#DataOnTheStreets International Rally


What is it?

The Rally is a great opportunity to invite the public to use the data generated by governments, go out to the streets and see how data reflects in their real life. It is a public participation process in the budget implementation phase through open data and digital tools, such as maps and visualizations.

How does it work?

  1. Governments, through their Ministry of Finance, Public Works or similar, and one or more Civil Society Organizations, launch an open invitation to participate in the Rally #DataOnTheStreets.
  2. People register to the event and go through the construction projects dataset or mapping platforms published and select the ones they want to visit.
  3. Participants go out on the streets and check the projects, comparing what they see on the dataset and what they see on the streets.
  4. Participants document their findings through social media (Facebook or Twitter), posting creatively and engaging their own network.
  5. Judges, representatives from government and civil society, choose the winners based on number of projects visited, creativity, engagement and, of course, extra points for data analysis.
  6. On Open Data Day, winners are announced!

How did it go in 2018?

The Rally started in the Ministry of Finance of Mexico in 2016, in 2018 it became international and three countries hosted their own rallies: Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

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Why we like the Rally…

Experience shows that participants tend to be non-data specialists, expanding the audience using open data. As opposed to hackathons and similar events.

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It helps data literacy by bringing the knowledge and tools closer to the people to turn the data into useful information that can engage and build trust, accountability and better government-citizen communication.

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What you need to host your own Rally?

  • Open data of public constructions being built or finished from national or subnational level projects. The data must have: descriptive name of the project, geolocation, budget allocated to the project, financial progress, physical progress.
    • If available, it is best to have the data paired with visualizations, such as maps and photos.
  • A government and a civil society convener. The initiative can be initiated from any side, but it is important to work together.
  • A team in charge of dissemination, answering participant questions, following posts and counting points.
  • Let us know you want to host a Rally!

Important dates

  • November 16th GIFT will open the generic operating rules of the Rally for comments, we are looking to improve last year operation. Each country can make adaptations as required, but the community will benefit from the co-creation of the general rules.
  • November 30th closing comments and integrating a final version of the general rules.
  • January-February 2019 country dissemination efforts (social media, events, radio, interviews…).
  • February 2019 beginning of the Rally, participants go to the streets.
  • March 2nd, 2019 Open Data Day! End of participation and winner’s announcement.

Any question or further information?

Please contact Lorena Rivero at lorena@fiscaltransparency.net and Tarick Gracida at tarick@fiscaltransparency.net

Better Budget Dataquest for sustainable development

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What is a “Dataquest”?

It typically takes the form of a day event, it could be shorter or longer, in which people arrive, with laptops or access to laptops and the internet, and either individually or in teams explore the data. During the event they create insights by engaging with the dataset and combining it with other data and contextualizing it. The outcomes depend on the type of Dataquest, they can be for example a multimedia piece, the start of a research project or a human story among others.

The Better Budget Dataquest

Teams of up to five individuals will explore the spending dataset and by contextualizing it with other data they should come up with findings for one of the following categories: gender, inequality or environment.

A multimedia piece, the start of a research project, a story or other creative ideas must be presented by the end of the event. Considering the insights, judges from government and civil society will decide the winners.

Objectives of the Dataquest

As the Better Budget name suggests, the Dataquest is an opportunity to find new insights on certain topics and innovative ideas to improve budget allocations and execution. The process will also be an opportunity for data publishers to expand budget and data literacy, to increase awareness and engagement, as well as an occasion to observe users’ challenges in using the data to improve publication means.

What you need to host your own Dataquest

  • Open data of budget allocations and expenditures, preferably published through the Open Fiscal Data Package.
  • A place to host the event with good internet access for participants. Consider that in many countries, civil society organizations specialized in open data host events during Open Data Day and offer space for collaborations.
  • A dissemination and engagement strategy.
  • Select the judges, be sure to have an odd number of judges.
  • Let us know you want to host a Dataquest!

Important dates

  • November 16th GIFT will open the generic operating rules of the Dataquest for comments, this is the first year of the Better Budget Dataquest, so we encourage your contributions.
  • January 31th closing comments and integrating a final version of the general rules.
  • January-February 2019 country dissemination efforts (social media, events, radio, interviews…).
  • March 2nd, 2019 Open Data Day, day of the event.

