Motivation for the Research
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2011 implemented the Full Disclosure Policy which directs local government units (LGUs) to post public finance documents including receipt and utilisation of funds in LGU websites. The objective is to make local governments more accountable with the assumption that citizens or their representatives understand and are able to use these information. Very recently, DILG required the publication of reports in open format (at the current stage, in spreadsheets).
However, the current research conducted by Step Up Consulting Services supported by the International Development Research Center (Canada) through the World Wide Web Foundation (UK) revealed that while provincial governments in Bohol, Bulacan, and South Cotabato post financial information in their websites, these are hardly used by civil society organizations (CSOs) for their own decision-making processes, for engaging with provincial government in budgeting processes, and in ensuring transparency and accountability in the procurement of projects and the disbursement of public funds. In the most extreme cases, the CSOs are not even aware that the information exists and how they will be able to use them. This project takes the view that for a more transparent and accountable local governance, civil society groups, media, and the business sector, needs to proactively engage with local government units through open government data in order to achieve transparency and accountability, or better service delivery to citizens.
In this case, it is important that while significant efforts have been made by the government to open data to the public, this is matched with a capacity building program that would enable citizens to engage with government data. However, little is known about how this would be done in the local context in the Philippines, so this research is considered critical and important in moving the discussion of openness towards better citizen engagement in local governance.
This research project will deal this primary research question – How can engagement of civil society organizations with open government data be instigated or enhanced?
To answer this question, the following secondary research questions will be explored:
What do CSOs know about open government data? What do they know about government data that their local governments are publishing in the web?
- What do CSOs have in terms of skills that would enable them to engage meaningfully with open government data?
- How best can capacity building be delivered to civil society organizations to ensure that they learn to access and use open government data to improve governance?
The research project will be implemented in two provinces in the Central Visayas – Bohol and Negros Oriental and will take the form of an action research. To answer the first two questions (question a and b) a training needs analysis (TNA) will be conducted among representatives from CSO, media, business groups from each research site to serve as basis for a capacity building program on “Enhancing Citizen Engagement with Open Government Data”. This TNA will be conducted at two levels. A survey questionnaire will be developed, pilot-tested, administered online to respondent organizations. This survey will also serve as a profiling tool for the organizations covered. As soon as results are collated and analyzed, a focus group discussion will be conducted in each site to explore further the answers to the research questions.
Two training programs will be developed out of the results of the TNA. One approach is classroom learning/teaching activity, while the other will be on targeted mentoring. For classroom learning, the training will be conducted with respondent organizations with a re-entry action plan at the end where trainees will be required to plan how they will use skills learned in engaging with government data for two months. This action plan will become the basis of monitoring.
The second approach will take the form of a mentoring lab. Civil society groups will be assisted in identifying the open government data that they would like to work with, teach them the skills on how to access and use the data and come up with a plan of undertaking the open data engagement in two months time. Mentoring support will be provided all throughout this phase.
The first method will be implemented in Negros Oriental while the second method will be implemented in Bohol. A learning workshop will be conducted at the end of the two month period to see what has been accomplished, what challenges were met, and what lessons can be learned from the process.
The intention of the research is not to compare the two approaches, but to look at strengths and weaknesses at each of the approach and advise those who will be conducting capacity building activities as to what to expect, what to guard against, what sets of context work and for what purposes. An analytical framework will be developed to inform the design of the learning workshop.