Learner’s Submission: Marco Civil

08/07/2014

“In order to guarantee democracy and freedom on the internet, the government of Brazil recently approved a set of laws that will shape the future of access to data in the country and, ultimately, in the world: the Civil Rights Framework for the Internet.

The initiative, popularly known as “Marco Civil”, sets principles, rights and obligations for the use of the Internet in all brazilian national territory.

With data protection and privacy becoming a major issue for governments, Brazil has now taken the lead on the topic. According to the Marco Civil, internet is a neutral domain where private corporations, that provide access, have no control over information flow. The legislation also sets by law that all internet providers must store user’s data, which can be then accessed over a judicial decision. Although regarded as a potential risk for citizens, data storage was an old demand from security institutions, that are now enabled to carry long investigations using data access information. The legislation terms also states that it is illegal for companies to use personal information to third parties for commercial means.

With popular demand for internet regulation increasing over the past years, recent allegations of espionage between countries, as well as the Edward Snowden affair, speeded up the approval process of the Marco in Brazilian senate. The fact that President Dilma Roussef defended the Internet Constitution on the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, on 24 September 2013, was a clear statement that privacy is an issue that all countries are going to have to address in the short term.

The elaboration itself the Framework was an example of how a collaborative and democratic process can bring prolific outcomes for society. The process of defining the terms faced many changes and adaptations along its course to final approval. Given the technicality of the project, the Marco Civil was also analyzed by several commissions, composed from different sectors of society, such as Science, Technology, Environment and Innovation.  Through a variety of participation portals and online channels, civil society representatives and common internet users expressed their opinions and participated on the process of discussing the Marco Civil to find the best framework to benefit the nation.

It is important to stress that the efforts towards data protection and information freedom is a continuing process, that needs constant upgrades and adaptations, to renovate itself according to the citizen’s needs.

The World Wide Web creator, Tim Berners-Lee, described Brazil as a new world leader in democracy and social progress, in an era where citizen’s rights must be protected by specific laws worldwide. The Framework cannot be regarded as a separate body from the constitution, but a complementary set of measures to reinforce existing ones.

The Marco Civil is as a successful example of data access regulation as a tool to promote social development. Its outcome is the balance of rights and obligations of individuals, private organizations and the government on the internet. It also prevents private organizations on making distinctions of data traffic based on subscription plans, stopping companies from prioritizing web speed and access based on economic interests. This allows regular users to have equal data opportunity across the web, defining access by the necessity of citizens and public demand, not only according the commercial interest of private corporations.

Given the increasing importance of internet on society, this is potentially a model to be exported to different nations, specially in emerging economies and developing democracies. This makes the Marco Civil a major advance in democracy. The importance of the model can be specially regarded in nations where information can play a crucial role on the development and civil liberty rights. Social media activities and collaborative processes are now a key element on the shaping of societies and the new world.

The first steps in a new age of governance have been taken. While the Marco Civil’s main objective is to regulate data access, many other benefits spring up along process. One thing is for sure: topics such as pluralism and diversity, openness and collaboration, free competition and consumer protection are now consolidated on the general public agenda, and they came to stay.

Ultimately, the Marco Civil guarantees basic human rights, such as privacy, and citizenship, establishing diversity preservation as a fundamental premise on this new public domain. On a national perspective, the Marco Civil Assure Brazil’s sovereignty for information technology and democratic governance. On the global level, however, the benefits go far beyond. ” – Rodolpho Zannin Feijó – London, United Kingdom


Learner’s Submission: Social Media Channels Used by Government of Nigeria

07/07/2014

“Preamble:

Andreas Kaplan defined social media as the “social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks”.  Social media also depend on mobile and web–based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss and modify user-generated content. Source – Wikipedia.  There are various social media channels in use worldwide, each country of the world adopts the ones most suitable for her based on ideology and technological development for the purpose of realizing socio-cultural, political, economical and military objectives.

