Citizens Fighting Corruption: Roles and Challenges for Civic Media


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Presentation by Vinay Bhargava, Chief Technical Advisor, PTF at the MIT Media Lab Civic Media Lunch on 5/17/2012

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  • About 85000 of India’s 50 million poor households live in the Khariar block (county) in the sate of Odisha in India. One of them is Chinda, a landless widow, who lives in a mud house of the type you see in the picture with her 5 daughters (one mentally challenged) and two sons. According to the Citizen Charter and social safety net schemes they are entitled to benefits of pension, health services, housing and employment. However, even 4 years after her husband’s death, she was neither aware of her rights under the Citizens Charter nor benefitting from any of the government social safety net schemes. Her story is illustrative of how many poor in India and elsewhere poor are being victimized twice. First they are bypassed by the development programs and suffer chronic poverty. Second, corruption robs them of services and social safety net benefits intended to alleviate their plight. Chinda’s story is not an isolated one. For instance many landless persons in Khariar were allotted land titles 3 decades back but the land was never demarcated for their use despite their paying land revenue regularly. It was reported that Revenue Inspector was demanding Rs.300/- bribe per beneficiary for demarcation.Another Khariar resident Paharia was admitted to the Khariar health service center for child birth. The NHRM provides for not only free delivery of child but also an incentive payment for choosing institutional delivery instead of home delivery. However, the nurse and the doctor demanded $20 from the husband Paharia who mortgaged family gold to pay for the medicine. In another case, a request for information under the Right to Information (RTI) law of India led to the discovery that the local officials in Khariar had claimed more than $4,000 in the villagers name for construction of 7 farm ponds in the private plots of 7 landowners. On site there was no physical evidence. The land-owners and villagers from Kusmal complained about this matter to the local officials at the block level as to the District Collector, Nuapada. But no action was taken.By now we get the picture of what is going on in the habitat of the bottom billion. How can they be helped and what can you do? This is the topic of my presentation today.
  • The central issue is the political agenda of those in power is  not the same as those of civil society, so the two are in a struggle.  Mobilizing civil action is aimed at making those in power more accountable and this is clearly something they will resist.  In its best form civil action leads to a ‘negotiation’ with the powers that be where they feel obliged to yield for fear of more militant actions.
  • Realtyis the political agenda of those in power is  not the same as those of civil society, so the two are in a struggle.  Mobilizing civil action is aimed at making those in power more accountable and this is clearly something they will resist.  In its best form civil action leads to a ‘negotiation’ with the powers that be where they feel obliged to yield for fear of more militant actions.
  • The central issue is the political agenda of those in power is  not the same as those of civil society, so the two are in a struggle.  Mobilizing civil action is aimed at making those in power more accountable and this is clearly something they will resist.  In its best form civil action leads to a ‘negotiation’ with the powers that be where they feel obliged to yield for fear of more militant actions.
  • Let me take you back to Khariar to illustrate how the citizens can fight corruption.
  • Ayauskam that had been working on poverty, health, forest land rights and livelihood issues in Khariar block since 2003. It submitted a project to lower corruption in health services delivery in 10 Panchayats of Khariar block and improve service delivery responsiveness. The project and Ayauskam were subjected to due diligence by PTF and PAC and approved in mid 2009. Ayauskam (NGO with Khariarprscence hears about PTF’s Citizen’s Against Corruption Program and files application. PTF approves a $15 K Grant to Ayauskam (2009) to help citizens in Khariar fight corruption. About Partnership for Transparency Fund ( ): An international NGO Vision: Citizens succeed in making their government free of corruptionProvides advice and small grants to CSOs Supports innovation, peer learning and knowledge sharingRun by a group of highly experienced volunteers
  • Under the Ayauskam project help for Chinda and others to fight corruption in Khariar was on its way. Ayauskam used a number of strategies and tools to help citizens fight corruption. Ayauskam started with a baseline survey of 64 villages in Khariar block to assess the extent and nature of corruption. The survey found that people surveyed paid more than $11,000 annually in “corruption taxes” to government health service providers. The government hospital was charging $55 for delivering a child when it is supposed to be free under NRHM. Medicine was not available free of cost, doctors and the other health service providers were not available during duty hours. Hospital staff demonstrated condescending and inhumane behavior toward patients and their relatives.The first step taken by Ayauskam was to use the survey findings to increase media awareness about corruption thru a media consultation workshop.The journalists subsequently covered stories on health right violations including service provider behaviors, lack of free medicine, and so on. The next step was to establish and strengthen community based citizen organizations (CBOs)to monitor and confront corruption. Every of the 64 villages formed a Citizens against Corruption forum to protest corruption issues at the village level and at higher levels by joining into a network. Ayauskam conducted Capacity development programs for members, elected officials of the local government units, community based organizations such as youth clubs and included service providers. The members of the citizen forum organized Campaigns against corruption and performed Social audits to discuss the problems of each village followed by public hearings with district level officials including the District Collector and the head of the district health department. Villages used right to information requests to obtain information about services which enabled them to become more articulate. An impact monitoring tool was developed for community volunteers and self-help group members to monitor health service delivery and corrupt practices. Rallies and demonstrations were conducted to show the strength of the CBOs and the community.Ayauskam encountered many challenges. Service providers and officials at the block and district levels initially reacted negatively. They influenced people to not cooperate with the project team. Doctors tried to influence the leaders of political parties to subvert the effort. Their strategies included making threats to file criminal and false claims against DBM members, and withholding information. Without the relevant information, it was not possible to organize people. In all cases, information was provided after the applicants filed appeals according to the Right to Information Act.
