According to a recent study, only 10% of municipal websites in Ukraine have sufficient instruments for receiving citizen feedback or providing interactive service delivery. Budgeting and public procurement information at the municipality level remains largely in hardcopy format, is not easily accessible, and is complicated for civil society and local constituencies to interpret. In cases in which the information is publically and digitally available to the media and the community, it is deeply hidden in piles of information on local government websites and is virtually unsearchable.
The Open Budget initiative, a pilot project supported by UNDP and Internews’ team in Ukraine, aims to begin to change that. It brings civil servants, civil society workers, ICT experts, and journalists together to create ways in which municipal budget information can be better shared with the public. Three communities are developing online tools to maximize local governments’ communications potential, and journalists in those communities are learning how to use digital tools to produce data-driven stories that people can understand. The project strives to stimulate government-citizen transparency in underserved communities.
The project recently wrapped up its three planned workshops, in Ivano-Frankivsk, Zhytomyr, and Ternopil in western Ukraine. Experienced trainers shared lessons on data structure, data visualization, infographic creation, and best practices for visualizing budgets from around the world. Participants, including public activists, journalists, CSO workers, and employees of state financial departments, worked in groups to prototype digital solutions. For example, in Ivano-Frankivsk, one group visualized the city’s budget expenditures based on the example of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s tool OpenSpending. They expect that data from previous years may be added and compared, so citizens can see what changes occurred across various categories.
The other group at the Ivano-Frankivsk workshop created a website to present city revenues and expenditures in a clear way. Users may choose a category and find out what kinds of spending it includes; e.g. the education category will present data for schools, kindergartens, etc., and will show which expenses come from the city budget vs. regional or state budgets.
UNDP and Internews will soon select the top three ideas for development into full beta versions.
The “Open Budget” Initiative is supported by Internews’ Center for Innovation and Learning.