Open Data Platforms: A Tool To Revolutionise Governance

Jay Naidoo | The Guardian | April 16, 2013

Jay Naidoo shares lessons on how to engage citizens in governance and strengthen civil society through open data

Having returned from speaking at a conference hosted by the World Bank president Jim Yong Kim on the issue of constituency feedback, I have re-learnt an important lesson: that citizens always know better than the government or the market what works for them. So why don't state officials and policymakers take us, the citizens, into their confidence? Can we begin to see citizens as the greatest ally for good governance? And if so, how do we pursue a partnership between government and citizens?

Part of the answer lies in open data. According to the latest open budget index survey, South Africa ranks second out of 100 countries for the transparency and accountability of its budget processes. Statistics SA has the most comprehensive data sets in Africa. Imagine if we could take the education budget at R230bn (£16.6bn) for 2013/2014 and break that down into the budget per school. Parents, students, teachers would be empowered to demand to see the accounts of expenditure. [...]