constitution finalWith the OGP just around the corner, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the work of some of Indigo’s grantees working on parliamentary monitoring and constitutional transparency and access. Of course, these two areas are but a selection of those that might come under a broader transparency and accountability umbrella. Still, I hope they give a flavour of the kinds of work and projects that we are supporting. If you’re interested in reading more about how technology is empowering African citizens to hold their governments to account, you might want to take a look at this recent article from The Guardian. And if you’re part of an organisation working on similar issues in Africa, you might want to take a look at our How to Apply page.

Parliamentary Monitoring

Hut Space: 12 months ago, Ghana was gearing up for a presidential election. In the event, it was a close run thing with the winning candidate securing 50.7% of the popular vote. It was back in October 2012 – two months ahead of the election – that we awarded Hut Space a grant to develop a website where Ghanaians (and others) could find information on their MPs, which parties they represented and what their educational background is. As well as funding the Ghanaian team, we also provided funding to the UK-based mySociety to help them partner with Hut Space and work jointly on the web development. To read more about the grant, click here.

Parliamentary Monitoring Group: The South African group, PMG, have been monitoring the activities of the parliament there for more than a decade. Despite the prominence of South African politics – within Africa and globally – it has not always been straightforward to find information on public representatives. That’s why we awarded PMG a grant towards the cost of maintaining and promoting the People’s Assembly website which will provide information on parliamentary proceedings and elected representatives and the development of an MP locator. As with Hut Space, PMG have been working in conjunction with mySociety. For more read here.

mySociety: A couple of weeks ago I found that somebody had dumped a load of tyres outside my house one night. My first thought wasn’t to call the council, but was to visit FixMyStreet, a mySociety project that allows UK citizens to report issues like graffiti or fly tipping via a website that then automatically forwards on those complaints to the relevant body responsible for dealing with them. Over the last couple of years, mySociety have moved beyond their UK-focused work to start a series of international projects. In short, they aim to help transparency and parliamentary monitoring organisations around the world to implement projects that use mySociety’s code, but tailor the look and functionality of the sites to the local context. To us, it makes sense because we think that there’s little point in each and every parliamentary monitoring organisation designing and executing its own website from scratch. I should probably say that my tyre problem still hasn’t been fixed, by the way, but I blame my local council for that rather than mySociety! To read more about the partnership approach and our grant to mySociety, click here.

Transparency of Constitutions

Constitute: Constitutions are central to the way in which states are organised, telling us what our rights are and informing us of the limits of our governments. They are in many ways legislative centrepieces around which all other legislation is designed. That’s why we have supported Constitute, a website which aims to digitally tag all constitutions in the world, allowing researchers, drafters and others to quickly compare constitutional provisions in different countries. To read more, visit this special guest blog post.

Yougora: As I’ve previously blogged about, we always try to ensure that any technology project uses appropriate technology. For vast swathes of the world, internet access is normally via a mobile phone. That’s why we decided to support Yougora Ltd to develop an Android app for the Ghanaian constitution. While we recognise that not everyone in Ghana has an Android phone, we think the development of such an app marks a step forward by increasing constitutional access to more people than previously. More here.

Veritas: With an upcoming constitutional review process we were approached by Veritas in Zimbabwe to help fund the development of a ZImbabwe constitution app. The app was developed in Nigeria by Pledge51. To read more about this grant, click here.

Nigerian Constitution App: The original (at least for us) constitution app. When we heard from the Pledge51 team that they were looking for some additional funding to improve and expand their Nigerian constitution app, it’s fair to say we were a little skeptical. Who would want to read the constitution on their mobile phone? Well, with more than 700,000 downloads across several different platforms, we were clearly mistaken. But that’s now. We were sufficiently impressed with the 50,000 downloads or so that they had managed to rack up before they approached us for funding that we decided to support further development of the app. In hindsight, we think it was money very well spent. Read more about the project here.