  • In the face of challenges, Ayauskam and the DBM members persisted, wrote letters, and conducted regular discussions with higher authorities and local politicians. This forced authorities and politicians to involve the people in improving health services. Gradually the situation improved. Increased awareness and greater participation of people forced the service providers to take their questions seriously. DBM members started discussions with service providers. DBM members made it clear that they are fighting against corruption and not against individuals. Cooperation between the community and service providers evolved as problems were shared and solved.DBM efforts at constructive engagement drew support from many other local groups. The involvement of elected members of Panchayati Raj Institutions helped. Grassroots service providers cooperated and participated in project activities. Cooperation between community organizers and local level health functionaries is improving. Social audits strengthened cooperation between the health care administration and the DBM forum at the local level. The training for CBOs encouraged them to support the cause. Self-help groups in every village have become active on the corruption issue.It is early days but consider the successes and failures in Khariar citizens fight against corruption. With DBM help Ms. BhujeChinda was included in the PDS and is getting 10 kg rice free of cost. She received Rs.10, 000.00 under family benefit scheme and is included in widow pension scheme. To help the landless persons in Ranmndapanchayat DBM decided to conduct a social audit and invited Tahsildar (local revenue officer). Before attending the audit the Tahasildar ordered demarcation of the land. The work that was not done for 25 years was conducted in a day! The Tahasildar responded immediately because he feared that CAC would organize a people’s rally. When the DBM raised Ms. Paharia’s case with authorities the doctors protested, filed a police case against members of the DBM, alleging that it was instigating people to give false allegations. Members of DBM met the higher level Medical Officer who reprimanded the staff at Khariar health center. But the staff took retaliatory action and the husband decided not to file charges. It was not possible for the DBM to prove the corruption charges due to the change of statement but the issue raised fear within the service providers. Rather than taking any action in Kusmal to investigate, some government officers tried to dig the ponds by using machine. This was stopped by the villagers and the machine was handed over to the police by the villagers. This matter was reported in various newspapers and electronic media. The government of Orissa was forced to conduct an inquiry and fixed the responsibility with 5 government officials. Two were suspended and three lost their jobs. These actions by the government against the officials misappropriating funds under MGNREGs were unprecedented.Overall, as a result of the citizen efforts, facilitated by Ayauskam, the government officials now recognize the strength of the community. The health service providers have been instructed to involve CBOs and the community in village health planning. The citizens committee to carry out village health planning and monitoring gained real power. Not only the target areas, but other Gram Panchayats of Khariar block benefited from the project intervention. Village level service providers started attending the social audits and related programs. The rallies conducted against corruption increased the people’s confidence and they are expecting more such events. The impact study done by Ayauskam shows that there has been a reduction of corrupt practices in government hospitals: 80 percent of those surveyed said that they are not paying fees for hospital delivery. Payment of the service tax to other service providers has been reduced by 50 percent. Expenditures on medical services during pregnancy and delivery have been reduced by 82 percent.Village health committees have been formed, free medicines are available at the village level, and countersigning of checks for financial support to mothers after hospital delivery is done immediately. There is effective distribution of the full quota of Take Home Rations under the ICDS, medicine lists are displayed at government hospitals, and malnourished children receive special care. Anti-natal and post-natal health services have improved. Every household is now able to save more than $55 per year due to these efforts. People’s participation increased in the decision making process, implementation and monitoring of programs.