Any question or further information?

Please contact Lorena Rivero at lorena@fiscaltransparency.net and Tarick Gracida at tarick@fiscaltransparency.net

GIFT Online Peer Learning – Webinar series

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#WebinarWednesday

In recent years, GIFT network members and partners have developed digital tools and technology that have allowed to significantly advance fiscal transparency, with a focus on making budget information meaningful and useful for citizens. To promote the sharing and discussion of such valuable experiences, GIFT is offering a program of monthly webinars around the areas of fiscal transparency portals, open fiscal data, strategies for communicating budget information, and initiatives to educate the public on budget matters.

International experience shows that to successfully engage citizens in the budget discussions and decisions, including overseeing its implementation and results governments and specialized civil society need to display a range of actions. This includes a proactive policy to disseminate budget information in formats that make sense for different types of users, a commitment to communicate this information and educate the public in terms of budget literacy, in a way that promotes the use of such information. The use of communication technology has greatly expanded the variety of ways in which government can reach out to the public, and the ways in which non-state actors can initiate or respond to opportunities to provide inputs.

The objective of this webinar program is to explore concrete experiences around the world in the use of digital tools to disclose and to effectively communicate budget information, with the goal of engaging citizens in the budget process. The tour includes a look at how ministries of finance have implemented successful budget open data policies, how they have built fiscal transparency portals, and their efforts to promote the use of data, including offering online courses about the budget.

Wednesday, September 26, at 10am EST –   Language: English

Fiscal transparency portals are instruments that can play a very important social role to facilitate the exercise of the right to know how public money is raised and spent.   This webinar will take a close look at how is it that governments are designing portals with potential user interaction in mind, addressing both content generation and its structure. For that purpose, we will explore how interactions between government technicians, information access activists, and journalists who work regularly with budget data are taking place, with a look at the challenges and opportunities entailed.

In this webinar, participants will learn about the experiences of Brazil in revamping, their fiscal transparency portal, which now has a new interface, enhanced accessibility, responsiveness, search engine, navigation, and interactive tables, integrated pages and matrixial navigation. Additionally, the Portal includes new information on, for example, procurement and contracts, travelling expenses, CGU’s reports. The Portal is also now boosted with new tools, such as social media, collaboration, QR code, notifications, open data and APIs.

Besides, participants will hear from the experience of a unique collaboration between GIFT Stewards, the South African National Treasury and the Public Service Accountability Monitor, which is part of a coalition of civil society organizations (IMALI YETHU, “our money”) working together to develop a portal that makes budget data accessible, user-friendly and empowering. The initiative also includes a communications and stakeholder strategy centered on widespread public participation and preference revelation. The project has sought to ensure ongoing engagement of CSOs to arrive to the ideal portal design.

Who:    

  • Otávio Neves, Secretariat of Transparency and Corruption Prevention, BRAZIL
  • Carmela Zigoni, Institute for Socioeconomic Studies (INESC), BRAZIL
  • Raquel Ferreira, National Treasury, SOUTH AFRICA
  • Zukiswa Kota, Public Service Accountability Monitor, SOUTH AFRICA

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Wednesday, November 7, at 10am EST –   Language: English

Not rarely, budget authorities invest great efforts to publish fiscal information in compliance with international standards, only to find that the use of such data by the public is meager. Experience has shown that to foster the use of such data by the public, it is not enough to disclose it. Governments also need to make concerted efforts to communicate the budget data in innovative and creative ways that are relevant for potential users and in easily accessible language and formats. This session will explore how governments are working in collaboration with civil society to design and implement effective communication policies that consider the interests and characteristics of potential users, though the use of social media and other digital tools.

Who:    

  • Anna A. Belenchuk. Division Chief, Budget Analysis and Development. Department of Budget Methodology and Public Sector Financial Reporting. Ministry of Finance of The Russian Federation.
  • Wawan Sunarjo. Head of Subdirectorate of Data and Technical Support. Ministry of Finance of Indonesia.

Presentations used during the webinar:

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Wednesday, November 28, at 10am EST –   Language: English

What is budget open data? How to build a budget open data? What for and how to target an open data policy? How do we know the open data policy is working? This webinar addressed the fundamental question when planning an open data policy, referencing to a new tutorial composed of ten 1-2 minutes videos that explain how to implement a fiscal transparency policy with open data as a fundamental pillar.