In Nigeria, the government and indeed Nigerians make use of several social media channels. The democratic government of Nigeria in its effort to ensure good governance and well-being of the citizens provided the enabling platforms for social media to succeed in Nigeria.  In addition to internet availability, the government equally created good environment for other communication networks to thrive in Nigeria.  Furthermore, favourable regulations have been enacted to enable existing traditional media such as television and radio stations (both government and private) to easily upgrade their facilities with modern technology for better services in this fast growing ICT age.

Social Media Channels:

The social media channels used by Nigerian government are briefly highlighted below:

a.         In the area of social networking: Used for sharing information among public and private institutions, government and the people, forming an online communities.  The channels include; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Whats App.

b.         In the area of Multimedia:  Used for sharing multimedia materials not in text form such as videos, pictures, info graphics, etc for the purpose of providing information, creating awareness, educating and entertaining the target audience. Examples include; Youtube, SlideShare and i-reporter. Government also makes use of online TVs and Radio stations for live casting/streaming.

c.         Instant Messaging:  Nigerian government practice and encourages real time information sharing through SMS and Voice.  The channels used include Skype, Msn, BBM and Blogs platforms such as blogger, WordPress, TypePad.

d. Some of the channels used by the government for Social commerce and social shopping include Konga, jumai, 3AL and Myspace.

Importance:

It is a known fact that we live in a globalized world.  The entire world is trending towards an “electronic world” and no government can afford to stay behind.  Information is needed on daily basis; governments seek and share information on geopolitics, economy, socio-cultural, military and technology.  Social media are the most popular means of achieving these.  They facilitate prompt and wider circulation of information to the people.  Timely dissemination of information regarding government policies and activities to the masses with ease and at a much reduced cost is also achieved through social media.  With just a GSM mobile device one can easily access a whole lot of information on issues as they occur; opinions, suggestions and criticisms are shared with millions of people even on the go with the aid of social media.

Furthermore, social media has become a catalyst in the development of education, entertainment as well as awareness creation on health issues in Nigeria.  With the aid of internet, various materials are made available to keep people better informed with a view to providing better life for them.  Social media has made accessibility of these materials easy and faster to wide range of persons both old and young.” - Hillary Animoke – Apapa, Nigeria


Learner’s Submission: The Power of Information

11/06/2014

“In Brazil, there are many ways to access relevant to actions of federal, state and local government information.

In our country, all municipalities and states have an official website. Most of these governments also have channels and official pages on social networks as well as advertisements on radio and television.

The federal government has, in addition to their official page (www.brasil.gov.br), official profiles on social networks such as Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/portalbrasil ), Twitter ( https://twitter.com / portalbrasil ) and Youtube Videos website.

In addition, the President of the Republic has a radio program called “Coffee with the President” that airs once a week where the president addresses matters of everyday life. All editions can be accessed through the program’s blog, hosted on the federal government website.

It is also customary in our country, on the eve of important dates such as vaccination campaigns, elections, and holidays like Mother’s Day and Labor Day the President of the Republic or event-related authorities to make pronouncements on national radio and television.

Another important media channel used by the government is a radio program called “The Voice of Brazil”. This program is the oldest radio and Brazil is in the air since 1935. It airs Monday through Friday at 7 pm when all the radio stations in Brazil. The program is divided into two parts. The first twenty- five minutes is devoted to the executive branch and the remaining thirty-five minutes are devoted to related news legislature. This program has been the target of demonstrations and protests from radio stations because its transmission is mandatory and many people argue that it has lost its purpose because of the ease of access to other media for greater reach.

Currently, the government channels in social networks have gained importance because these networks are extremely popular in Brazil. The number of Brazilians with access to social networks at home, at work and even on mobile is growing continuously.

The residence time of people, connected in a network also increases day by day. Having access to the government in this environment is very useful because this way we can find out the government’s actions while interacting with friends on social networks. After all, these actions directly affect the lives of every Brazilian person.

