The Politics and Lessons of the Africa Open Data Conference 2017

The Politics and Lessons of the Africa Open Data Conference 2017

The Africa Open Data Conference which came up last week (17th to 21st of July) was here and gone, but to me, the conference was overrated. Aside from the fact that the conference was loosely planned as the final agenda was not up until after the first day of the event was out of sight.

The site visitation was unwelcoming with many events on Eventbrite and I end up struggling to register for the session as I have to open more than five tabs to check events and register for what will interest me while thinking of the Uber cost too. But well, that is by the way.

The five days event witness different data experts from various fields and walks of life while not leaving behind the pro and the pre data users.

One of the biggest takeaway from the event is the commitment by the government of Ghana with prominent comment from the minister of Communication who announces the interoperability plan to join data for development across government.

As good as this sounds, the Nigerian in me would not agree to that kind of commitment.  No No, I do not want to sound pessimistic, but I did have some point to backup my cynical argument.

Just on the 31st January 2017, the Vice President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia while talking about the Right to Information (RTI) bill and the government’s resolve to fight corruption at the Good Corporate Governance Initiative. He stated that “we are going to push the parliament to make necessary amendments, and if I had it my way, it should be passed within 100 days of this government”.

This is July, and the government is yet to pass the bill.

Furthermore, the Minister for Information on 3rd of May 2017 during the International Press Freedom Day made a declaration on behalf of the government. He said that “We have sent the Right to Information (RTI) Bill to the Parliament, it is in there that in Parliament Session of May to July 2017, the RTI bill will be before them for debate and passage. It is non-negotiable”  while it is public knowledge that the parliament is scheduled to rise on 2nd August 2017, it should be noted that the bill has been negotiated out as a non-priority draft bill.

It is exciting to see the president of Ghana HE Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also joining his voice to the commitment of his cabinet as he said that Ghana is committed to making full use of#opendata. It must work in Ghana for the benefit of the citizens. 

 

While also noting that he said “The implementation of these recommendations is driving our open data initiative, as we work also towards achieving the SDGs. It is the intention of government also to ensure the long overdue passage of the Right to Information Bill by Parliament” he said.

He said the government was strengthening the data ecosystem, establishing strategic partnerships, and creating a harmonized policy and enabling environment for Open Data. Africa’s advancement and sustainable development would materialize when the Continent leverages on the vast and integrated opportunities offered by the employment of information and data, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has noted.

But, as much as I would have loved to be excited by the promises of the moon by these politicians, the Nigerian in me tells me that these guys cannot be trusted and hence, the only major takeaway from the conference which is the government commitment is overrated.

Even if I should distrust the Nigerian in me which would leave me with the optimistic option that the government of Ghana would be passing the bill, it should be noted that the Nigerian Freedom of Information  Act which was passed in 2011, is still suffering from numerous challenges.

Most access to information laws in the sub-Saharan region still have exemptions limiting implementation #AODC17

And also, in terms of the usage of the FOI bill for transparency and accountability, it should be noted that citizens are so busy trying to survive that they don’t have time to follow their money.

As a data for development users, Follow the money isn’t only about government funds, grants and debts should also be followed. #AODC17 #AODC2017 #ATI #OPENCONTRACTING

Although I will rate the conference below average, I learned some fundamental lessons which I will love to share with readers, and they are;

  • The revolution of data is that citizens have the power to speak.
  • When a community has data, they have power.
  • Collaboration in data collections and use of data must be oriented with the citizens and not the government.
  • Many decisions have been made by the government, like “where do government build public health care” and these are usually political decisions and not decisions backup by data.
  • We have inefficient use of resources in Africa because decisions are not made based on data.
  • Questions like, how can we make government more responsible and efficient in the distribution of fertilizers is a question which can be answered by data, and that is if the government takes data seriously.
  • Duplication of data collection effort should be mitigated with the use of central database and
  • Data must be shared with data players for active collaborations.

As a Follow the Money enthusiast, I am glad to be a part of this event as networking was made to build the followership and adaptability of follow the money model as a tool for transparency and accountability in and outside of Africa.

The Community, The Change and the Changemakers

The Community, The Change and the Changemakers

Having successfully supervising more than 10 campaigns in more than 10 communities with more than 7 community reporters, I can boastfully say I have moved to become a follow the money evangelist. The passion for seeing the change I wished for keep pushing me and the first – hand knowledge of the local communities in Nigeria as someone who spent a significant part of his life in the village really paves more ways for me to understand what the struggles in the marginalised communities could be like.

As someone who constantly speaks, mentor and train community reporters, I am always trying to see things with their eyes as most times, I get the information as it is hot. Hence, this led me to the majority of my decisions in the organisation.

As an organisation that is almost clocking its 5 years of existence, Connected Development has reached the heart of many marginalised communities in Nigeria, and the love of the community led us to our constant reinvention of our process and workflows.

In Oludotun’s blog titled, “Taming the Monster in Nigeria Budget System“, he made it cleared that; Many developed and developing countries are still working towards linking performance to public expenditures, framework or strategy. If these linkages are not made, there will be no way to determine if the budgetary allocations that the support programs are ultimately supporting are successful.

