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With days to go for the Delhi state election of 2015, a group called the Aap Volunteer Action Manch (AVAM) held a press conference to expose 4 checks of Rs. 50 lakh each (a very substantial sum) that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had got from companies that earned very little income themselves.  AVAM argued that the companies were used as a front for money laundering i.e. illegal cash was given by AAP to the company which in-turn issued a check, converting the black money to white to use in the election. Opposition parties, especially the BJP were quick to […]

AAP’s political financing controversy: My take


Aiddata .org provides over 1 million data points of information on aid flows from a large range of donors, creating an unprecedented level of transparency about international aid.  The information covers most official aid bodies (e.g. DFID, USAID, et al) and the latest version (3.0) also includes data on private charity organizations in the US and flow of remittances.  The data can be downloaded in full or visualized online.  There is also a robust API system to build apps on top of the rich database. Based on a quick review of the datasets, I feel that it would be a […]

Aiddata.org: Open data for international development



UReport Uganda is an initiative to do SMS-based polling among a large number of Ugandan citizens on different topics weekly.  The service boasts an impressive subscriber base of over 2,50,000 people as of Oct 2014.  While the base is large, the poll data on the website indicates that SMS polls are sent to a smaller subset of participants each week with responses ranging from 20-50% in the polls I reviewed. The website provides a word cloud on the basis of responses and it also provides charts in case the question of the week had multiple choice responses.  Samples of text […]

UReport Uganda


Gates Foundation in collaboration with other organizations are building a unique identifier for philanthropic organizations across the globe.  The project is called BRIDGE (Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities).  The hope of the project is to collate information from millions of sources so as to create greater information sharing and to enhance transparency of the philanthropic sector. This interview with Victor Vrana of the Gates Foundation provides details on the ambitions of the project and how it came about.

Many organizations respond simultaneously during humanitarian crises and coordination between them is a challenge.  The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is working on information management practices for sharing and accessing information.  One component of this effort is to develop a standard vocabulary – the Humanitarian eXchange Language (HXL).  More information on the initiative can be found in the project website.


To realize the full potential of technology for transparency, we need a legal guidelines on how public data could be used. Open licensing can also have radical implications for transparency in public-private-partnerships.

Copyright and the right to information



The Open Contracting Partnership is working on a set of data standards for information on public procurement.  OCP explains the need for standards as: Governments around the world spend an estimated US $9.5 trillion every year through contracts. Yet in most countries, information about these contracts is unavailable for public scrutiny, rendering the contracting process vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. This project aims to enhance and promote disclosure and participation in public contracting by creating a simple, machine-readable and easy-to-understand open data standard. The draft document on the data standards for procurement is available for public comments and comments will be reviewed after Sept 30, […]



The INGO Accountability Charter is a commitment of international NGOs to a high standard of transparency, accountability and effectiveness.  The Charter provides the only global, fully comprehensive and cross-sectoral accountability framework for NGOs driven by NGOs. The Charter defines standards on areas of NGOs’ work, such as governance, programme effectiveness and fundraising.  International NGOs that become members of the Charter are required to report annually on fulfilling these commitments using a reporting tool developed for the purpose.  The charter outlines 10 “Accountability commitments” viz: Respect for human rights, independence, transparency, good governance, responsible advocacy, participation, diversity/inclusion, environmental responsibility, ethical fundraising […]




The former Comptroller Auditor General of India, Vinod Rai, talks about different models through which corruption happens in government procurement.  Vinod Rai was the CAG when the body courageously brought out major scams on 2G, Coal block allocation, Commonwealth games, etc.    

Models of corruption in procurement by Vinod Rai


Media Lab Asia “has been promoted by Department of Electronics and Information technology, MCIT, Govt. of India as a not for profit company. The objective of the company was set to bring the benefits of ICT to the common man. It started with the functional activity areas such as World Computer Affordable, ubiquitous computing and access devices, Bits for All Low Cost, High bandwidth connectivity and Tomorrow’s Tool Rurally relevant applications. However it was later changed to application areas such as ICT for Healthcare, Education, Livelihood and Empowerment of Disabled”.  



The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) was formed out of a meeting on aid effectiveness held at Accra in 2009.In it, the donors agreed to public information regularly on funding, associated conditionalities and 3-5 year projection of funding. The reports are hosted by the donors in structured XML files in their own websites with a link to the IATI registry at http://www.iatiregistry.org/. I did a quick review of the information on the registry.  The database allowed me to filter files by organization, country and an assortment of other criteria.  Most of the data was provided at the aggregate level on the total funds allotted to […]

The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test: Till Bruckner writes about his effort to get information on project budgets for USAID funded NGOs in Georgia.  Here is his note on the experience: The documents are disappointingly full of blacked-out non-information. The level of disclosure varies drastically from one document to the next. Some budgets are provided in full, while others appear as blacked-out row upon row. In three cases, USAID even withheld the identity of the contractor itself. USAID explained this inconsistency saying that it was legally required to contact each grantee to give it “the opportunity to address how […]


Global Reporting Initiative has created a framework for corporations to report information on the economic, social and environmental impact of their day-to-day activities.  GRI provides standards of reporting and thousands of companies are producing ‘sustainability reports’ on the basis of their guidelines.

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is a multilateral, multi-stakeholder initiative to bring more transparency into extractive industries such as oil, mining and gas.  The initiative recognizes that natural resources belong to people and the public revenue raised from them should reach the people.  The focus of the initiative has been on ensuring that companies disclose tax payments and governments do the same in terms of taxes they receive from companies.