Who:    

  • Aura Martínez Oriol. Director of Budget Performance Information Analysis, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico.
  • Fabrizio Scrollini. Executive Director, Latin-American Initiative on Open Data from Uruguay (ILDA).

Presentation used during the webinar:

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Friday,  December 14, at 10am EST –   Language: Spanish

Esta sesión exploró experiencias en el uso de datos presupuestarios por parte del público. ¿Cómo ha promovido el gobierno el uso? ¿Cómo ha maximizado y trabajado la sociedad civil para multiplicar el uso de los datos del presupuesto? ¿Cuáles son las experiencias de colaboración entre el gobierno y la sociedad civil en este campo? ¿Cuáles han sido los retos? ¿Cuáles son las oportunidades? ¿Qué evidencia tenemos de cómo el público está utilizando esta información?

Presentadores:

  • Jeannette von Wolfersdorff. Directora Ejecutiva, Observatorio del Gasto Fiscal en Chile.
  • Leonardo Buitrago. Dirección General de Presupuesto y Gasto Público, Ministerio de Hacienda y Crédito Público de Colombia.

Presentation used during the webinar:

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Thursday,  January 24, at 10am EST

This webinar highlighted how digital tools are being used to directly establish a dialogue between citizens and the state around the budget policy. What are the challenges, opportunities and lessons learned? What are the critical factors required to effectively incentivize participation? Who participate and how can different audiences be targeted?

Who:    

  • Isabel Xavier Canning. Municipality of Cascais, Portugal.
  • Giorgi Chakvetadze, State Audit Office, Georgia.

Presentation used during the webinar:

Wenesday,  January 27, at 10am EST

Understanding and using the budget and fiscal information to participate in public policy discussions or monitoring activities requires some level of capacity on the part of the public. This session highlighted experiences that are reaching out to a range of groups in society to build capacities and budget literacy, by offering online courses. Some of the addressed questions: What are the objectives of the online courses? How is the public being targeted? How are the courses designed? How are the courses promoted? What does the evidence tell in terms of the interest and results? and the lessons learned.

Who:    

  • Lorena Caballero Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Mexico
  • Juan Manuel Casanueva SocialTic

Presentation used during the webinar:

Money Matters: Public Finance & Social Accountability for Human Capital Forum

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by Juan Pablo Guerrero, GIFT Network Director

The fifth edition of the Global Partners Forum of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (October 30-November 1) was devoted to public finance, social accountability and human capital. With the World Bank Human Capital Project and the International Budget Partnership, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency network was a co-organizer of the event. The main goal was to better understand how countries can use their public finances to invest more and better in health and education for their citizens and what roles citizens and society organizations can play, working with governments and other actors.

This is a global effort, presented by the Vice President of Human Development of the World Bank, Annette Dixon, to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth. Human capital consists of the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives, enabling them to realize their potential as productive members of society. The World Development Report (WDR) 2019: The Changing Nature of Work shows that without strengthening human capital, countries cannot sustain economic growth, will not have a workforce prepared for the more highly skilled jobs of the future and will not compete effectively in the global economy.

The Human Capital Project includes the Human Capital Index, which is intended to be published once a year. The main objectives of this measurement effort are: (i) to provide policymakers with more information on how to invest in human capital and (ii) to create public demand for human capital investments.

Human Capital and Public Finance Management

As we know, governments and budgets have a vital role in building human capital. Both as providers of public health and education and as regulators of private providers. But as the human capital index shows, governments often fail to deliver. Most governments commit a significant share of their budget to education and health, but public services are often too low quality to generate human capital.

The discussion about human capital is closely related to the 3 main functions of Public Financial Management (PFM). Sustainability, because human capital requires long term sustained investment, with significant coordination of various agencies, it must be a high level government priority for a long period of time. Allocation of resources, with the difficult trade-offs that investing in a long term policy brings: it is easier to build a school than to ensure good quality of the education of the children -the latter does not always pay off politically-. And third, the question of trust and government accountability, related to oversight mechanisms, transparency and citizen engagement.