As such, it can be collectively agreed on that the challenges in the spending of the Nigerian government is not about what to spend but about if the monies allocated is actually been judiciously used or not which is a big question that follow the money seeks to answer.

As written by Olayiwola Victor Ojo in his paper titled, “Ethnic Diversity In Nigeria“, it is presented clearly that the polity Nigeria is one of the most ethnically divided society globally with diverse ethnic cocoons and myriads of dialect. And as such, it may be difficult to Follow the Money in all the local communities in Nigeria and the best approach to solving this diversity problem to empower the communities is to train the locals on how to follow the money, and this has always been the bane of operation of follow the money which makes us  have community reporters in almost all states of Nigeria with the goal of reaching all wards in the country.

This is not only a proposition or goal of the organisation, we also share this as a part of the purpose of the organisation which is to empower the marginalised communities in Nigeria through our little effort which made us have a community of follow the money enthusiasts.

In all of these, Mark Zuckerberg in his speech at Havard made it known that membership in communities is declining. Many people feel disconnected and depressed and are trying to fill a void. And in our own little way, we are building a community of people who will Follow the Money and become a champion in the Nigeria we aim to see in years to come, this cannot be possible without the sense of belonging to a community who are attached to a purpose of making the government function for the people it is meant to serve.

According to Mark, Change starts locally. Even global changes start small and we hope our little change will have effects the communities to be proactive and ask the government the right question as to demanding for good governance, we hope they will be inspired to know and seek to know what is budgeted for them as a community and they would always request for it and also, we hope to give a voice to that champion who is ready to take a walk and give a voice to his/her community by becoming a champion through leveraging on our platform.

As the community manager of the Follow the Money project, I found a purpose and this will go a long way in my life. It is all about the community, it is about the people and it is way all about leveraging technology to solves challenges facing the communities.

Like the barrister who approached me in the office one day has said “Knowing about this movement made me find what I really want to do”, I hope to see more people who this will truly be their voice, someday.

Maiduguri Hosted the Biggest Community Meetup for Follow the Money Enthusiasts as Hope Gets Higher in North East Region

Maiduguri Hosted the Biggest Community Meetup for Follow the Money Enthusiasts as Hope Gets Higher in North East Region

Open Data Party has come and gone but the feedback we received from the event which took place in Kano in November 2016 live with us as an organisation. From the event, it was found out that our community champions need more community gathering which will be a follow the money immersive session. Also, we have been receiving requests such as, “how can we follow the money in our states” and we feel more need to reach out to more communities as they are our major focus.

Finally, our zeal to train more community champions to follow the money in their respective states came to reality as we won the One Award in April 2017 and this to us, means more communities empowered and more community champions championing Follow the Money.

We officially kickstarted our training in North East Nigeria as we Follow the Money to Maiduguri, Borno State which is the epicentre of the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria. The decision to start our training in Maiduguri was borne out of passion for communities to follow the money meant for the rehabilitation of the displaced persons in the region as increase in the inflows of aid is made possible by the Oslo Humanitarian Conference of 2016 so that the funds won’t be mismanaged like the aid gotten in the past years in tune to more than $30bn.   

The North East mapping event, in partnership with Exit Lanes, took place on 17th and 18th of May in Maiduguri. It had a turnout of 138 participants from the six states in the North East region of the country (Borno, Taraba, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Bauchi). In a post evaluation of the 2 -day training, 75% of the total respondents (32 number of them)  said they are now aware of fund flows to their states, where to find the information and how to Follow the Money.

CODEs co-founder, Oludotun Babayemi set the ball rolling on Day 1 by officially opening the training event, setting the event on a high tempo. He spoke extensively and intently about the dangers of not engaging government of which he painted an imaginary picture of what Borno state would be in 2030 if everyone seated in the room got involved. This tempo was however maintained all through the event.

The training sequence had a back to back approach, with adequate time allotted for questions and answers, there was a break after every session for participants to stretch and also give them time to internalise the information received, as well as the ample time to rest before other sessions came up. Tea break availed participants various opportunities to bond and explore areas of strategic interest to them.

Every session was practical, as various dialogue points came out of the questions asked, participants were taken through what Connected Development represents and how they could plug into the various models of the organisation in engaging and emancipating their communities, they were also made to engage in the process of identifying money to follow, hashtagging campaigns and connecting to our social media platforms, the right ways to take videos and pictures during community outreaches was also emphasised and done practically. In addition, the process of visualisation, tracking and advocacy, was emphasised.

On day 2, participants were grouped into their various states (participants from Borno – the host state had 3 groups) to find potential campaigns they could follow in the coming weeks. It was great to know that 7 campaigns were highlighted at the end of the session, with participants showing high interest in following the money of projects already identified.

Follow the Money Team in Fashir Interviewing the community stakeholder

We would not have visited Maiduguri without a community outreach to a rural community. This time we were in Fashir, where a  6 -year old abandoned health facility has been turned into a storehouse, and a shelter for animals. “At one time, we reached out to the contractor of this project, but he told us he could not finish the project because the state government has not provided adequate funding for the completion of the project”. After 1 hour of focus group discussions, the community mobilised themselves and were ready to engage the local government chairman and the state commissioner for health.