  •  PTF is continuing its support to Ayauskam and 14 other such CSOs. The challenges experienced and results achieved are being analyzed to draw lessons. A model for helping some of the bottom billion is emerging out of the PTF program in places like Khariar and from similar programs in other places. Researchers at International Development institute at Sussex in UK, the World Bank and Jamil Poverty Lab at Harvard are analyzing the results of citizen empowerment and engagement approaches in improving the public service delivery and other aspects of public sector expenditures such procurement and participatory budgeting. We at PTF are among a growing number of development practitioners who believe that the best way to ensure that that the development programs and services are reaching and benefitting the target groups among the bottom billion is to ask them. We also believe that this is best done by those who are separated from those who are implementing the programs. This arms length approach to accountability is important. What is happening in Khariar block is a case in point. The measures built into the design of the safety net schemes to prevent corruption are falling short. The accountability institutions out side of the executive branch to prevent, detect and punish corrupt practices are also falling short. The new paradigm is that empowering and engaging the beneficiaries to hold the service providers accountable will deliver better results than depending upon the government systems of checks and balances alone. This ideas was first promoted by the World Development Report 2004 under the concept of ‘short route of accountability’ and is now in vogue as social accountability and open government. If you are wondering about the long route of accountability I can explain that in the discussion session. Let me get back to the chart on the screen. Our experience as well as work by others is leading us to argue that the change model shown in the chart can help the bottom billion in the world get better results from the programs being operated in their name. It is a five step model. Now a few qualifiers. This approach will not work everywhere. It requires a certain level of freedom of association and media. It also requires government willingness to listen and respond. It also requires sustainable funding for the social intermediary CSOs. As we know these conditions dont exist everywhere. The good thing is that these conditions are emerging in more and more settings to a varying degree. Now at this point you may be saying – OK I get it but what has it got to do with Civic Media. Let me turn to that but I wanted to get your attention first about helping the bottom billion and how it may be done. Now let me turn to roles and challenges for civic media to help the bottom billion of the citizens of the world.
  •  First, let me say that the civic media is already making a significant difference as I will show with some of the examples. Second, let me say that there is a huge potential for civic media tools to: (a) empower the bottom billion; (b) help them monitor the service provider performance; (c) constructively engage with authorities; and (D) take action individually and collectively to demand action and monitor response. The target clients here are the individual citizens, social intermediary CSOs, authorities, and media. The areas where civic media can play a role are highlighted in green. There are examples of ICT being used in each of these areas. What we need is a solution that has all the key functions to produce results.
  • Ushahidi ("testimony" in Swahili) is a free and open-source tool for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping.Originally designed in the wake of the 2008 violence-marred Kenyan elections, Ushahidi has since grown to accommodate many disaster-response scenarios, including the Haiti earthquake and in various implementations throughout Latin America and Europe.Episurveyor-This tool, created by DataDyne, provides a low-cost method of form entry and data collection via SMS-based text systems. The process relies on EpiSurveyor's mobile application, which is available on many entry-level mobile phones. The service allows organizations to poll users, who respond to questions and ​submit comments via SMS.Citivox- Citivox is a cloud-based service that provides real-time report management and analytics. The platform monitors various technology and social media channels, such as Twitter and blogs, and extracts the information relevant to your project. You can track and visualize these reports in real-time, enabling rapid feedback loops and decision-making.​FrontlineSMS- FrontlineSMS turns a computer​ and mobile phone (or a modem) into a two-way messaging hub. As a mobile system application, users do not need an Internet connection to send/receive messages. The system gives users a powerful tool in both the collection and distribution of large amounts of data, while eliminating the need to collect and store information manually.SeeClickFix strengthens citizen feedback loops regarding the performance of local governments and maintenance of public assets. SeeClickFix was launched in December 2009 to empower citizens to make a difference in their  communities by tracking and reporting problems regarding public assets and services, as well as to bring issues to the attention of local governments and organizations, and make them accountable for fixing public assets and improve public services.r.Data Therapy RahulBhargavaWe are actively engaging with community coalitions in order to build their capacity to do their own data visualization and presentation. New computer-based tools are lowering the barriers of entry for making engaging and creative presentations of data. Rather than encouraging partnerships with epidemiologists, statisticians, or programmers, we see an opportunity to build capacity within small community organizations by using these new tools. view siteVoIP DrupalLeo BurdVoIP Drupal is an innovative framework that brings the power of voice and Internet-telephony to Drupal sites. It can be used to build hybrid applications that combine regular touchtone phones, web, SMS, Twitter, IM and other communication tools in a variety of ways, facilitating community outreach and providing an online presence to those who are illiterate or do not have regular access to computers. VoIP Drupal will change the way you interact with Drupal, your phone and the web.view Ethan Zuckerman, RahulBhargava, Sasha Costanza-Chock and Becky Hurwitz is a hosted mobile blogging platform that makes it easy for people to share content to the web from mobile phones via voice calls, SMS, or MMS. Our goal is to make it easier for people in low-income communities to participate in the digital public sphere. You don't need a smart phone or an app to post blog entries or digital stories to Vojo - any phone will do. You don't even need internet access: Vojo lets you create an account via sms and start posting right away. Vojo is powered by the VozMobDrupal Distribution, a customized version of the popular free and open source content management system that is being developed through an ongoing codesign process by day laborers, household workers, and a diverse team from the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA).view site
  • Citizens Fighting Corruption: Roles and Challenges for Civic Media

    1. 1. Citizens Fighting Corruption:Roles and Challenges for Civic Media By: Vinay Bhargava Chief Technical Adviser, PTF At MIT Media Lab 17th May 2012
    2. 2. My focus today is -How , many of the World’s poorest billion are being deprived of delivery of public services due to corruption and poor governance? Why and How Citizens Are Fighting Such Corruption?How the civic media is helping, and can further help, the Bottom Billion of citizens in this fight?
