Tag Archives: Transparency International

Hacking for a Better Government

Have you ever stood in line at the DMV or any other government office, and just thought, why can we land a man on the moon but we can’t have efficient government services? I’m not talking corruption. Just plain basic efficiency. With all those trillions of dollars/pounds/euros/yen/yuan going into all those coffers worldwide, and with the marvels and wonders of modern tech, why do we still have traffic congestion, urban blight, and potholes?

Well, believe it or not, help may be on the way. And not just here in the U.S., but worldwide.  In fact, grass-roots tech-enabled activism might have started in Kenya, where Ushahidi was born out of the need to map incidents of violence and peace efforts in the 2008 post-election unrest.

There is a catch, though. That catch is You. In order to make our governments work better, the citizens of those governments need to voice their concerns. Fortunately, that is becoming as easy as typing a text message.

Here are a few of the organizations making it happen:

  • Code for America – Where’s My School Bus?, Adopt-A-Hydrant, and Textizen are just a few of the apps created to help people communicate with and better use government services.
  • Random Hacks of Kindness has volunteers all over the world taking on a wide variety of issues. They’ve created Person Finder which was used in the Haiti, Chile and New Zealand earthquakes, and Ad Hawk, which identifies the sponsor of political ads. RHOK has recently teamed up with Transparency International to work on new ways of using technology to fight corruption.
  • Neighborland – This is a fun way to make a difference by sharing ideas about what’s needed in your neck of the woods; gathering support; and then making your project happen. Some of the ideas that have taken off include a Food Truck Festival and Bikeway Signage. Neighborland has also partnered with Code for America fellows in Austin to generate ideas for the Code Across Austin Civic Hackathon.

I can’t wait for the app that solves the Los Angeles traffic problem.

Thanks for stopping by,



Good Governance

This is the last of my indicators and also one of the ones which, happily, seems to be getting an increasing amount of attention. It’s again not an easy one to quantify but I do think there is a pretty strong correlation between the fairness and quality of a country’s government, and the level of corruption. (An interesting although admittedly rough correlation can be drawn between two countries, Chile and Haiti, and the different courses recovery after a large earthquake has taken. Chile, rated the less corrupt of the two, was better prepared and recovered far more quickly than Haiti, which is still in the process of recovery.)

This is one indicator that I’m also pretty confident of in terms of the numbers which I am getting from Transparency International. I’m sure many countries have many and various problems with TI, their methodology, as well as their habit of bringing to light things that others would prefer not be exposed.

But, on balance, the world seems to be discovering that more transparency equals more social justice, and most people think that that is a pretty good idea and the direction they would like their leaders and governments to go, willingly or not.

Aiding in this global drive towards shining bright lights into dark places is the explosion of handheld technologies, including smart phones and their ability to transmit live feeds of government action, inaction, or just plain idiocy. (Sometimes, this seems to backfire rather badly for instance when Taliban clerics dispense “justice” in the badlands of Afghanistan, these instance are occasionally filmed to demonstrate their virtuousness. Most of the viewers, however, don’t quite get the same message.)

Other great examples of technology in action must include mention of the Ushahidi project which brought unprecedented transparency to post-election violence in Kenya. (Ushahidi was also one of the first to effectively implement crowd-sourcing technology.) Another of my favorite recent efforts is the very aptly named and bluntly effective, Indian website, I PAID A BRIBE. (I love the fact that the creators put the name in all-caps — literally screaming for attention! I’m guessing that was deliberate but either way, nice touch.) I would be remiss also, if I didn’t mention that both of these websites are home-grown affairs, an encouraging thought, and indicative that these worldwide movements are not being driven by Western governments (although this is a consistent accusation from many corruption governments to try to distract attention from their own failings) but by the citizens themselves.

I’ve just updated the numbers for corruption so you can check out the shift here. It’s encouraging that my Number went up by almost a full percent to 59.1610856162698 (up from 58.569457499862) and some of this is definitely due to increased transparency. (Lots of countries went up in their ratings this year.) However, I have to be clear , I’ve added in data to countries which didn’t have it before (TI added a few more countries this year.) so that has probably driven the number up as well. Still, nice to see it go up!

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC


Most of the time, we’re looking at figures for the title of this blog post with the added “un-” in front of it. Again, in keeping with my aim towards a world at 100%, I’m turning this number around to reflect a more positive stance towards getting to that 100%. (I’m using figures for unemployment again from the World Bank, and yes, I know, this is probably not the best way to get anything approaching accurate but until I figure something better out, this will have to suffice! As always, if you have an idea on how to do this, I would love to know.)

One commonality of the current worldwide economic turmoil of protests from the U.S. Occupy Wall Street to the streets of London, Cairo, even near Beijing, is dissatisfaction with working conditions, wages and/or availability of jobs. We seem to have a “Workers Revolution” on our hands despite the fact that Communism and Marxism pretty much went out of fashion in 1990.

A lot of this is actually not a protest about either jobs or unemployment, but really a massive popular outcry against corruption, both on a government and corporate level.

I do believe that we are making some headway against corruption worldwide, but I am also concerned that, with all the focus on whatever the quick fix of the moment for our economic and political problems is, we are missing something rather important.

That’s the simple fact that the world is changing in ways we can scarcely comprehend, and that the same old-same old economic modeling we have been cruising along with, will just not work.

The biggest problem we face is not that we don’t have jobs, it’s that we don’t have careers. Jobs can be performed by robots and more and more frequently, are. When people complain about how all the manufacturing jobs are going overseas, I am always baffled that they think we can “get them back” somehow. Those outsourced jobs are eventually — and I’m talking 10 – 20 years — going to be gone forever. You do not need to pay for health insurance for robots.

What we need to do as a world is re-tool for the next-gen evolution of work. Some countries are doing extraordinarily well at this, others not so much. In the end-up, though, I do believe that humans are remarkably adaptable and we will adjust to this new way of being. This is truly an exciting time — education will become more of a necessity than ever for moving ahead; people may work fewer hours and from home, but they will be doing more creative and mentally stimulating work; and with increased connectivity, we will be innovating and problem solving with new technologies that we can’t even imagine.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

PS. I haven’t updated my numbers recently but this story showed up today on Afghanistan and a wonderful improvement in their maternal and infant mortality numbers. They’ve been on the bottom of the Wikipedia page on infant mortality so this just made my heart sing. (I also have a special place in my heart for this country but I won’t go into that now.) So updating the numbers with that special addition, we’re at: 58.6083241657513 (Up .010020000006 from my last update.)

PPS. Transparency International just updated their corruption index numbers for the year so I’m looking forward to updating those numbers soon too and keeping my fingers crossed that they’ve gotten better! (The TI numbers are the ones I use for my “Good Governance” indicator.) India apparently has not, though, according to this article. Although that’s not exactly a good thing, it does make me wonder if, with the recent drive on corruption, more people are aware of the problem, so the TI numbers may not mean actual corruption has increased just that people are more fed up with it. And that would be a great step in the right direction.