24 hours travel on road from Abuja, 138 participants, 2 days of great work, and 7 campaigns can be such an adventure for us at Connected Development, as we look forward to furthering outcomes from the campaigns identified. Moreover, the enthusiasm amongst participants to start their Follow the Money chapter was quite overwhelming, and something to look forward to in the coming months. Wondering when we will be in your state or region? Do join us at http://ifollowthemoney.org to be the first to know.

 

Building the Next Generation of Follow the Money Enthusiasts in Nigeria Through the Tertiary Institutions

Building the Next Generation of Follow the Money Enthusiasts in Nigeria Through the Tertiary Institutions

The follow the Money team was given 20min slot to speak about what we do in two events at the University of Ilorin.

The first event was co-organized by the Canvassity Pan African Youth Democracy and The Post-Graduate School of the Faculty of Life Science Student while the second event which was supposed to hold was organised by Junior Chamber Internation (JCI Unilorin) but, did not later hold due to logistics reason by the organiser (JCI Unilorin)

The theme of the event was “Understanding Democracy: How to Leverage the Power of Technology and Social Media to Engage the Government and Increase Impactful Youth Engagement”.

The event which took place on the 29th of April, 2017 was very strategic for our team as it comes at a time we are planning to reach out to all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria by training them on how to Follow the Money. 

As such, starting from Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria will be instrumental to our work as we intend to reach out to the consciousness of the youth population in the academic community. Engaging this category of youths will drive intellectual change and conversation around development, governance and Transparency & Accountability.

Though the turnout for the event wasn’t as massive as we had earlier thought, but nonetheless – the message got to, and sank deep into the hearts of the participants as they all wanted to leverage on the Follow the Money Platform to empower their respective communities.

“Where have you guys been all this while?” That statement was echoed by the majority of the participants as they were all wowed about what we have been doing.

Akinsuyi who was one of the participants gave his remarks saying “An eye-opening presentation, but I think it is not for someone who wants to live long”.

In his remarks to feedbacks given by Akinsuyi, Busayo Morakinyo of Connected Development engaged him emphasising on the fact that “we cannot all be mute and watch things go by as we all need to be proactive and ask the right questions from the government, so we can all see and achieve the Nigeria of our dreams”

One of the participants who did not want his name in print raised a salient concern as he asked if  Follow the Money would not turn apolitical by the time it gain grounds and I discussed extensively on the nonpartisan traits of the organization and gave him assurance about the fact that we remained firm and resolute on our nonpartisan stand. Also, I was able to let him realised we cannot be a watchdog for the government and at the same time be romancing with them.

While explaining the more, I iterated and let the participant understand that if the organisation was a political one or has a political motive/s, it would not have stood the test of time since 2012 that it was founded. 

The event ended with a good understanding of what we do and how the participants can sign up to be a part of the organisation. More of this training will continue until we are able to reach out to all Tertiary institutions in Nigeria, creating systems and deep-rooted thoughts on transparency and accountability. The event ended with commitments from the participants as they indicated their interest to join our Follow the Money Platform. 

If truly we are serious about Following the Money, then, we should be able to train the next generation of leaders to be proactive and always speak up and most importantly, they too need to start Following the Money.  This is one of the major reasons why we are on the train of training to the tertiary institutions. Look out for our train in the various campuses around Nigeria. We will keep you posted the more, as it is happening.

If you know of any event on social development, transparency and accountability which you would want us to talk about what we do and possible recruitment of Follow the Money enthusiasts, do not hesitate to comment or reach out to our team.

 

 

REPORT FROM THE SAVING ONE MILLION LIVES PROGRAM FOR RESULTS (SOML-PFORR) CSOS ROUND TABLE

REPORTONTHESAVINGONEMILLIONLIVESPROGRAMFORRESULTSSOMLPFORRCSOSROUNDTABLE

In 2012, the Nigerian Federal Government initiated the Saving One Million Lives Program For Results (SOML PforR). The program intends to rollback child and maternal mortality in the country and saves an estimated 900,000 women and children that die each year from preventable causes. In 2015, the World Bank approved $500 million credit for the program. Subsequently, in mid-2016, the World Bank provided $55.5 million as part of the credit to the Federal Ministry of Health who then gave $1.5 million to each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

In line with Connected Development’s work in ensuring an open government in governmental expenditure in rural communities and in our three thematic areas (which includes health), we immediately got interested in tracking the implementation of the funds across the country. On learning about the $55.5 million approval from the Bretton Woods Institution and in the last quarter of 2016, we started tracking the implementation of the $1.5 million at Primary Healthcare Centres across rural communities in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun and Yobe States. Subsequently, we arranged and had meetings with the World Bank and Federal Ministry of Health SOML PforR program team for information sharing and to share our experience in tracking the fund implementation. One of the key outcomes from these meetings is the importance of Civil Society Organisation’s involvement in the PforR implementation. It’s on this note that this CSOs roundtable was organized.

Download the Report Here

Download the Communique Here