Assess and identify promising leverage opportunities and weak links

A systems-wide approach can help to reveal particularly weak links and potential areas of stronger leverage by: 1) identifying where capacity support and emerging opportunities exist to promote accountability; 2) providing a fuller understanding of the relationships among transparency, access to information and accountability; and 3) highlighting where there are particularly weak links in process or in the relationships among actors.

Greater awareness of the inherently dynamic nature of accountability systems opens up opportunities to recognise and respond to moments of transition or transformation. Social media and mobile communications technologies are increasingly shaping how people interact with politics and accountability around the world. New information and communication technologies have added new channels and platforms for citizens to hold their governments to account. Support for accountability needs to incorporate the fact that these technologies are changing the rules of the game completely and constantly. Examples such as Twaweza - which makes use of both new and old technologies to expand citizens’ ability to access government information and hold leaders accountable in East Africa - signal how accountability systems are evolving in many countries, and how they are shaped by technological transformations, among other factors.

New technologies (including forms of social media) can have huge potential for facilitating such bridging channels, although their impact will depend on the processes, institutions and reforms they can tap into. Examples from Uganda, Mali and Peru suggest that more could be done to promote citizens’ access to media and mobile technologies as well as to enhance citizens’ media literacy and safety. This includes access to media products and infrastructure, as well as the ability to make sense of information and to use it in appropriate ways (Chapter 9). But this must be grounded in a strong understanding of local dynamics and incentives.

Moving onto transparency of information, Peru is instructive in this respect, as it has legally enshrined efforts to improve transparency. The Transparency and Access to Public Information Law (2002) stipulates that all information generated by state entities is public (with only limited exceptions for national security and confidentiality), and that it should be easily accessed at both national and local levels. All public agencies are therefore required to establish an online transparency portal which provides information on budgets, spending, purchases, plans and activities, and where citizens can request access to any information not available online.

While donor support in Peru is being channelled towards these formal processes, GOVNET research reveals that poor enforcement (including weak rule of law) and capacity gaps are eroding the impact of this legislation. The bulk of donor support is focused on activities such as supporting public agencies to publish more information online - but does little to address or combat local-level realities. In particular, little attention has been paid to the different experiences of women or other marginalised groups in trying to access and use these institutional channels for accountability. A systems-wide approach, underpinned by strong context analysis, might allow for more effective engagement with these dilemmas.

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