1. A Million Moments for Democracy: using FOI to campaign against corruption

    Info Pro Vsechny (IPV) is the Freedom of Information site for the Czech Republic, run on our Alaveteli software.

    Czech civil movement Million Moments for Democracy (Milion Chvilek Pro Demokracii) is currently using the platform to run a campaign, making for an interesting example of how such groups can leverage FOI sites to mobilise support, and to encourage citizens to engage in the democratic process.

    Million Moments approached IPV, who were able to advise on the best way to allow their supporters to get involved, as the FOI site’s team explained when we chatted to them recently.

    But first, to make sure we understood the context, we had a quick read of the Wikipedia page on the Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. It’s fair to say that Babiš is a contentious figure, as demonstrated by no fewer than eight entries in the ‘controversies’ section of that page.

    Conflict of interest

    Top of the agenda today, though, is a scandal currently under investigation by the European Commission. Babiš was instrumental in decisions to award EU grants to the massive Agrofert conglomerate, a holding company with over 250 subsidiaries across forestry, farming, food, construction and logistics industries, among others.

    In doing so, he breached EU legislation. Why? Because he just happens to be the previous CEO of Agrofert.

    While Babiš’ shares were subsequently transferred to a trust fund, as IPV told us, the European Commission has ruled that there is still a case to be answered: “They stated that the main fund beneficiary is still Babiš and the conflict of interest has not been resolved. And while they’ve asked the Czech government to act upon their recommendation, things are moving very slowly.”

    This was the impetus behind Million Moments FOI campaign, which is currently encouraging their followers to use IPV to ask pertinent questions about this conflict of interest, and to potentially dig up others.

    “They want to ensure that the Czech authorities are asking the right questions on behalf of the country’s citizens, rather than sweeping it under the carpet,” explain IPV. “So they’re encouraging people to ask all the institutions and semi-owned-state companies to what extent they deal with companies in the Agrofert holding.

    “More questions, more people engaged, more institutions involved — it all puts greater pressure on the Prime Minister and owner of Agrofert.

    “And one never knows, we might learn further things about how the state institutions co-operate with Agrofert companies.”

    Providing a platform for a campaign

    Million Moments provide example texts of the kind of requests their followers could make, pre-written on Google Docs, together with instructions on how to use IPV.

    This request is designed for state authorities, typically ministries, while this one is designed for state-owned companies, of which there are still quite a few”, explains the team.

    “For example the state still owns a majority share in the globally famous Budvar brewery (brewers of Czech Budweiser, the real original according to many patent law victories around the world!)”

    A site for everyone

    At mySociety, our charitable status means that we must remain resolutely non-partisan, providing tools for anyone and everyone to use. This doesn’t mean that our partner organisations abroad have to stick to the same principles, though — they will be led by their country’s laws and their own funding structures.

    Nonetheless we were interested to ask IPV whether it was a concern for them to be working with a campaign that has a clear political agenda.

    They say, “We discussed at some length with Million Moments that the platform should only be seen as a technical facilitator of the campaign. As individuals we might or might not support their goals — but that is irrelevant, really. As an organisation, we’re only interested in providing a clear path for anyone who wants to use FOI to uncover information.

    “That comes with some responsibilities. In particular we were concerned that the same few authorities would not be flooded with requests with exactly the same wording, which could incite the dangerous criticism that the platform facilitates spamming or politically motivated harassment.

    “We initially suggested the possibility that one “master question” could be put to each authority, and all the other followers could just sign up to follow the requests. However, Million Moments wanted to let people feel they were actively participating, so the compromise is that some  examples are offered as suggestions for questions, but in the end  individuals decide for themselves.”

    You can see the campaign page here (in Czech – here’s the same page on Google Translate).

    A swell in users

    The campaign started with a mailout to Million Moments’ 400,000 followers, and this alone has brought a great result for IPV, a site which was operating with a fairly small userbase. When we spoke to them, it had been live for six days.

