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Technology for Transparent and Accountable Public Finance

- May 30, 2012 in Public Finance and Government Data, Publications

This post is also published at the OpenSpending blog.

In early March, we embarked on a project to map out projects which use [technology to further the aims of fiscal transparency, accountability and participation](http://openspending.org/blog/2012/03/12/technology-for-fiscal-transparency-where-next.html). Today, we are happy to announce the official release of the resulting report, Technology for Transparent and Accountable Public Finance. Preliminary findings were presented at last month’s [GIFT](http://fiscaltransparency.net/) meeting in Brasilia. Since then, we’ve been building on the comments, follow-up questions and feedback from the session.

Looking at government revenue, expenditure and off-budget information – we have attempted to identify projects from both governments and civil society which use innovative approaches to:

* Publish more or better data related to fiscal processes (aid, revenues, budgets, audits, etc. — see below),
* Help understand this data through the creation of better visualisation and data analysis tools,
* Educate citizens about fiscal processes, and assist civil society organisations promoting accountable governance,
* Facilitate direct participation in fiscal matters through participatory budgeting, citizen auditing and the like,
* Provide policymakers with complete and reliable data relevant to their work, enabling them to make better decisions.

We focussed in particular on the question: ‘Who are the users?’. We examined their motivations for getting involved, the scalability and applicability of given solutions to other contexts. The report also aims to highlight gaps that prevent users from taking up these tools.

### Report now available online

Today, the first edition of the report is published on [OpenSpending.org](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/index.html). It is also available for [download as a PDF](/resources/gift/pdf/ttapf_report_20120530.pdf). Accompanying the report is a [project database – bit.ly/TTAPF-projects ](https://bit.ly/TTAPF-projects) which contains many more projects that publish, analyse and demystify fiscal data.

The section on participatory budgeting deserves special mention. We discovered so many projects that they merited their own listing, which can be found [here](https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvoV_cBqwo28dE9fZy02NEt2UGxPTnRQMTEzaUhTOGc#gid=4). As we go through, we are building up a catalog of government finance portals in [the ‘finance’ group of datacatalogs.org](http://datacatalogs.org/group/finance). There’s still a lot of work to be done there, but the group already contains the portals mentioned in the report.

As our work continues, we’d love to maintain these connections and hear updates from the projects and learn about new projects. If you have come across an interesting project and think we should feature it, [please let us know](mailto:[email protected])!

### Key Findings

We have tried to highlight specific roles which GIFT could play in promoting the good practice requirements of the report. The slides from the session can be found below:

Read about the highlights in context in the [Highlights, Gaps and Recommendations section](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter1-3.html)

### Read the report

See below for a quick overview of the contents:

* [Chapter 1 – Introduction and Methodology](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter1.html)
* [Chapter 2 – Publishing Fiscal Data: Government Perspectives](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter2-intro.html)
* [Chapter 3 – Using Fiscal Data: Civil Society Perspectives](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter3-intro.html)
* [Chapter 4 – Standards for Fiscal Data: Towards an international framework](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter4-intro.html)
* [Chapter 5 – Case Studies – Where Does the Money Come From?](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter5-intro.html)
* [Chapter 6 – Case Studies – Where Does the Money Go?](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter6-intro.html)
* [Chapter 7 – Case Studies – The Invisible Money](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter7-intro.html)
* [Chapter 8 – Putting the Parts Together, OpenSpending and Publish What You Fund](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter8-intro.html)
* [Final Observations and Review](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter9-intro.html)
* [Further Resources](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/bibliography.html)
* [Appendix](http://openspending.org/resources/gift/chapter10-intro.html)

### Get involved in the next edition

This release is version one, and we hope that the research will be ongoing as the OpenSpending community grows and the tools and network develop. As this happens, we’d really love your input. Some suggestions:

1. Feedback – let us know what you thought of the report and suggest improvements, particularly feedback for GIFT, what role would you like to see them play in this important field?
2. Keep your eyes peeled for interesting projects. We’re hoping to feature information about new projects in the blog, so drop a line to the [mailing list](http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/openspending) if you know of any we should feature.
3. Help us build up the [finance group on datacatalogs.org](http://datacatalogs.org/group/finance) and review the sites for their usefulness. Ever tried to get fiscal information out of a portal? Did you get what you were after? And importantly, could you use it once you had it? Let us know [here](https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGNXNVFXdDlPNlRDaXB2bXc0aGR5UVE6MQ#gid=0).

Follow up posts on the findings in detail coming soon!

Technology for Fiscal Transparency – Where Next?

- March 21, 2012 in Announcements, External Projects, Public Finance and Government Data, Publications

 

## Who is using technology to follow the money? The hunt is on…

Over the last month, we have been working on a report entitled “Technology for Transparent and Accountable Public Finance” for the Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency for next month’s Open Government Partnership meeting.

by imtfi on Flickr

We are hoping to identify the most promising projects around the world that are using technology (web, mobile or otherwise) to further aims of fiscal transparency. Of particular interest are projects that aim to:

* Publish more or better data related to fiscal processes (aid, revenues, budgets, audits, etc. — see below),
* Help understand this data through the creation of better visualisation and data analysis tools,
* Educate citizens about fiscal processes, and assist civil society organisations promoting accountable governance,
* Facilitate direct participation in fiscal matters through participatory budgeting, citizen auditing and the like,
* Provide policymakers with complete and reliable data relevant to their work, enabling them to make better decisions.

We’re particularly interested in efforts to improve transparency in 3 main areas:

* Looking at where the money comes from: In revenue processes (taxation, extractive industry, etc.),
* Monitoring where the money goes: The budgeting process (participatory budgeting, comparisons of planned and retrospective budgets) through to auditing of expenditure, and everything in between.
* The invisible money: projects that aim to improve public understanding of state owned (or semi-owned) enterprises, sovereign wealth funds and contingent liabilities – information on which often are not published as part of current budgeting practices.

There will be particular focus on the questions ‘Who are the users?’ and examining their motivations for getting involved, the scalability and applicability of given solutions to other contexts.

The report will also aim to highlight gaps – so please feel free to think outside the box; if there is cutting edge technology being used in other fields besides public finance, please feel free to suggest it – maybe no-one apart from you has thought of it yet!

## Over to you

We are now opening up to the community to let us know if there are any projects we should be aware of and include in the report.

If you are aware of any projects that we should cover in the report, or if you have any more general observations on the above, please let us know. We have created a [Google form](https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGZ1anpCaVZWTTBmR2JQWXFGc0pxeEE6MQ#gid=0) which you can use to give full details and look in more detail into some of the areas we are focussing on.

For more general comments or observations, and notes of people to contact, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line: lucy.chambers [at] okfn.org and velichka.dimitrova [at] okfn.org.