Presenting at Carnegie 3

Rick de Satge provided an overview of research into the need for a poverty information service at a parallel session of the Carnegie Conference yesterday. 

The Programme for Support to Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD) is a partnership between the Presidency, Republic of South Africa, and the European Union.
In 2011 PSPPD observed that since the demise of the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) there has been no clear source of information in South Africa around poverty and inequality. PSPPD commissioned a rapid prefeasibility study to consider:

  • Whether there was a need to support a poverty information service
  • What sort of information people wanted
  • Options for how such a service might be provided.

He reflected on  the key research findings and contextulaised the research by highlighting a range of obstacles currently preventing access to key information, commissioned research and evaluations.

He noted how South Africa had signed the Open Government declaration in 2011 which commits government to increase the availability of information about government activities. Key sections of the Declaration make government's obligations clear:

We commit to increasing our efforts to systematically collect and publish data on government spending and performance for essential public services and activities. We commit to pro-actively provide high-value information, including raw data, in a timely manner, in formats that the public can easily locate, understand and use, and in formats that facilitate reuse.
We commit to developing accessible and secure online spaces as platforms for delivering services, engaging the public, and sharing information and ideas.
Support civic participation, implement highest standards of professional integrity and increase access to new technologies for openness and accountability.

The presentation highlighted how far we have to go before these ideals are realised.

Using the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform as an example de Satge observed that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and its predecessor the DLA have commissioned scores of research reports, programme evaluations, area based plans, strategies for improving support to people acquiring land through the land reform programme, environmental guidelines etc. But the big question was whether they were publicly accessible? A quick tour of the DRDLR website indicates that very little hard information and research is available on programme performance.

The presentation examined how much research paid for with public money remains unavailable to the public. It is either privatised and locked up in pay per view academic journals or embargoed by government which may even require researchers to sign the Official Secrets Act to prevent disclosure of the findings of commisioned research and evaluations. Eeven where poverty research is open and available it is often hard to discover because of poor document titling and metatagging.

So what can be done? de Satge argued that we need to make Open Government a reality. This would involve:

  • Requiring all spheres of government to make publicly funded research reports and programme evaluations publicly available and easily discoverable
    and making this part of performance management agreements of senior managers
  • Adopting common standards for document naming and metatagging to improve discoverability of documents and research
  • Spatially referencing research  so as to create knowledge maps which identify poverty reference undertaken in particular areas
  • Providing support and resources to grow communities of practice and grow a knowledge commons
  • Breaking down the barriers to collaboration and knowledge sharing between public sector and active citizens.

The presentation highlighted how organisations polled were supportive of the need for a Poverty Information Service or knowledge hub. If this was to be successful it would require:

  • A practical commitment to open government and open knowledge
  • ICT infrastructure, systems and bandwidth to enable access
  • Resources and shared standards to ensure that research was open, online, visible and discoverable which would require investment in 21st Century digital asset management systems.

Creating a poverty knowledge hub
Creating a poverty knowledge hub

Posted: 9/6/2012 (2:17:25 AM)

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