Time for transparency

Development Policy22 Jun 2009Anna Lauridsen

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) provide clear objectives and a timeline for the world to achieve greater equality and a higher quality of life. The 2015 deadline for the MDGs is fast approaching and debates are beginning to flare up about a change in either the time frame or aim of the goals. But, regardless of the changes to come, what is clearly needed is a focus on transparency and information sharing.

The MDGs represent a large set of policy goals for developing countries to attain in a relatively short time. Transparency in aid assistance in these countries can allow for the spread of best practices and lessons learned to other countries who might be struggling to achieve MDG targets. A transparent approach to development aid increases its effectiveness. Such an approach ensures that governments are held accountable for funds committed and received. A country that is particularly good at using its funds to improve maternal health can show other countries how it achieved this. Its practices can be adopted elsewhere so each developing country does not have to start from a blank slate.

To facilitate the transfer of knowledge and take a transparent approach to aid, we need to better utilize information and communications technologies, especially the internet and mobile phones. The MDGs recognize the importance of fostering cooperation using new technologies, but the functions described are too narrow to illustrate the importance of ICT in development.

ICT is a tool that should be used strategically. When used as part of a transparent development effort, it can offer the real possibility of quick action on MDGs. Simply providing access to the internet or mobile phone misses the strategic nature effect these technologies can have on achieving development goals.

Through the use of these technologies we can facilitate a real-time exchange of data to see both how funds are being used and which efforts yield positive outcomes. The internet can reduce the possibility of duplication of effort by providing donors and recipients with information on projects under way and locales that are currently being served. It can also facilitate the transfer of practices that contribute to eradicating poverty.

Measuring the success and progress of the MDGs is useful, but access to timely information on development and the transfer of lessons learned is just as – if not more – important. The internet gives us the tool to allow for the data sharing and evaluation necessary to create lasting success. The MDGs require a broader application of ICT in order to meet these objectives, whether the deadline is 2015, 2020, or any time in the future.