Follow the Money

Explore our stories from communities who have used open data to follow public money and change lives.

In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 global goals, which could set the world on track to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. But these goals will only get public support if local citizens and civil society can track where money from aid, tax or natural resource revenues is going and whether it’s leading to improved schools, clinics or other public services.

9/10 Africans do not have good access to their national budgets. Communities directly affected by mining don’t know how much money their government is receiving or how that money is spent.

Secrecy around how public money is used can lead to corruption and poor-quality public services. It can mean the difference between a woman giving birth alone, or with a health worker by her side. Between a child remaining illiterate and trapped in poverty or getting an education. Between a woman walking miles to collect water or getting it from a tap in her village.

How African citizens can fight poverty with transparency

Experts explain how open data could help people hold their leaders to account and transform governance across Africa.

What needs to change?

In countries where citizens have access to information, they are using it to create real and powerful change. They are running campaigns that expose corruption or make the case for investment in schools and hospitals, or simply building trust in the ability of ordinary people to influence government decisions.

These stories show how transparency and access to information can change people’s lives. But for these changes to happen everywhere, we need information on government revenues and budgets to be made available to the public on a much larger scale. So what do these stories teach us?

  • Access to information is not enough on its own. Change needs a real-world campaign driven by that information and civil society champions who can use their status and networks to draw international attention to the issue and apply pressure, working with local communities.
  • Where budget information is available in a machine-readable format, the data can be turned into apps and infographics that help make it understandable. But this in itself does not mean that people will take action.
  • Levels of understanding within local communities are often low. Investing in data literacy and providing budget information in local languages means that local communities can use the information to demand change.
  • Collaboration between citizens and government officials can lead to improved government auditing and accountability. Real-time feedback through apps can provide governments with the information they need to improve services.
  • If integrated into well-devised programmes, mobile and web technology can help citizens access information and report problems in service delivery at a scale, cost and speed never possible before.
  • Identifying political champions or supporters in government sympathetic to opening data is critical to policy change.

All of these factors depend on the context, the history of the country, the political space to use information and the will of government officials to help. These stories showcase some of the best examples of where citizen empowerment has led to change.

For more information, visit Making All Voices Count, the Global Partnership for Social Accountability and the Transparency and Accountability Initiative.