Bureaucracies in charge of implementing policies to build human capital often lack the capacity or the incentives to do so effectively. This is why information is an essential first step toward encouraging citizens to demand more from their leaders and service providers. So, better measurement increases policy makers awareness of the importance of investing in human capital.

How could PFM help improve the quality of public services? 

The search for more effective mechanisms to deliver public services has been at a core of policies enacted by governments around the world. The quest for value for money. In the PFM community, this challenge has taken several forms over the years:

  • The development of programmatic and results-based budgeting, with performance indicators;
  • The devolution of decision making to regional and local governments;
  • More recently, attempts to develop greater involvement of citizens in the preparation, execution and monitoring of the budget.

Since 2012, public participation is a principle of global norms: following the GIFT High Level Principles on Fiscal Transparency, Participation and Accountability, IMF, PEFA, IBP, OECD include the idea of direct involvement of the public in the budget cycle in their revised versions of the fiscal transparency standards. In the international agenda, public participation is not only on how to improve allocations, but also how civil society can help make government more responsive, efficient and effective.

Examples of the benefits of fiscal transparency and informed citizen engagement in budget process (The Impacts of Fiscal Openness: a Review of the Evidence) are many but to name a few:

  • Better resource allocation (i.e. subnational transfers in Mexico, with the role of the media and CSOs leading to changes in the criteria for investment projects approval to observe urban sustainable mobility);
  • Improvement in the provision of public services (i.e. social accountability / monitoring experiences of sanitation in South Africa or social audits in India);
  • Better response to the preferences of the beneficiaries of the services (i.e. Kenya devolution experiences and refining gender subsidies beneficiaries in Mexico);
  • Opportunity for marginalized groups to exert some influence in decisions that affect them (i.e. i-monitor in Nigeria which invites citizens to inform of any budget waste, South Korea open consultations for budget implementation and in Indonesia, LAPOR, complaints on line systems);
  • Better impact of actions that affect communities in social policies: health sector, community level public works, education, well-being (i.e. participatory budgeting, Brazil).

What examples are there on citizen engagement in the national budget process?

There are multiple examples of public participation in the budget process around the world. The IBP Open Budget Survey edition 2017 finds mechanisms in 94 countries out of the 115 surveyed. There are a variety of innovative examples with different reach in all the steps of the budget cycle: from informing, to consulting, to engaging, to empowering. And public participation is present on tax policies, expenditures, control and evaluation.

For instance, the GIFT network has facilitated an increasing number of ministries of finance to have open dialogues with potential fiscal information users to provide user-oriented information online. Besides having as a result dynamic and interactive platforms, this dialogue has been very useful for everyone around the table for collaboration on fiscal transparency and accountability related issues.

The PFM agenda has evolved dramatically and will continue to evolve. But every time it is clearer that the budget process is also a political process. We will fail if we try to provide only technical solutions to political challenges. That is why partnerships between Governments and Civil Society are critical, which will be important to align incentives and establish productive collaboration formats. Reliable measurements and efficient ways of communication, such as digital technology, are crucial. There is a need to move beyond an adversarial approach and establishing a constructive engagement between CSOs and Government reformers, as part of broader coalitions of stakeholders to push and sustain reform agendas as the one needed for building human capital. This has been referred as the idea of co-creation by the Open Government Partnership community.

From this perspective, it is good to see that the Human Capital Project includes the creation of a community of practice in each country that will address, among other challenges, the production of relevant information. One should hope that these communities include all relevant stakeholders.

PFM rules and institutions

PFM institutions will be needed too. At the macro level, aggregate rules that ensure fiscal sustainability may lead to biases against human capital expenditure. Fiscal rules have proliferated around the world to keep fiscal sustainability in check. The next generation of fiscal rules should also address the composition of spending. Other PFM rules could protect public investment in human capital. In this task, the roles of international financial institutions will be crucial. At the micro level, a myriad of institutions need to be strengthened, ranging from results-based budgeting for expenditure allocation, medium-term fiscal framework, the creation of smart integrated data systems, fiscal councils in charge of quality of spending, public investment management agencies, public procurement, and so on.

