Looking for work opportunities for civic tech and open government data
After working on a few funding proposals for Sinar Project, I realize that there are no funds for projects to cover for institutional co-ordinator role, and limited funding opportunities for open government work in Malaysia.
The result is that is 60+ hour working weeks without public holidays (often weekends too for workshops), for decreasing and limited project income sources with increasing regional impact, while taking on overall management tasks of a growing organization.
This is not a sustainable situation for me. I have family and three kids to support.
How has it come to this for what looks like a promising organization?
Local and external constraints for Malaysia for work on government transparency continue to restrict an already small space to work in. Increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and civil society are well known. The current economic downturn which is expected to worsen, leaves little hope for local funding sources. Even this post which is hosted on Medium is blocked in Malaysia.
External funding is also limited due to Malaysia’s middle income country status, but also official government policy of not participating in open government initiatives internationally. Situation of we don’t support initiatives in countries for which governments don’t support transparency hurts the nascent open data and civic tech efforts which, already working in draconian environments facing threats of persecution are further hurt by reduced opportunities for participation and funding.
The restrictive environment does provide breeding grounds for innovation, when there is not much you can do and limited support to do it, you have to get creative. A paper on the creative and innovative ways to work in open data and civic tech in constrained environments will be published soon after this post.
As the space continues to be constricted as is the intention of authoritarian governments, it is inevitable then that the nascent civic tech efforts in countries such as Malaysia will either fade away or continue to have limited impact and growth.
All is not lost. The great thing about open collaborative development communities using open standards, open data and open source software is that good work and ideas will be reused, improved and live on.
Sinar Project civic tech work in open data and open government work in constrained environments that should have larger impact in developing countries where the constraints are not political but technical. I’m seeing initial progress for this in Myanmar, and there are strong indications that the work can be replicated in Papua New Guinea too.
If there is an organization or developing country in Asia-Pacific that could use someone like me to help build capacity for national or better regional environment for civic tech and open government data do contact me.
Sinar Project will continue and the team there will continue to do awesome work. I continue to work on proposals to ensure the programmes continue, but in those proposals there is limited funding for my institutional and regional role. In these projects, the funding is best allocated to new, younger talent to help grow Malaysia’s civic tech capacity.