The social media channels are more than important, are fundamental to the development of democracy and Brazilian society, as we have experienced times of constant mobilization and social upheaval upon the problems of our country, where people have cared increasingly with quality of life, with life in society, with the preservation of life, safety and nature.

Moreover, many of the protesters do not care much about the government’s actions. Therefore, if such claims are fair, everyone must have access to accurate information and reliable source, so the official government channels in many imprecise information environment is critical”.  Rodrigo Leandro Sobrinho- Sao Paulo, Brazil


Learner’s Submission: A Need for Capacity Building in the Decentralized Sectors of Adama City Administration: Ethiopia

06/06/2014

“Ethiopia has been transforming itself from a highly centralized nation to a decentralized one in the past two decades. After the end of the civil war, Ethiopia adopted a language, ethnic and cultural based federalism that resulted in the creation of nine regions and two city administrations. This decentralization effort was further pursued by regional administrations. Accordingly, Oromia regional state, the largest in size and population, has undertaken a Business Process Reengineering (BPR) study in 2009 on its public services, and brought about a decentralization of city administrations’ services to the lowest level administration system in the region called kebeles (equivalent to districts). Experts from the regional state made the study, the services to be offered at kebele level were identified and standard time was set for every service delivery process. The core objective was to attain fast public service delivery.  Plan to automate the services was the main component in the decentralization process. The decentralization plan was implemented across all cities and towns of the region.

 

Adama city, the seat of the regional council, was one of the cities to take a leading action. Staffs were recruited and offices were arranged for more than six sectors, still going on, in all 14 urban kebeles of the city. However, after the staffing and office furniture were allocated there were many challenges related to institutional capacity and customer relationship.

Institutional capacity Gap

One of the major areas is the automation process that was planned in the BPR study and yet not implemented. This impedes the sharing of information and data among kebeles and sectors on the services they offer. Hence, forinstance, there is a loophole for individuals to take multiple identity cards from the social service sector in multiple kebeles. Those individuals in turn claim subsidies and benefits from the regional government channeled through kebeles. This includes taking government subsidized homes in one kebele while having home in another, and benefiting from the distribution of subsidized food oil and sugar during shortage periods from multiple kebeles. Lack of institutional capacity to develop a common database among sectors in kebeles remains a challenge to the effective delivery of services. In 2012, the city administration announced the public to cooperate in identifying individuals who registered to get government- built condominium houses yet having their own houses, which is not allowed. The list of all  individuals who were registered to get those condominium houses were put public, but the result was minimal since the culture of the society goes against ‘exposing people and neighbors’ no matter what. Hence building the capacity of institutions to overcome such challenges will make the services offered to the public more efficient and adds value beyond creating access to the public.

Customer Relation and public participation

Customer handling is another issue to improve in the kebele level sector services. The sectors in kebels fail to develop a package in which customers will get complete and prompt information on the services they want to get. This is mainly classified in to the procedure, time, place, price of service and documents required to get the service.

 

Even if the BPR study document claims that information centers will be established in the compound of kebeles it is barely implemented. Moreover, there is no written information available to customers. For instance in the 2012 condominium houses distribution mentioned earlier , some kebeles raised the price of issuing identity card ,which is required to apply for the houses,  by tenfold.  Even if the social service sector can effectively entertain new customers on Tuesday and Thursday, and there are many document requirements and procedures to get a given service, they are not communicated in a written format. Signposts are not uniformly used to signal the offices of sector in kebele compounds. As a result there is a variation on the process of service delivery and on the prices they charge for the services among sectors in different kebeles, and this   hamper the main objective of the decentralization process which was fast service delivery.

Moreover, there are no systems of reporting to the public on the performance of service delivery and initiatives of taking input from the public on service delivery component and process.