    “We’ve already got over 400 new users”, they say, “which means we’ve increased our total userbase by nearly 25%, and many of these will likely use the site in the future as they are obviously active citizens. Between them, they look to have placed around 200 questions already.

    “We’ll be looking to use this campaign as a platform to build up interest from journalists, who are one of the categories of people who can really benefit from using FOI.

    “The Million Moments campaign has definitely given us some momentum! The next burst of interest will probably come when we see how the questions are answered…or not.

    “But we have to be pleased with such an increase in our userbase in the space of a single week, especially as we’d expect many of these people to return.

    “They are the type of citizens we believe the site is made for.”

    We share IPV’s interest in this campaign, and will watch with interest to find out how it develops, and what it might uncover. Thanks to the team for keeping us informed — we always love to hear stories from our many Alaveteli partners about how their sites are making change.

    Image: Anthony Delanoix

  2. NapisteJim.cz and their first success!

    Veronika has just updated us on the recent success of their NapisteJim.cz portal, clone of WriteToThem:

    “The context: Last week, the Lower house of the Parliament had on table amendments to Lottery Act. Something very important was accomplished in this amendment (bigger rights for villages and cities in gambling regulation) but it also contained several very controversial paragraphs. Most notably, the Act commanded Internet providers to block ALL commercials and advertisements of lottery companies that are not registered in Czech Republic, moreover, under fine 10 million CZK.

    This is 1) technically imposible (e.g. when working with Google AdSense and similar), 2) it creates grounds for further Internet censorship. Mainly the internet community rised up in protest which they expressed in several different ways which included e.g. internet petition but ALSO, thanks to our application, personal e-mail appeals to MPs. Again, more than 1 000 e-mails were sent!

    The result: MPs decided to divide the amendment in parts on which they voted separately… the controversial  paragraphs did not pass through, and still the good achievements were approved. We could not dream better result in this issue!”

    Congratulations to the entire team! It looks like the traffic to the site, as well as amount of sent e-mails are very encouraging, so we hope to see more exciting updates in the future!

  3. darujeme.cz

    What problem are you solving?:

    Czech NGOs have been repeatedly blamed by the Czech state and also by the public for not being accountable and transparent. Yet, it is the Czech Ministry of Interior which has been blocking – for years – creation of a public registry of NGOs. Therefore it is not even clear who can legally act on behalf of 60000 Czech civic association. This situation is no longer sustainable yet the Czech government still does not take the steps needed to change the status quo.

    That is why we believe there is a space for creating a web portal that enables for so called self-reported transparency as practiced in the UK and US (through Guidestar, Network for Good, Just Giving etc.)

    Those Czech NGOs that are accountable will gain access to a credible web-based space through which to demonstrate their transparency.

    To accomplish this, we have designed a portal which allows for self-reported transparency of Czech NGOs and which connects donors with charitable projects of accountable NGOs.

    Describe your idea:

    The portal will operate as an online marketplace that enables the public to double-check financial & other aspects of NGO transparency & connects donors with charity projects.
    The portal promotes accountable behavior – only NGOs that disclose financial information and report back & update info about their activities will be present at the portal.

    Benefits for the public/donors: Portal will 1) enable donors to research & donate on-line to accountable charities, 2) maintain a list of transparent NGOs with news stories, charitable projects in need of support & with information that makes it easy to see how NGO operate – annual reports, financial info.

    Benefits for NGOs: Portal will provide space for making accountable and transparent behavior visible. It ensures processing donations for charity with modern on-line payments methods.

    Platform used for the portal is an open-source solution Magento which is distributed under the open source OSL 3.0 license.

    What country will this operate in?: Czech Republic

    Who are you?:

    The Via Foundation is one of the largest and most active independent foundations in the Czech Republic. In addition to having provided close to € 9 million in grants to more than 2,000 charitable projects in the Czech Republic over its 12-year history, Via has a great deal of experience managing national corporate philanthropy programs with companies such as T-Mobile, Ceska sporitelna/Erste Bank, Phillip Morris, Citibank..

