Open government, the idea that if we make public service information-rich, there is a possibility of wiping out the need for middlemen, make bureaucracy more responsive to people, and take a swipe at corruption. Opening up government data democratises information, increases transparency, allows effective public oversight, and lowers the barriers for people to collaborate.
The broader benefits of opening up the data facilitates more scientific policy-making, and engage people in government by strengthening them with information they can use to challenge office bearers, devise new tools and services and create employment and lower corruption.
For example, public can visually find information about where schools, health posts or police stations are located; track and report bogus schools; know the level of education and health spending in each district; monitor government's development budget; scrutinise infrastructure spending, and generally put pressure on politicians and office bearers to be accountable.
Our first work under this PAC will be to liberate expenses data under post war reconstruction money. Then LIG will work towards setting up Nepal Open Data Initiative, modelled on Kenya's Open Data Initiative and UK's Open Government.
How can a city continue to deliver value, attract skilled professionals and become a liveable one? Traffic that flows, neighbourhoods that are safe, integrated transport systems, communication networks that are fast and reliable, environment friendly pocket of communities and dedicated tracks for cyclists.
But how exactly can we deliver, when indicators for our capital city are at its worst? The Economist's Global Liveability Survey ranks Kathmandu consistently as one of the top 10 worst cities in the world to live in, on par with Harare and Dhaka.
LIG takes a leaf out of IBM's Smarter Planet project to learn and deliver.
As our first pilot under Smarter City initiative, LIG plans to float two alternatives to Kathmandu's ambitious, pricey and unfeasible underground metro rail service. Our partner, a British multinational behind New Delhi's underground rail service, will do a preliminary comparative study on cost-effectiveness and achievability between an underground metro and light rail service. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) could be another alternative, which costs a fraction, can be delivered swiftly, and provide immediate relief to the public.
Other smarter City enterprises at later phase will include mapping security black spots within the city and working with law enforcement agencies and communities to make neighbourhoods safer, identifying energy grid pressures and devising smart solutions, identifying pollution pockets within the city and working towards smarter waste management, and using Swiftriver application to track and identify traffic bottlenecks and public transport cracks to come up with interlocking public transport.
* Note: Smarter City programme will launch only in late 2013, as LIG currently is focused exclusively on Open Government and Crowdsourcing workstreams.
How can masses of people engage with the government? What are the alternative ways for the public to interact with their office bearers? How can people hold their governments accountable with the power of the masses? How can people's genuine grievances seep into policymaking in its most unprocessed form?
LIG plans to provide a platform that enables citizens to amplify their voices for demand for services. The goal is to contribute to the improvement of service delivery by providing simple technology/media based tools and channels in amplifying citizen's concerns, displeasures, complaints or suggestions emanating from their perception of performance by duty bearers.
Open source platform SwiftRiver (eg. Kenya's Ushahidi) will be localised to develop an online platform where public can report with a phone call, email, text message or through a dedicated website. Some examples include reporting cases of misappropriation of development funds by the local politicians and office bearers, tracking falsified schools, reporting locally confined natural disasters that need urgent attention of the state, reporting human rights abuses, reporting about crimes and making a case for increased police presence etc, the possibilities are endless.
Crowdsourcing programme will also use Alceste, a qualitative data analysis program that incorporates sophisticated statistical processing to help make sense of large amounts of text very quickly.