Over the past month there has been a worldwide furore over cable releases by the Wikileaks website and its’ now uber famous founder – Julian Assange who is wanted by the Interpol; after they released high level classified information from the Pentagon. Wikileaks leverages technology to provide anonymous ways for whistleblowers to push hitherto hidden or classified information to the public; the results of which have left many government officials and large corporation executives very uneasy.
While the actions of Wikileaks draw varied reactions, we must notice that it is the use of technology that makes them a potent enemy of the state or any corrupt corporation. That said; the same technology can be used by governments to enhance transparency and accountability in their dealings. Citizen participation on key issues can be incorporated in a way that the public feels part and parcel of the governance process where their feedback and scrutiny of government will lead to a better streamlined operation.
What if the data from treasury or Ministry of Water was opened up to the public via a series of interfaces? What if that was linked up to the company registry? CDF data anyone? What if you could then raise your objections or questions on a public online or mobile soapbox? I believe that some of the shocking issues that we are now witnessing in the media surrounding governance issues could have been nipped, way before they had a chance to grow into the demons that they have become.
The World Bank for example has made effort to free the tonnes of data that they have collected over the years, covering various indicators such as World Development, Africa Development, and Millennium Development Goal. These datasets on their own may not make sense to the man on the street. But mashed up, they reveal deep insights that can aid in a more informed decision making process; helping to develop, test, and implement new strategies for reaching various goals – at the local, national, regional, and global levels.
The double edged sword that is technology can therefore be used to achieve both extremes of an agenda; both profitable at the very least; but others carrying more weight and repercussions if used.
What edge are you on?