  4. Slot machine of the day

    What problem are you solving?:

    The Czech Republic is slot machine’s paradise. It is a country with the most casinos and gambling houses in the world. Part of this is because of the deficient legislation, another reason is breaking the present laws.

    Describe your idea:

    We would like to create a pilot public website for city Brno with the possibility of inserting the photos of gambling houses with measuring the distance(max 100 m)or at least describing the gambling houses which are located in the neighbourhood.We will verify these information and ask the local authorities about this particular gambling house and we will call for correction.We will be demanding the correction(cancellation of the gambling house)also through representatives and courts.The aim of this project is to push back the gambling houses (slot machines) from the neighbourhood where they should not be according to a law.

    What country will this operate in?: Czech Republic

    Who are you?:

    I come from Brno, 25 years old, bachelor of Musicalogy (FF MU Brno), environmentalist, member of Veronica (http://www.veronica.cz), the Basic organization of Czech Union for Nature Conservation (ČSOP), activist in various local traffic cases, member of Green party. And lately I became actively engaged in a restriction of gambling, because of especially low governmental interest in this significant problem in the Czech Republic.

    hollan.matej@email.cz
    nadrazivcentru@gmail.com
    +420774956148

  5. Slot machine of the day

    What problem are you solving?:

    The Czech Republic is slot machine’s paradise. It is a country with the most casinos and gambling houses in the world. Part of this is because of the deficient legislation, another reason is breaking the present laws. According to the lottery law: „Keeping a gambling house shall not be allowed in schools, school facilities, social and health care facilities, buildings of state authorities, churches and also in their neighbourhood“. The neighbourhood is defined as a circle around these buildings with 100 metres radius and the municipality can reduce this radius using the local ordinance. Towns and cities without this kind of local ordinance are breaking the law by allowing gambling houses everywhere. In the towns and cities with this local ordinance the authorities do not check the actual distance from schools, school facilities, social and health care facilities, buildings of state authorities and churches when allowing a new slot machine.

    Describe your idea:

    The city of Brno in its new local ordinance defines the neigbourhood exactly as a 100 metres radius. According to our own investigation we judge that in the city of Brno there is at least 100 slot machines allowed contrary to law. We would like to create a pilot public website for city of Brno with the possibility of inserting the photos of gambling houses with measuring the distance or at least describing the gambling houses which are located in the neighbourhood. We will verify these information and ask the local authorities about this particular gambling house and we will call for correction. We will be demanding the correction (cancellation of the gambling house) also through representatives and courts. This website should later expand to the whole country. The aim of this project is to push back the gambling houses (slot machines) from the neighbourhood where they should not be according to a law.

    What country will this operate in?: Czech Republic

    Who are you?:

    I come from Brno, 25 years old, bachelor of Musicalogy (FF MU Brno), environmentalist, member of Veronica (http://www.veronica.cz), the Basic organization of Czech Union for Nature Conservation (ČSOP), activist in various local traffic cases, member of Green party. And lately I became actively engaged in a restriction of gambling, because of especially low governmental interest in this significant problem in the Czech Republic.

    hollan.matej@email.cz
    nadrazivcentru@gmail.com
    +420774956148

  6. The Prague Walker

    What problem are you solving?:

    1) Prague is one of the absolutely dirtiest cities in Europe and with the worst environment protection policy.
    2) Insufficient support and protection of pedestrians in Prague: Although 24% of people in Prague walk, neither politicians nor officials support walking systemically.
    3) Children are the most endangered as pedestrians: Walking is very important for a healthy development of children. They should be encouraged to walk, but in many places in Prague they are in danger of fatal collisions with automobiles.
    4) Careless attitude of the public and administrators to problem solution: Frequently the reason for the passivity is the fact that officials and politicians do not take the public voice seriously and ignore problems that citizens report to them.
    5) There is no functional public forum to share information on the problems and dangers posed to pedestrians, celebrate successful achievement of positive change or address demands directly to competent officials and politicians.