 

Ethiopia passed through a fundamental transformation from a strictly decentralized system of governance to the decentralization of public services to the lowest level of administration. Nevertheless, institutional capacity building and improvement in customer relation are the quest of the time. These will strengthen the efficiency and transparency of service delivery in kebeles”. Mesay Barekew Liche- Adama, Ethiopia


Learner’s Submission: Online Public Service in Lithuania

06/06/2014

“I live in Lithuania. Lithuania is small country in Eastern Europe, although it is small, but online public services are widespread.

One of the most used public online services is tax declaration. Online tax declaration portal is online for a couple of years now. When I was using it for the first time it was really a challenge.

First of all I had to download some free software to be able to fill various needed forms.

Secondly I had to find out online what forms do I had to fill and download them one by one to my personal computer. After that the filling began. I do not remember exactly how long did it take, but it was quite a long operation. Since that time the portal has evolved, now the user to fill the tax declaration form has to do the following steps:

  • Connect to the online tax declaration portal (one can do that through online banking system, digital certification center or from another government portal called “Valdžios vartai” (Government gates). Connection through bank a few years ago was the only option to ensure authentication of the user.).
  • The tax declaration is easily found on the main page, it is even filled will all necessary information, user has only to check if it is right.
  • After checking the information a single mouse click and the tax declaration is submitted. If there would be any errors or some information has to be clarified the user will receive an e-mail into the mailbox provided in portal.

In the same portal one can submit also other different documents. Personally I am just submitting tax declaration and request to transfer 2% of the income tax to public organization. Also there is different area for juridical persons.

It is really nice to see that online service are not just made and left as it is, but they are being improved over time and more and more features that are nice to have are becoming reality”.  Dmitrijus Chocenka- Vilnius, Lithanua


Learner’s Submission: Knowledge Management Organization in Australia’s Government

30/05/2014

“Australia has a Federal system of government. There are two layers of government, Federal and State; both have legislation that protects information.  Each of the six states and two territories has their own legislation.  For the purpose of this assessment the state of Victoria will be used as a case study.

The Commonwealth Government has passed legislation in the form of the Privacy Act (1988), which is designed to protect the personal information of individuals. The act addresses the collection, use, storage and disclosure of an individual’s personal information.  In addition, the act provides for an individual to access information about them and have it corrected if required.  The Privacy Act (1988) has established thirteen privacy principles to guide implementation of the Act.  More information can be found at (http://www.oaic.gov.au/images/documents/privacy/privacy-resources/privacy-fact-sheets/privacy-fact-sheet-17-australian-privacy-principles_2.pdf).

Implementation of the Privacy Act and possible breaches of the Act are addressed by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The Privacy Act applies to all Commonwealth Agencies, some companies and other bodies.

At state level, Victoria has the Information Privacy Act 2001 (IPA). The IPA has established 10 Information Privacy Principles and applies to Victorian Government Agencies, statutory bodies and local government.

From the above, the most significant deficiency in the legislation is that it predominantly applies to government bodies. Not all private sector organisations or not for profits are covered by the legislation.  However, there is a raft of legislation that applies to other activities that may address privacy and data protection.  As an example, hacking and cyber breaches are usually covered by the relevant jurisdiction’s criminal laws.

As a government employee who has worked at both state and federal level I have at some time needed to apply the above legislation to my work and the information I have been collecting, using and storing. One of the issues in addressing data and information collected, is the purpose for which it has been collected.  Data is not supposed to be used for reasons other than the stated purpose at the time of collection.  If an additional purpose arises, the supplier of information should be asked if the information may be used for an alternative purpose.

As an example, if people supply information to register and attend a Government run course, then that information cannot be used for other reasons, without the express permission of the person who has supplied the information. Thus if the course convener wanted to make a class contact list so that participants could contact each other, then each participant would have to agree to this usage of the information they supplied.

