More data, less corruption?

by Ania Calderon, Agustina De Luca and Alan Hudson

***This blog is also published by Global Integrity on December 21, 2018. ***

Back in April 2018, the Heads of State of the Americas signed the Lima Declaration “Democratic Governance against Corruption”, where they committed to, among other issues, promote the “establishment of an Inter-American Open Data Program within the OAS [Organization of American States] in order to strengthen open information policies and increase the capacity of governments and citizens to prevent and fight corruption”. Building on that commitment and the 48th OAS General Assembly of June 2018 that mandated the establishment of the Program, the OAS convened a two-day workshop last week in Washington DC, with the objective to explore what that broad commitment could look like in practice and begin the design of the Inter-American Open Data Program to Combat Corruption.

After opening remarks from colleagues at the OAS, the workshop began with lessons learnt about experiences in working across local contexts to fight corruption through the use of data shared by the Open Data Charter, the Open Contracting Partnership, ILDA and Mexico’s National Anticorruption System. Here are some inspiring quotes of their experiences:

To have a successful open data policy, it is necessary to have a concrete problem framing, address local priorities and capacities, and build multi stakeholder coalitions of data producers and users that can take ownership and learn from the process.” Ania Calderon, Open Data Charter.

It’s not about just opening the data, but also having learning cycles, concrete problems, inclusive processes and robust commitments backed up by resources and institutional capacities” Georg Neumann, Open Contracting Partnership.

When putting into practice the Open Up Guide on Anti Corruption in Mexico, we had an evolving approach, beginning with six key datasets and scaling up then. It is crucial to involve citizens, organizations and data communities that use the released data and show it’s impact” Enrique Zapata, Mexico’s National Anticorruption System.

The hypothesis that data release will help to tackle corruption is far too simple. However, considering certain datasets and its use by key actors from government and CSOs to detect possible risks could demonstrate a positive use of that data. We believe this program can be a big step to explore the use and analysis of anticorruption data in the region and test what help and what doesn’t ”, Silvana Fumega, ILDA.

But, does more data equal less corruption? After a very insightful exchange, we all concluded that it definitely doesn’t. Data alone is not enough, we need to consider additional measures such as building institutional capacities, local arrangements, better legal frameworks, and good accountability mechanisms. But it is also important to add flexibility, learning from experiences and an evolving framework for the program’s success, given that we don’t know what will work in different contexts.

Considering that, we rolled up our sleeves and started imagining using lego blocks what success for this program could look like in 2021. We ended up with a shared vision which has its heart:

  1. a regional framework in the form of an Open Data Inter-American Program to Combat Corruption (PIDA) following the Open Data Charter’s Open Up Guide for Anticorruption, implemented by countries, taking account of the varied challenges they face and the differing states of play as regards their open data landscapes;
  2. a focus on specific corruption-related challenges, prioritized by local actors;
  3. the aim of strengthen the ownership and capacities of local actors as they seek to use open data to address the specific challenges selected in each context
  4. cycles of real-time monitoring, evaluation and learning that inform and improve efforts to use open data to craft solutions to corruption-related challenges.

Next steps

Now the 35 member states of the Organization of the Americas have to approve a more detailed program in their Assembly in June 2019 which will be hosted in by Colombia. Once that is signed, action begins.

We are very excited to see what this program can achieve. The workshop, which brought together participants from across the Americas, was inspiring, creative and fun and left us feeling optimistic about the potential of the program, and excited to be part of it! We believe it will be crucial to pay special attention to the different levels of progress countries have in open data policies, and develop a program that meets their varying needs and capacities, working with local partners to address specific corruption challenges.

Leer el reporte en español aquí