    3. 3. Let us start with.. - How many of the World’s poorestbillion are being deprived of delivery of public services due to corruption and poor governance?
    4. 4. Many of the World’s Bottom Billion Often Victimized Twice BYPASSED CHEATEDin economic development in social safety net. 30-60% Of subsidized food grains destined for poor in India never reach them. 47% Households in Cambodia reported paying a bribe in 2009 True Story: The Khariar Block in India
    5. 5. HOW SERIOUS IS THE PROBLEM? HUGE.More than a billion people live on $1.25 or less a day of which about 400 million in India alone
    6. 6. Problem attracting attention of brilliant minds… ..and me! .
    7. 7. In this context let me talk about.. -Why is it important to help Citizens to Fight Corruption ?
    8. 8. In a perfect world the long route of accountability will work … State Independent Politicians / Accountability Policymakers Institutions Citizens/Clients Services delivered ServiceIndividuals Social effectively Providers/Agencies IntermediariesAccountability Relationship = Citizen to state to service provider
    9. 9. But the world is not perfect and the bottom billion can not depend on the long route… Institutional Corruption Of the type postulated by Prof Lessig Undermining the long route and faith in institutions involved .Source : Transparency International
    10. 10. That is why direct citizen action to demand accountability and fight corruption are needed. State Independent Politicians / Accountability Policymakers Institutions Citizens/Clients Short Route of ServiceIndividuals Social Intermediaries Client Power Providers/AgenciesAccountability Relationships: Clients hold service providers accountable by direct action as well as by pressuring state using social accountability strategies and tools.
    11. 11. Social Accountability defined [the short route]• Beneficiary and civil society engage..• in monitoring and assessing government performance,• providing feedback on,• and voicing demands for, improved service delivery.
    12. 12. The Short Route is not a substitute for thelong route but necessary complement due to its shortcomings as exemplified by.. INSTIUTIONAL CORRUPTION
    13. 13. But…. -Can Citizens Fight Corruption ? Yes they can and they are. Here is how.
    14. 14. Help Arrives in Khariar to help citizens fight corruption.• PTF provides a grant to Ayauskam to help Khariar citizens fight corruption Mission Road,Khariar- District: Nuapada State: ODISHA MISSION: TO EMPOWER THE POWERLESS so that they can participate in the mainstream of development process on equal footing.• About Partnership for Transparency Fund ( ): – An international NGO – Vision: Citizens succeed in making their government free of corruption – Provides advice and small grants to CSOs – Supports innovation, peer learning and knowledge sharing – Run by a group of highly experienced volunteers
    15. 15. Where PTF Operates.PTF has made some 200 grants to CSOs in 44 countries
    16. 16. Ayauskam Helps the Poor in Khariar to Fight Corruption Using the Short Route. Raising Awareness of citizens rights and entitlementsNote: The photos are not all from Khariar. They are meant to illustrate the tools /strategies used by Ayauskam.
    17. 17. Khariar citizens score victories in the fight against corruptionKHARIAR-Five leading members of Citizens Against Corruption Forum • Chanda gets pension and subsidized food • Land was demarcated for the landless • Officials in the ‘pond scam’ were suspended or lost job. • Officials recognize community strength and are more responsive.• Negative Outcome: Paharia’s husband was forced to withdraw complaint.