    Describe your idea:

    Our objective is to create an interactive communal web portal, where people could share information on pedestrian problems in Prague and achievements, and via which they could also address their demands to competent officials and politicians.The core of the portal would be a map.

    The project will take advantage of the Internet, which allows collection of information in one place and sharing it among unlimited numbers of users. At the same time, it allows categorisation of information depending on the user’s needs.

    The aims are to:
    -increase the visibility of pedestrian issues and importance of walking;
    -activate the public for more efficiently solving problems;
    -actively involve children and schools in the project;
    -improve pedestrian safety;
    -improve communication between administrators and citizens;
    -increase transparency of decision-making in public administration on pedestrian issues;
    -improve Prague environment by creating better walking conditions.

    What country will this operate in?: Czech Republic

    Who are you?:

    Oziveni, a citizens’ association established in 1997, has been dealing with issues of corruption and conflicts of interests in public administration and promotion of sustainable development principles through systemic support to sustainable transportation in Prague. Our vision is a functioning and self-confident civil society observing the principles of sustainable living.
    The point of our activities in transport segment focus on the weakest and most vulnerable citizens – pedestrians and cyclists. We provide citizens with necessary information as well as professional assistance in solving their problems related to traffic in Prague, we defend their interests in dealing with public administration, and we arrange media coverage for their problems. We support citizens’ involvement in decision-making and public governance, creation of good and equitable infrastructures for pedestrians and cyclists, and promotion of sustainable modes of transport.

  7. ChangePolitics.cz

    What problem are you solving?:

    The arrogance of Czech politicians has been growing to an intolerable scale. Corruption and non-transparency is a daily practice at all levels of governance, the media report about it, but that is the end of all causes. Citizens are feeling helpless, resigned, apathetic.

    Describe your idea:

    The ChangePolitics.cz website offers immediate, direct and broad civil society feedback to specific politicians for their specific action(s), as well as the opportunity to give or to withdraw long-term support to any MP or cabinet member.
    When the base of “voting” user grows large enough, this will create highly visible and highly competitive platform (politicians can write their opinions as well – just as any other citizen) that will generate significant pressure on transparent and accountable action.
    Mass-scale instant feedback is possible only on the internet – and thanks to direct linkage of the website with Facebook.

    What country will this operate in?: Czech Republic

    Who are you?:

    Civil association Změn politiku (Change Politics) is a small registered charity (ever since August 2009) founded by three individuals, two of the founders having a long-standing record as PR, media and fundraising consultants for NGOs. All work that we have done so far (our website is operational, but still requires lots of more work, tuning and improvements) was paid for by us as individuals. We ran out of resources and could use some serious help in discussing the finetuning option of our web.

  8. Internet portal “Our Politicians”

    What problem are you solving?:

    a) Lack of independent and reliable sources of information about political, professional and business career/activities of Czech politicians and their advisors that would be involved under one “roof” of free accessible non-profit informational internet portal.

    b) Non transparent political environment in the Czech Republic which is often burdened by incorrect lobbying, clientelism and corruption.

    c) Making of new informational quality via linking many various freely accessible information that are normally “atomized” .

    d) Need of independent information portal that would be functioning like internet – interactive guidepost into Czech politics.

    e) Reliable independent information in English about Czech politicians for foreigners and compatriots who are living abroad – especially information about Government members, President, leaders of political parties, fraction leaders in Czech Parliament and other “key players” in Czech politics.

    Describe your idea:

    Among the main goals of this project belongs pursuit of activities and development of a qualitatively new informational internet portal www.nasipolitici.cz, the aim of which is mainly functioning and activity of Czech politicians who are (elected) members of key executive and legislative institutions in the Czech Republic and EU – Czech Parliament – both chambers, Government, President, Czech regional authorities and municipal governments; European Parliament and Czech EU Commissioner.

    We plan to focus on making of new system of functionality in search connections among politicians, private firms, state enterprises, NGO and other organizations and institutions in which is/was politician engaged.

