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How to ... be Transparent ??
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development-professionals-network/2013/jun/13/open-data-transparency
Source Date: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Global
Created: Jun 14, 2013

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to capacity development. Those of us seeking to do it need to understand the context and resources, the needs of those whose capacity we are building, and the different ways we can strengthen it.
Transparency has gained great momentum in the past 10 to 15 years. Practitioners across sectors and countries now appreciate the need for openness to help tackle corruption, justify plans and actions, and enable accountability. Standards and initiatives across aid, budgets, climate finance, contracting, construction, mining and agriculture have emerged. They call for timely, reliable, accurate and accessible information. And governments are beginning to respond – 57 countries, for example, have joined the Open Government Partnership, a collaborative effort of governments and civil society committed to transparency and open government.
Transparency is often hailed as a driver of economic prosperity and empowerment. In some circles, it's equated with open data, and the notion that getting 'raw material' in the public domain will increase demand and user satisfaction. Assessors of the impact of transparency work, however, have noted that without the capacity to generate, collect, manage, analyse and disseminate data, disclosure in itself is not so useful.
So how can we help strengthen capacity for transparency? From experience facilitating the Network for Integrity in Reconstruction and participating in multi-stakeholder transparency and accountability initiatives, such as the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative(Cost), I have learned a few lessons:

Understand the context: This is a now a cliché, but we still face challenges understanding politics, existing capacity and what are appropriate techniques for capacity development. Political volatility and lack of social cohesion in an organisation or community may inhibit efforts to build skills and practices. Similarly, an online tool to help an organisation manage and disclose information may not be useful in areas of low bandwidth or accessibility.

Build on local knowledge and skills: Local First is a development approach that distinguishes between locally led, locally owned and locally implemented or delivered. It focuses on allowing local ideas and perspectives to shape interventions. When analysing capacity, expand the definition and role of capacity assessment, and ensure that the assessment considers the needs, motivation and social accountability of organisations.

Foster collaborative learning and governance: Training for different stakeholders, such as local government and civil society, often happens in silos. Understanding the challenges and opportunities organisations across different sectors face can help the learning and implementation of policies and procedures. Civil society organisations may not be quick to name and shame, for example, if they understand the constraints local governments experience, and may seek to develop practical solutions together. In Cost, for example, providing training facilitated multi-stakeholder engagement and built trust that enabled smoother implementation of country programmes and disclosure of project information.

Strengthen records management and data collection: Trustworthy and accessible records are the basis for demonstrating transparency and accountability. Cost has found that the public sector in sub-Saharan Africa generally use paper for official work. Data collection is then resource intensive. In the digital environment, records are highly vulnerable and must be managed to ensure that they remain accurate, reliable, accessible, and usable for as long as required to provide the basis for openness. As organisations such as the International Records Management Trust highlight, users should be able to find records easily, trust them and use them for as long as they are needed. Integrity and quality assurance prior to disclosure are critical. In many cases, the capacity and regulatory framework needed to manage digital records are not in place and need to be developed.
Avoid the one-off workshop and help build sustainable practices.
When participants meet for a short, lecture-style training workshop in a distant location, without an opportunity to test their learning in their environment, it is not likely that it will sink in. Hands-on learning to build and use systems and implement practices to be more open can be more effective than someone telling you to do so. Dedicated investment and longer-term support can yield great results.

Learn from good practices and guidelines: Whatever sector you are in or concern you may have, there are good practices, guidelines and experience from similar organisations or contexts. The International Aid Transparency Initiative, International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, for example, have their respective standards and guidelines on transparency. The opening government guide from theTransparency Accountability Initiative offers progressive steps for greater transparency and accountability across sectors and countries.

Promote usability of data: There are currently very limited general data standards in existence. Such standards could focus on commonly used formats for the release of data, such as CSV, XLS or XML rather than pdfs. Adoption of existing coding conventions or schemes would allow for better planning, management and monitoring. There are great organisations who can help build technical capacity such as Code for Africa, Open Data Institute, Open Knowledge Foundation, Tactical Tech and the World Bank Institute.

Work on the incentives: Ultimately, we need to understand what will make an individual or organisation commit to transparency in policy and practice. This requires understanding the challenges, risks and rewards involved, investment of resources, and the value of integrity and honesty. Not easy to get this right, but a collective effort can help.

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