    18. 18. Citizens Fighting Corruption in Service Delivery The Emerging Change Model 1. Raise Community awareness of their rights and benefits 5. Citizen groups 2.Form and empower periodically monitor CSOs act as citizen groups to changes and provide social engage/organizefeedback to community intermediary collective action and authorities at all stages and play a 4. Citizen groups key role. 3. Citizen groups constructively engage monitor performance with service providers and share information to demand increased to create pressure for responsiveness better results
    19. 19. How scalable and replicable is the Khariar social accountability model for fighting corruption ? Research is going on…Replicability and scalability is a huge challenge but civic media can help.
    20. 20. Now the moment you all have been waiting for… -How the civic media is helping, and can further help,the brave citizens in this fight?
    21. 21. What is needed…. Raising Community awareness of their rights and benefits Enabling Citizen groups to Forming and periodically monitor Integrated empowering citizen changes and provide groups tofeedback to community and Solution engage/organize authorities that does collective action all of this Helping Citizen groups Helping Citizen groups to monitor performance constructively engage with and share information service providers to demand to press for better increased responsiveness results
    22. 22. Scale of challengeIn India alone:• Over 6500 blocks like Khariar in India with..• 40 million Below Poverty Line households..• Are challenged to access social safety benefits over $10 billion annually. Globally• Free of corruption Over $100 billion in pro-poor development aid
    23. 23. Made for Each Other? My understanding of Civic Media tools Citizens Against Corruption (social and systems is that they enable accountability) Programs seek to: communities to:• Raise individual and • Collect and share information community awareness • Understand their needs and• Enable and Empower Groups strengths• Monitor service performance • Connect information to action• Share information • Amplify voices• Engage with authorities • Connect with new audiences• Provide feedback • Visualize data• Redress Grievances • Share content• Take collective action
    24. 24. Following applications of Civic media tools for social accountability already creating a Buzz….• : raising awareness about corruption by harnessing energy of citizens• Citizen complaint resolution• Community empowerment in Senegal the-jokko-initiative• Reproductive health information dissemination• : maps public education services in the Philippines.• Tools for citizen reporting and data mapping
    25. 25. Incomplete Mapping of tools to social accountability needs Raise Form Citizens Enable Redress SA Needs Awareness Groups Report/ Collective grievances mapping ActionCivic Media ToolUshahidi X XFrontlineSMS X XRapid SMS X XEpisurveyor XSeeClickFix XIpaidabribe X X XVoIP Drupal X X X
    26. 26. Potential Impact • World wide interest in social accountability program that make a positive impact on lives of the Bottom Billion. • Client group for Civic Media Apps for Social Accountability is large and global: CSOs, Communities, Media, and Service providers • PTF ready to provide a good testing ground through its: • Network of CSOs in several countries • Ongoing program with potential to scale up • Development experts (PTF volunteers)Press Release , WASHINGTON, April 19, 2012 . The World Bank Board of Executive Directors hasapproved in principle the creation of a Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA).The GPSA is a new mechanism to scale up and support social accountability by beneficiarygroups and civil society organizations (CSOs) in developing countries.
    27. 27. Thank you.
    28. 28. And the answer is …. NOT CONCLUSIVE BUT PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE TO PROCEED WITH CAUTION Empowering beneficiaries to demand good governance (social accountability) in service delivery has a better chance to produce good results when one or more of the following enabling conditions exist or can be ensured during implementation Space for Notional civil acceptance by Reasonable society to service Receptivity to Public access amount of operate provider of citizento information media and accountability participation freedom CSO/CBO to citizens / capacity beneficiaries Source: PTF 29
    29. 29. Grievance Redress System:
    30. 30. Mobile tools and ICT-enabled apps to promote transparency and civic engagement• The World Bank - Open Development Technology Alliance supports use of following tools to enhance accountability and improve the delivery and quality of public services through technology-enabled citizen engagement ( – EpiSurveyor: Affordable mobile data collection. – Citivox: Turn citizen reports into actionable information. – FrontlineSMS two-way SMS messaging system that enables direct communication between large groups and a central database. – SeeClickFix strengthens citizen feedback loops regarding the performance of local governments and maintenance of public assets. – Ushahidi a citizen feedback platform• MIT Media Lab: Center for Civic Media ( ) – VOIP Drupal: voice and Internet-telephony – : mobile blogging to share content to the web from any phone – Datatherapy: build capacity of community coalitions for data visualization and presentation.