Transparency Plaza

Transparency Plaza: Mapping corruption and good governance in public spaces

Lisbon, PortugalLisbon, Portugal
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Idea
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Transparency Plaza consists of a mobile app that allows people (citizens and visitors) to upload, access and visualize corruption and good governance indicators in a city's public spaces. It's a simple, fun and interactive way of bringing public integrity issues to the streets and to public debate.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if, just by taking a picture of the city hall building with your mobile, you could get access to information on its corruption scandals?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Public trust in democratic institutions is at historic lows all throughout the developed world. Portugal is no exception. High perceptions of corruption, mismanagement and poor accountability of public institutions degrade the quality of democracy and decrease people engagement. Worse still, access to information is poor, depriving citizens of the knowledge to effectively monitor performance and advocate for improvements in governance standards.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We plan to develop a mobile app to make it more interesting and appealing to visualize information on corruption and transparency issues. The idea is to deploy QR Codes in front of public buildings. The QR code would allow the user to download a photograph of the institution's building, taken from the exact same location where the user is. That photograph is simultaneously an infograph on corruption and good-governance indicators for that institution. The app would allow users to share content on social media, but also to upload new information relating to an institution, thus serving as a reporting tool for suspicions of corruption or abuse that can then by followed-up on by us, through our Anticorruption Alert center.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

This idea aims to make good governance data accessible to a wider public. For example, a citizen can stand in front of the city hall building and, through a QR code, instantly download a snapshot of that institution's information, from public debt levels to economic indicators, its position on our Municipal Transparency Index or a collection of news stories regarding issues of corruption or bad governance. Users can also add to the information, by posting a complaint or raising an issue about that institution which, after verification, can be added to its ID. By spreading this information through public spaces and mobile tools, citizens are allowed to easily get access to useful information, raise issues and advocate for change.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The intended impact is to decentralize information and make it accessible to citizens. By doing this, he hope to give citizens a clearer understanding of the workings of institutions and provide them with a tool to identify problem areas and be more conscious and demanding citizens. We hope to develop a pilot project in Portugal's capital, Lisbon, with the aim of covering, within the first year, 15 institutions based in Lisbon (from private banks to local government offices and national administration institutions, including the main ministries). We aim to reach a total of 5000 downloads of the app within the first 12 months of roll-out and organize at least two public outreach and training sessions with potential users of the platform. The overall goal is to disseminate access to public-interest information and create a new, simple platform for citizen participation in public life.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Aside from being a fun way to access information and interact with institutions, this project has the potential to become a channel for consistent citizenship involvement in the public debate. After the pilot project in Lisbon, the goal is to spread it to the main cities in Portugal, by using the same platform, thus ensuring scalability with low added costs. For us, it's about breaking down barriers on access to information and bringing public debate to the streets, with actionable information. The experience also aims to bring about a stronger culture of openness in public institutions.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Aside from the costs of building the platform, management costs will be relatively low, mainly related to IT infrastructure and management of the service, which would need to employ an IT specialist and a legal advisor to filter and validate citizens' complaints. These resources will rest on synergies with other services our organization already provides and can be covered through crowdfunding and partnership agreements with public institutions.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There is unfortunately no consistent work on access to information tools in Portugal. Informally, groups of hackers work on specific issues to publish data in open source format but there is no consistent work towards making information intelligible to wider audiences and organizing disparate sources of info in an easily accessible way. Institutional approaches are often too bureaucratic and unappealing, or fail in implementation. This tool is a way to circumvent tradicional, uneffective public participation mechanisms and give people, not institutions, the lead in bringing issues to light.
Team

Founding Story

At Transparencia e Integridade, Associação Cívica, we have been struggling with access to information issues for a long time, against a defensive culture from public institutions reluctant to make information easily available. Lisbon is a very appealing city for tourists, and we've often wondered what visitors would think if, during their visit, they not only got the history of Portuguese landmarks but also the inside stories of what really goes on in historic goverment buildings. That's where the idea of building an app that brings governance information to light came from. The twist with the idea (and, we believe, its broad appeal) comes from its ability to show the stories behind the facades and engage people in a whole new way.

Team

We have a Board of 5 members with experiences ranging from academia to public administration and elected offiice. Our organization's team involves 5 full-time staff with qualifications in communications and outreach, research and IT, with a part-time legal advisor. This core team of the organization would be the basis for the development of the project, which would employ a full-time IT manager and a full-time researcher to manage content.
About You
Organization:
Transparência e Integridade, Associação Cívica
About You
First Name

João Paulo

Last Name

Batalha

About Your Project
Organization Name

Transparência e Integridade, Associação Cívica

How long has your organization been operating?

Project
Organization Country

, Lisbon

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Lisbon

Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, NGOs, Regional government, National government.

Supplemental
Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

We have not presented the project publicly before now, nor have we entered it into any competitions.

Where have you learnt about the competition?

We have entered a previous competition by Ashoka Changemakers and were notified of the current call.

Tell us about your partnerships:

Transparência e Integridade, Associação Cívica is a Portuguese NGO, representing global civil society network Transparency International in Portugal. Aside from our partnerships with Transparency International chapters in 100 countries around the world, we work closely with Portuguese academia in research projects and believe in involving partner NGOs in specific advocacy and public mobilization initiatives.

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Aside from technical challenges involved in building an attractive, user-friendly platform, the main challenge getting people to use it and make it their own. Therefore, a strong communications strategy will accompany the launch of the platform, involving training and outreach to specific target audiences, such as youth organizations, tech developers, journalists and local youth groups. In order to increase the visibility of the project, we also aim to organize street events, such as flash mobs or street art performances, to help mobilize people and demonstrate the impact of the platform.

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