted presently can include a coordinated citizen engagement platform, in which government agencies can commit to being part of, to offer timely responses and feedback to citizens, maybe, the Nairaland of citizen participation. Sanjay Pradhan, the CEO of OGP, mentioned an example of such platform to be Prozorro, in Ukraine, actually, I met the developers of this public e-procurement system in Madrid during the IODC.
With the present draft National Action Plan having 8 commitments by the government, spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice, we can only hope that CSOs focus on their strength, and become watchdogs of the implementation of such commitments, I mean, they have been doing same in their everyday activities – maybe this time with proper coordination and direction – no thanks to the OGP!
Isn’t it nice to be back in Europe after 2 months – this time in the city of Madrid, not to see the Santiago Bernebeu, or a bull fight, but for the 4th International Open Data Conference (IODC) between October 6 – 7, 2016, the second I will be attending after the IODC in Ottawa, Canada in 2015. These IODC’s always bring back memories of the Open Knowledge Festival where you can be overwhelmed with information due to concurrent sessions taking place at the same time. The IODC in Madrid alone had 87 talks, 28-preevents, 1.660 attendees and lots of hours of shared experiences, with new networks in the kitty, and I was opportune to speak at the Indigenous Open Data Summit, a pre-event of the IODC, and also a speaker and Impact Panelist on Data + Accountability session of the IODC on the first day.
Surprisingly, the word “open washing” came out of this conference like it never had before, and I am still pondering over this like, isn’t this the same that has happened to any multi – stakeholder movement. The truth is that it has become difficult for development to persist without politics of governments. The government in this sense can now be categorised into the government of developed countries, and those of developing countries. My thoughts here are for the government of developing countries, who have not realised the potentials inherent in Open Data. They do not have to do Open Data because it is been sponsored by another government organisation, they can look inwards (if they have the right kind of eyes) and find benefits.
For instance, infrastructure dataset could be made accessible to citizens, while entrepreneurs can build tools based on the available data public use. An example could have been Doctors Office a mobile application that provides patient with a doctor to talk to, and also a healthcare locator. Although at its early stage, I asked the creator of the platform what their plans were to make this available on feature phones, so rural communities could have access as this can reduce lots of waiting time, and unacceptable death due to emergencies. Also Imagine what cmapIT can do if location dataset is made available by the government of Nigeria – Government should collaborate with this entrepreneurs, and open up these datasets while they get revenue accrued from tax – that’s what government should be doing!
Sitting on the panel on Data + Accountability with Global Witness, IDRC, Civio, Open Knowledge Germany,
Having said that, there is a renewed interest in open data by national statistics offices of countries. Talking to Mohamed Salimi, the Chief of the division of the statistics office in Rabat, Morroco made me had a sense of the direction of most statistics office and their interest in open data. Perhaps, to create more data for entrepreneurs in their countries, and largely an opportunity for them acquire knowledge on data processes. Systems that allow for capacity building is key to the open data movement, the people on the supply side must revamp the systems that operate within their organisation to allow for effective use of training within their institutions – I mean, how do you expect the culture of open data in an institution that still cannot run an organization email. As much as it is important to train government officials, it is also pertinent that we strengthen citizens knowledge on the use of data – which the school of data has started already, but a lot still needs to be done!
During the two sessions that I presented our Follow The Money work, I was asked on our relationship with the government, and how we hope to make the initiative locally owned other than some set of people determining campaigns in communities. Simply put, when we started, we were like an enemy of the government, but recently, government agencies had turned partners, but at arm’s length, with no MOU 😉 When we have contractors for government projects sending weekly situation reports to us on project implementation, then we are partners. In answer to the second question, we have community reporters leading campaigns in 29 states out of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria but cannot initiate campaigns because we have not done proper orientation for them, but the idea is for them to own it. Going forward, you should look out for the next episode of Follow The Money driven by community champions themselves – how we did this, will be presented at the next IODC in Buenous Aires, Argentina. See you there!
On the week of October 3 – 7, 2016, thousands of data and governance enthusiasts, from over 40 countries will be heading to Madrid, to discuss strategies and tools to accelerate the government – citizen engagement; and the future of open data as a tool for empowering local communities. Many call it the Olympics of open data!
It’s quite exciting to see how these movement has grown – from the open government data camp in the UK in 2010 ; the open government data camp in 2011; the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki in 2012; the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva in 2013; the OKFestival in Berlin 2014; In 2015, it then became the International Open Data Conference that was held in Ottawa You might want to ask, how conversations in these conferences have impacted local communities like ours, I tell you – Connected Development [CODE] and its activities is a product of some of the conversations, and we look forward to some provoking thoughts out of the 2016 edition in Madrid.
In Madrid, we will be learning new tools, and sharing lessons learnt with colleagues from other 22 countries around the world at the Omidyar Network Governance and Citizen Engagement Forum from October 3-4 at the Impact Hub; the Journocoders event with School of Data and Open Knowledge Spain on October 4 talking data journalism at Medialab – Prado; and on October 5, we will be speaking at the Indigenous Open Data Summit and also attend the Follow The Money IODC Pre – event at RED.ES on October 6 – 7 we will be joining the conversation on Open Data, while we will be joining the panel on data + accountability on October 6
If you will want to meet with us at these events, feel free to email – firstname.lastname@example.org, and also we will be live tweeting and blogging some of the great events lined up for us, so subscribe to our blog here and on Twitter @connected_dev Hala Madrid!