Part of our work at the Matchbox Project is to help organizations find and learn from existing projects that have similar aims, tactics, and strategies. These comparable projects can be successes or failures, in a neighboring country or halfway across the world, but each one is valuable for an organization in the planning process. Below is a selection of some interesting projects we found for our partners working on transparency and accountability (T/A) issues in Latin America and Southern Africa.
Many of the projects that we support in Latin America are designed to increase public awareness about topics discussed in congress. Information on political processes can often be difficult to find and may not always be easy to understand. To combat this, organizations around the globe are working in a range of mediums to inform citizens about government decisions. Increasingly, organizations are providing online resources such as Red Latinoamericana por la Transparencia in Latin America, that measures and documents progress in legislative transparency throughout the region. Others are building open-source tools like My Society’s Pombola that provide a platform to monitor the activities of congress. Some sites encourage public participation in democratic processes like Codeando México´s project, Explica la Ley, which permits users to comment on and explain articles within a law. Whereas PopVox provides a platform for users to leave comments on bills being discussed in real-time.
Whether plotting citizen reports, census data or changes to bills within congress, visualizations can simplify and clarify large amounts of complicated data. Organizations such as Borde Politcio in Mexico, provide visualizations to help clarify who voted on each bill and relevant news articles associated with each law. GrowingBlue creates interactive maps of water availability that are accessible to the public, which can be used to advocate for environmental reform. Some governments make their census data public on platforms like Kenya OpenData and provide interactive visualizations to compliment the datasets. Other sites take a more historical approach to data visualization like WaterAid’s Africa WASH Map, which maps changes in access to water and sanitation across Africa since 1990 and predicts how things will look by 2030. We also found sites that show how bills change as they pass through congress like The Fabrique de la Loi from France and The Making of a Law from Germany. Ciudadano Instituto is currently building a bill tracking and visualization component called BillIt that integrates with MySociety’s other Poplus components.
Citizen Reporting Platforms
Several of our applicants wanted to create tools that would encourage citizens to report and monitor public services, such as water quality or health care. Many of the comparable platforms we found offer two main features: a simple reporting process, either through SMS or a web based portal, and an accessible visualization of the verified reports. Water Point Mapping, created by WaterAid for water, sanitation, hygiene practitioners, is an interesting example because it does not require an internet connection in order to collect the data. This can prove very useful in contexts where internet access is inconsistent or unavailable. Citizen Action Platform aggregates SMS and web-based reports about health care service delivery in Uganda and is built on the open source crowdsourcing and citizen engagement framework called Janai. Other citizen reporting initiatives take advantage of applications like WhatsApp to encourage citizens to report traffic violations directly to the police department. iQUEST uses an open-source mobile-based tool to track residential water service by Ghana Water Company Ltd (GWCL) and plots the results online.
Finding comparable projects can be tricky. We found numerous examples for each one of our partners and picked the ones we found the most relevant and interesting. Part of the process of the engine room’s Matchbox is that we document and share our research so that emerging projects can learn and build on existing examples. If you know of any comparable projects, please share them with us by leaving them in the comments section below.
Our selection process for Matchbox is rolling. If you think you meet the criteria we would love to hear about your project. Check out the engine room Matchbox website for more details!