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Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, India, the United States--just a few of the countries who have teams competing in this year’s Making All Voices County Global Innovation Competition (GIC) in Jakarta, Indonesia. 6 months ago, over 200 innovators from around the world submitted technology enabled ideas to facilitate citizen to government contact—there are 10 of us left competing for the grand prize of support and technical assistance from the campaign to launch our ideas into action!
As I attend the GIC this week I’m struck by one common theme in the very creative and necessary entries—all rely on the assumption that technology can enable citizens to spur transparency and accountability from their governments.
The ideas presented are diverse: creating a mechanism for the public to monitor government contracting in Nigeria; engaging youth in Pakistan to become politically active; creating citizen informed responses to natural disasters in the Philippines.
LexisNexis and GeoPoll are also presenting a solution to a growing problem: Currently, millions of people around the world experience daily injustices, yet they don’t know what their legal rights are and thus cannot seek legal recourse. Lexis can disseminate legal information to these citizens and inform them about where the nearest legal service provider is via GeoPoll’s SMS and mobile voice platforms. Our access to legal content, coupled with GeoPoll’s reach via SMS into even the most rural areas of the world can help bring people into a system of justice and thus promote and enable the rule of law.
While here, we also learned about Jakarta’s “Smart City” initiative that uses a data informed method of tracking citizen complaints and concerns. Residents of Jakarta can utilize any of nine channels of communication (voice, email, social media etc.) to submit a complaint to their city. That communication is geo-tagged and represented on an online map and gets immediately routed to the nearest public works official (e.g. the waste management department of the transportation office) who is then obliged to take action. All responses are logged, tagged on the map and the public informed. Data on such complaints is aggregated to determine trends, systemic issues and gauge response times. Smart Cities is an impressive project by a large metropolis like Jakarta to utilize a data and technology driven approach to increase government accountability, transparency and thus adherence to the rule of law.
The projects being presented this week at GIC week, hosted in a city utilizing online platforms to improve connections between the governments and its citizens are very encouraging and promote real change. Yet they also reinforce an important point—technology is just a tool—it is not a solution in itself. IF the political will exists for a government to truly adhere to the rule of law and be accountable to its people—the tools will easily be developed and implemented to help it live up to that standard.