Transparency and Accountability via open [Cambodian] data that ValuesVoices
My colleague pointed out this fascinating article about a new transparency program for garment factories, using data collected meticulously by the International Labor Organization (ILO) on working conditions in Cambodia in a publically accessible searchable database: http://betterfactories.org/transparency/. and this story about it:
The key elements I want to point out about this great example are the following:
- The data was already being collected by the ILO-thorough interviews and investigations of different factories, at a presumably high cost. But this information was not being widely shared, because the format the data was in (PDF), was not easily accessible by those who could use it, resulting in these reports not having the “shame” impact that is important for voluntary compliance.
- The BFC was able to partner with the ILO to open their data, making it easier for anyone to search and use the outcomes of the ILO reports. This increased access has already made an impact in making Cambodian factory owners more focused on compliance.
- This pattern is very similar to what we see occurring throughout international development, where evaluation data is being captured and collected, but not shared in formats that would make transparency and accountability easy to access.
The article hinted at the two main challenges to making this data open:
- The need for a robust back end to support and maintain it – something that requires investment and thoughtfulness; and
- “very public debates between the garment producer’s association and Better Factories Cambodia that ensued for months” – i.e. political concerns about transparency and what the data means.
When we unlock the data that is currently being collected (and paid for) in international development, especially during project evaluations, we find opportunities for increased transparency and accountability, as well as making the data captured more likely to provide insight for those not directly involved in the project.
This effort will take time, effort, and money, and there will be political obstacles to overcome. But the result is information to help us make better decisions on where we spend our money, invest our time, or highlight those who need to improve. The combination of ValuingVoices' debates and data work!
Siobhan Green is a partner company to ValuingVoices and can be found at Sonjara.