Collectors of data must carefully consider what they wish to collect and its utilisation. Many standard forms now provide an option for people providing information to allow or deny the ways in which that information may be used. Alternatively, agencies may choose to seek further permission to use data for a purpose other than the original reason of collection.  The latter approach is often used to avoid complaints of confusion as to which purpose the supplier of information was agreeing.

The public must have faith in the manner in which government collects, uses and stores their data.  Without such faith the population is unlikely to be honest and open in the data it provides to government”. Andrew Blades- Victoria, Australia


Learner’s Submission: Ways to Eradicate or Reduce Corruption in India

29/05/2014

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

“In this article, I will discuss about the corruption in India and some of the measures that can help in eradicating or at least reducing corruption.

Corruption in India is very widespread.  As per Transparency International Report (2013), India ranks 94 among 177 nations in Corruption Perception Index. Newspapers report a number of corruption cases involving ministers, MPs, MLAs, business houses, government offices as well as private companies. Corruption in our country has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. In our country, even after 67 years of Independence, many people in remote villages still live without Roads, Electricity or drinking water; forget about education, health or a decent life. This is a good example of how common people are affected due to corruption the country.

Let me now discuss some of the ways that can help in eradicating or at least reducing corruption in India.

  1. e-Governance

e-Governance can be used as an effective tool to eradicate or reduce corruption to great extent. E-Governance facilitates direct interaction between the Government & the citizen eliminating the interference of the middlemen.  Normally the middle-man (called “Dalaal” in Hindi) acts as an agent who collects money (bribe) from the citizen & pays to the corrupt government officials to get the work done. There are examples, where a common man can’t get his work done without the help of middlemen. Examples of such practices are seen widely in Regional Transport Office (RTO), Property Registration Office, etc. Citizens are empowered with ICT tools to interact with the Government Departments for getting various public services.

  1. Education

Education can play a great role in reduction of corruption in the society. Normally uneducated or less educated people are not aware of various government processes. Taking advantage of this, the government officials or middlemen cheat the common man & demand bribe or excess charges for any public service.  Reports reveal that the Kerala state has got less corruption compared to other states due to high literacy rate in the state. When people are educated & aware of various rules & processes, they are less likely to fall prey to corrupt practices of the public servants/political leaders. The Government should allocate sufficient budget for the development of Schools, Colleges, and Universities etc.

  1. Social Media

Social Media is fast changing the world and has a deep impact on the lives of the people in India. Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube can play an important role in educating the mass, particularly the young generation on various government processes, rules etc. which can ultimately help in reducing corruption.  Since a large percentage of Indian population is young & we should take advantage of Internet, digitalized Television & Social Media to propagate awareness on various government procedures and such awareness can also help in reducing corruption.

  1. Government Process Reengineering

Time has come to do massive government process re-engineering. There are many Government processes which are redundant or which can be done in a far better way. The processes conceptualised some 30 years back are no longer valid or effective. With the rapid advancement in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) during the last 2 decades, we should take advantages of these technologies & re-engineer various government processes for the benefit of the citizens.

  1. Reform in Judicial System

The rules framed during British Rule in India were not citizen-friendly. Those rules were intentionally framed to torture the public and suppress the opinion of the citizens. Now many such rules are still in force in India & such rules need to be changed at the earliest. Advancement in technology has also made many procedures obsolete. New Laws & simplified Governemnt-Citizen interaction procedures need to be enacted/implemented. New laws should be citizen-friendly and should aim at helping the citizens.

Large-scale corruption in the society is demoralizing the honest people. Some corrupt people think corruption is alright in this modern materialistic word. But, it is not. Corruption has led the common man to be very pessimist. We should be very optimistic and try our best in fighting against corruption. We should teach the children – the future of India- to be honest and ethical in every aspect of their life. No doubt, corruption is a huge challenge before us. Let us also appreciate that there are still enough good and honest people in our country. Each one of us should make commitment to work with honesty for God’s sake! All people in the society should be encouraged to live an honest & decent life”. Srihari Subudhi- New Delhi, India


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