‘Internet Can Bring Transparency in Aid’

Posted on 01 December 2011 by admin

Miriam Gathigah interviews Jean-Louis Sarbib, chief of  Development Gateway, which works to develop solutions that empower.

Internet for aid transparency

Jean-Louis Sarbib. Credit: Miriam Gathigah

BUSAN, Dec 1, 2011 (IPS) – Representatives of nations and organisations committed to development wrapped up on Thursday the Fourth High Level Forum (HLF 4) on Aid Effectiveness with an ambitious plan to eradicate global poverty.

One cross-cutting issue through HLF 4 was the importance of transparency and accountability between donors and recipients of development assistance. Transparent practices are a strong foundation for enhanced accountability.

Towards this end, Development Gateway, an international non-profit,   works in the field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D).

A number of African countries are reaping the benefits of working in an environment where information about donor funding is easily accessible.

Q: What is the mandate of Development Gateway towards effective aid?                                                                                                               

A: We work with governments that receive aid to improve aid transparency and governance. This is achieved through information management solutions and consulting services for development organisations and developing country governments.

Q: Tell us more about your work in Africa.

A: We are now working with 16 African countries and are still working to expand this network. The idea is to provide these countries with instruments that really put them in charge of development assistance.

After the Accra HLF, we developed a system owned and managed by these countries to ensure that up to date information on which donor is funding which initiative is made available.

Q: What does your transparency and accountability tools entail?

A: One of the our tools to enhance transparency and accountability – The Aid Management Platform – is an opportunity to give people a chance to balance power between themselves and the donors, it’s about placing people in the driver’s seat of development assistance.

Q: How does Aid Management Platform work?

A: We begin by identifying a target country. Our information technology system does an analysis of how the government gets information. They then proceed to work with the government and respective donors to come into an agreement on how to make information on funding available.

Q: What are some of the benefits of this initiative?

A: It is a sustainable way of ensuring that people are involved in development assistance. It provides information that can help avoid duplication of funding and initiatives for development and growth.

We also realised that government and development officials spend a lot of time trying to get information, so this gives them more time to actually get the work done.

It also allows governments to better manage donors and hold them accountable towards development effectiveness.

Q: To what extent are donors willing to be transparent and accountable?

A: There is a donor willingness to be accountable. About 60 percent of aid is covered under the International Aid Transparent Initiative and this is a good indication that donors are willing to allow their grantees to hold them accountable.

Q: Are there any outstanding models of success?

A: In Malawi, for example, the people have been able to gather donors in one room and hold them accountable for what they are not doing, for instance, not making information on initiatives they are funding available on time.

We are also working towards integrating Uganda into this initiative. One of the projects in the pipeline has identified that there is a significantly high number of mobile phone users, we want to enable these people to send data from the provinces into the central database using this gadgets.

For instance, a person somewhere in a village will be able to communicate that the donor-funded clinic has stock outs, or the water project has stalled, among other life transforming stories.

Q: What has been the greatest challenge?

A: The major challenge in Africa is Internet connectivity. Our initiative comprises web-paged tools. In DRC Congo for instance, we have experienced major challenges because the Internet connectivity is extremely low.

Q: In what ways will Busan impact this initiative?

A: I hope Busan has convinced donors to provide information in a better manner, on time, and also use friendly format. It is important that donors take stock of the fact that the world of development assistance has really changed. There are now more actors. For the first time the HLF has acknowledged civil society organisations, the new actors.

I am pleased to say that this conference has acknowledged the South-South cooperation. (END)

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