single Category Archives transparency

When you’re an NGO technologist, you discover that every exciting technology plan comes with ‘small print’: caveats and contingencies that stand between your best case scenario and reality. A promising civictech tool runs up against scepticism that hobbles its impact, for example, or a new trove of government data gets released to find only a trickle of usage.

But to learn why tech succeeds or falls short in the governance context requires time and resources that NGOs don’t usually have. It takes research and reflection to understand that small print and delve into whether digital tools can foster better governance and greater participation—and, if so, under what conditions.

Good ideas are like baby birds. They poke their way into the world in fits and starts, feathers in disarray. But in time, they take flight. That's how it's been watching our tool for viewing oil and mining contracts emerge, waddle and take off over the past five years.

Even when the law requires corporations and governments to disclose the deals they make in the "extractive industries," the contracts that set the terms can remain hard to find and even harder to understand. As internet director for Revenue Watch Institute (now NRGI), and as strategy consultant to the Open Contracting Partnership and other allies, I've had a front row seat—and a few hours of game time—in the struggle to make these contracts literally and conceptually accessible.

This is the second in a two-part Q&A about PWYP’s Data Extractors programme, its progress and its potential to help PWYP members seize the opportunities of open data. The programme’s manager James Royston, PWYP Advocacy Officer, spoke with Jed Miller, a longtime digital strategist and PWYP colleague who helped facilitate the Data Extractors workshops in Indonesia and Zimbabwe.

Q (Jed Miller): The past 20 days have been a critical time for the PWYP movement, with multiple oil companies releasing new data and details about their payments, and with U.S. regulators announcing a final version of the long-delayed Dodd-Frank rules for company reporting. So even though you and I spoke just a couple of weeks ago, a lot has happened. What are the members of the Extractors programme seeing over these first few weeks of “the new normal?”

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