The role of civic tech and digital government for public participation

Let me make a disclaimer with respect to digital technologies as new hopes for citizen engagement (e-democracy, e-governance, e-participation). IT enhances participation in some cases. But it does not resolve two fundamental issues regarding citizen engagement (Civic Tec in the Global South, Peixoto-Sifri).

The first issue relates to unequal participation, which is obvious if you think about it. Civic tech might impede the participation of individuals who are traditionally excluded, and it might further empower the already empowered. In developing and poor countries, the combination of online and offline participation seems to be necessary, as well as alternative participatory designs, if inclusiveness is a value to be pursued.

The second issue relates to government responsiveness. While civic tech dramatically lowers the costs for citizens to project their voices and express their needs, the levels of willingness, capability, and resources available for governments to provide a meaningful response remain the same. Government responsiveness would likely depend on a number of political and institutional factors.

The challenges of unequal participation and responsiveness need to be addressed in any case. The GIFT PP principles (Link), developed in 2015, tackle issues such as inclusiveness, accessibility, sustainability, among other important components to ensure clarity on the rules of engagement with respect to the purpose, scope, constraints, intended outcomes, process and timelines, as well as the expected and actual results of public participation.

However, I believe there is a feature that makes the combination of digital government and transparency quite remarkable. Government management information systems have facilitated to capture and concentrate thousands of transactions daily. For the first time, government data can be in formats that can be machine readable and human readable. In some countries, citizens have increasing access to the exact same data used by officials for decision making. No technological innovation has ever allowed such a potential reduction in the asymmetries of information between authorities and citizens.

Two dilemmas for building human capital (inequality and trust) and a piece of the puzzle missing

Building human capital goes to the heart of reducing inequality. This refers to the question of allocation of resources, with the difficult trade-offs between spending in the present, or investing in the future. It is difficult to raise taxes when citizens are unwilling to pay more as they don’t believe their governments will spend those additional resources efficiently. Thus, a precondition for expanding public expenditure seems to be government’s ability to deliver efficient services, leaving nothing to waste.

Another component is trust in government, which is a key ingredient behind citizen demands. According to the report on development in the Americas (IADB, Better Spending for better Lives) when lack of trust is high—be it because of government inefficiency or blatant corruption— citizens prefer transfers over long-term investments. In face of the need of investing in human capital, this situation could be highly detrimental for development, since inequality and lack of trust may end up undermining the future with lower investments, both in physical and human capital.

Inequality and lack of trust are also related to a missing piece in fiscal transparency. The increasing public concern in many countries about the fairness of tax burdens and elite ‘capture’ of tax policy setting, alongside widespread tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. This concern has been identified as one of the main reasons behind the growing deterioration of trust in public finances and government management of public resources.

Nevertheless, few governments publish enough information about tax policies and tax administration to allow non-state actors to engage publicly in an informed debate. Here again, the demand side of transparency, participation and accountability has considerable potential to strengthen domestic tax efforts, and to improve the fairness, legitimacy and sustainability of tax systems. But much more transparency on the revenue side is needed.

What are we referring to? Tax openness includes open and participatory tax policy development, routine disclosures on tax incidence (tax burdens) in annual budget documents, transparency and accountability in tax administration, resource revenue transparency (tax expenditures), issues around non-tax revenues (e.g. transparency of and accountability for fees and charges for public services), the environmental impacts of fiscal policies (e.g. fossil fuel tax subsidies), the scope for taxing environmental externalities (e.g. carbon taxes), and the growing area of international transfers of climate finance and how those revenues are managed at the national level.

To sum up:

  • The quality of public services can be improved by information disclosure that responds to the needs of information users and by engaging the public in the delivery process.
  • Dialogue between stakeholders can help for the sustainability of reforms that alter systems and inertias, such as building human capital.
  • The use of digital tools gives the opportunity of reaching a broader audience, playing a potential important role in tackling the engagement deficit in public policies and in supporting better outcomes for citizens.
  • A long term investment in building human capital suppose an open and informed debate on the impact of the fiscal system in inequality, which requires more transparency not only in the expenditures side, but also on the revenue side, in order to clearly identify its impact.

PFM news institutions will need to protect human capital investment. Fiscal rules, medium term fiscal framework, smart integrated data systems, fiscal councils should become institutionalized allies of the important goal.