Transparency and technology and Nepal

I have little idea what politicians do here in Nepal. I read mainly negative things about them, perhaps due to the fact that the press report mainly negative things: a slap of a civil servant here, an attack on a doctor there, a trip to a hospital in Singapore for treatment at the tax payer’s expense; a bit (or a lot) of nepotism and obviously some corruption (because its a perk of the job).

But then if the subject of politicians is raised in conversation, reactions range from frustration to rage. Their reputation among the public (that I speak to) is poor. There is a little praise reserved for a couple of young hopes: Gagan Thapa is one who is often mentioned.

Nawaraj Silwal, Siddhartha Rana, Ashmi Rana, Ashutosh Tiwari, Santosh Shah

I attended a conference around a month ago. It was hastily organised apparently, the audience was stuffed with students from one of the speaker’s hospitality college. The questions from the youth audience were limited and required to be ‘brief and to the point’ while the speakers were allowed to waffle on, off the point.

With one bright exception (though I missed the first speaker). One of the speakers there was Santosh Shah. He is well known in Nepal for his Today’s Youth Asia initiative which comprises of a TV show, magazine run by youth and an education program which has trained hundreds of teenagers in personal development. The theme of his talk was institutions. His argument was that a) institutions are important, obviously, but b) that no individual should be, or think themselves bigger than an institution.

And this is the case with many Nepali politicians, some seem to believe themselves to be bigger than the institution that they work for.

As someone with a background in web development, one organisation I admire is MySociety. One of their collection of websites, it called ‘They work for you‘.

Essentially it aggregates information about MPs in the UK using some clever technology which ‘scrapes’ published documents, such as Hansard, and collates information in an accessible way.

I have seen the fruits of this on several occasions where a journalist has asked a question of an MP who’s answer is flatly contradicted by the evidence available on the site. It’s powerful.

Could something like this work and benefit the public and journalists in Nepal? Possibly, but it would be quite different. The main reason would be that information could not be collated automatically.

But perhaps something could be done as a collaboration between journalists. If journalists reporting on politics and events could post information on a site and categorise it simply, perhaps a public picture can be built up of that politician. Logging where they go, their public comments and public promises, the slaps, the assaults and the gaffs should be easy. Assimilating information on their performance, how they vote, how often they turn up to work, their expenses and outside business interests would be a little more difficult. Perhaps the website would encourage whistle-blowers to bring new information to the table. Perhaps some kind of scoring system could rank their performance and distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Possibly it would be difficult to keep the postings impartial, but not impossible, and who would manage that?

Any thoughts on this anyone?