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Posted 25 June, 2012 by Susannah Vila

Who Will Maintain Egypt’s #MorsiMeter?

It has been less than 48 hours since Mohamed Morsi was announced as the winner in Egypt’s first presidential race since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak 18 months ago, and already mechanisms are in place to measure his performance. A new site called MorsiMeter (the site is in Arabic) has broken down a list of Morsi’s ambitious campaign commitments and plans to track his progress in achieving them. Categories include Sanitation, Security, Bread, Fuel, and Traffic. When and if Morsi completes one of his self-assigned tasks, the site will mark the commitment as fulfilled. A tracking form in the header will show the percentage of Morsi’s completed commitments alongside a countdown of his first 100 days.

As election victory excitement  gives way to the raw practicalities of governance, the pressure is on for Morsi to make a tangible difference. Projects like MorsiMeter are designed to hold him accountable. While there is huge value in putting a spotlight on campaign commitments, and in citizen initiaties for government accountability, there is a rub: it will only work if citizens stay vigilant and someone maintains the initiative.

MorsiMeter requires some degree of crowdsourcing, and crowdsourcing requires significant staff time if it is to work. MorsiMeter’s creators, Zabatek, don’t have a great track record in this regard: I’ve been disappointed about the abandoned state of its citizen corruption reporting portal since I first noticed it about a year ago. The comparative ease of installing a Ushahidi instance versus geting people to report on corruption is evidenced by the lack of reports on Zabatek’s portal. It’s one of many examples of how hard it actually engage the crowd in important monitoring work and, unfortunately, I’d guess that MorsiMeter will be another.

How could this be avoided? If someone supports Zabatek to hire a handful of full time staffers devoted to making such an initiative work. A project like this needs people who are getting paid to work all day at monitoring governance, reporting on it and making sure people are seeing what they are doing. When I shared a link to the MorsiMeter on Twitter, someone immediately reminded me that “Morsi is still a puppet,” and he was right – but the only way he’ll be any less right is if significant man hours go into making MorsiMeter work.

4 thoughts on “Who Will Maintain Egypt’s #MorsiMeter?”

Jonathan E-W says:

Why is this a “crowd” project at all? This is a journalism job. A single reporter could update the site once or twice a month for relatively little money. Note the fine (and very robust) example at politifact.com: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/

Do you think that politifact is staffed by just one reporter checking in bi-monthly? And if so, who makes sure that their truth o meter is seen by the public so that it has the intended effect? Your point is well taken – you’re right it doesn’t have to be a crowdsourced affair – but I do think it needs more maintenance than we think. I’d guess that the success of politifact is probably due to more than just a couple of hours of work a month.

Amr says:

Thanks Susannah for this article, I stopped by it few days ago and bookmarked it to re-read it and reply to.

I agree with what you said, Zabatak was not a big success as we anticipated, due to many factors; one of which you mentioned, is lack of full dedication, as we are all in our day jobs, yet the most significant reason in my point of view is user adoption since the whole user cycle is quite broken as there’s no available way to go beyond the reported information and make real use and impact of it.

That’s why we have been/are still trying to change the model few times.

About MorsiMeter, I believe that we could find away to make use of both approaches, journalism and crowsourcing. Can’t yet elaborate about it, but we hope to find a way 🙂

Amr
MorsiMeter.com, Zabatak.com

Susannah Vila says:

Hey Amr – Thanks for stopping by and apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Couldn’t agree more about the broken user cycle deterring participation. Creating this feedback loop, as well as conducting lots of outreach to let everyone know it is happening, are super important components of any strategic plan for a project like Zabatek. My take is that the easier it is to make a new map the less likely people are to start by building strategies…and this is a problem! Same goes for Morsimeter… true, it doesn’t rely on crowdsourcing, but having a website up and running is only the first step… it could still benefit from a strategic plan. We’re happy to exchange ideas with you on this in a brainstorming session – and will find you on email to discuss.

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