    We will realise a translation of the profiles and structured CVs of key Czech politicians into English.

    What country will this operate in?: Czech Republic

    Who are you?:

    The civic association “Our Politicians” is voluntary, independent and non-profit. The aim of the civic association “Our Politicians” is to create an independent informational source which would provide the public with unbiased relevant information on people who participate in the politics of the Czech Republic. This basic aim is realised by foundation and operation of the internet portal www.nasipolitici.cz.
    We closely cooperate with: civic association “kohovolit.eu”, analytic server www.jakhlasovali.cz and a number of prominent Czech politologists.
    We have gained International Standard Serial Number (ISSN 1804-123X) which identifies periodical publications. Our internet portal is also included in the project of The National Library of the Czech Republic called “WebArchiv”.
    The project management is ensured by PhDr. Jiří Fiala, M.A. – Vice-Chairman of Our politicians, civic association.

  9. KohoVolit.eu – let’s see, who REALLY represents you

    What problem are you solving?:

    We are helping to shrink the huge gap between the things Czech and Slovak politicians really do and what is known about it among people (eg. through media). We work on leveraging the knowledge of voters before elections about the politicians’ real work and their stands in different policies. We would like to support the both way communication between the people and their politicians.

    Note: the answer to “What country will this operate in?” should really be “the Czech Republic AND Slovakia”, but the form allows only one answer.

    Describe your idea:

    Further development of a website focused on continuous parliamentary monitoring and “voting advice applications”(VAAs) for the parliaments that we already cover – CZ, SK and EU. To extend the project for regional/city “parliaments”. Our system is ready for multiple parliaments and to be open for anybody to administrate one.

    Details:
    VAAs: An easy overview of where the parties stand on different topics with respect to the user. (2010 elections – CZ: general, Senate, cities; SK: general). We want other versions – mobile, Fb, for news portals(we’ve done this), game or paper.
    Monitoring of politicians’ work: Analyses of voting behavior, activity, votes on particular topics, providing system for others’ areas of interests. Summaries to be send to the media regularly.
    API: To share all the data we gather.
    Write to your MPs: To rebuild our simple application with the ideas from WriteToThem. The more complex selection of addresses (committees, etc.) will be preserved.

    What country will this operate in?: Czech Republic

    Who are you?:

    KohoVolit.eu (”Who to vote for”) is a Czech-Slovak project and an NGO of the same name. It was launched in 2006 before the general elections in Czechia and Slovakia. We developed our first “voting advice applications”(VAAs) that time. It has been implemented for 5 elections in CZ and SK so far, the VAA for European elections earlier this year was tested by 60 000 – 70 000 people. Later we have added a section of analyses and a simple tool “write to your MPs” which is being used by the public and NGOs. From the very beginning to the present days, it has been all prepared on a voluntary basis. Almost all costs are paid by ourselves, which is really “the” limitation we face. We have been able to run the project only because our mini-team (2-3 people) consists of people who can implement it – programming (university degree and two of us actually making their living as a programmer), analytics (PhD and years of working experience) or management (years of experience).

  10. Web Tool For Public Debate/Dynamic Case-Study/Tunnel Blanka as a pilot project

    What problem are you solving?:

    – Lack of public debate on complex and complicated public matters (Projects (i.e. government´s and public authorities ideas/plans/projects)
    – Lack of understanding of problems and relevant impacts.(concentrating important information and description of possible impacts of such Projects)- Lack of independent source of information. The Pilot Project: the Blanka project (Prague inner-city transportation circle tunnel:www.tunelblanka.cz), which has already started and is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2012. The project launch: end of May, 2010. The universal Web Tool should be available to public use for free.
    – Lack of involvement of citizens in public debate and public processes.

    Describe your idea:

    The idea is a structured web site, in which each subpage category has its own editor and handles different topics. The main description page (DP) contains basic data known up to date, the discipline-related subpages (DRS) handle issues from the DP and other sources from their own discipline ( economy, ecology, etc), the synthetic page (SP) receives results from DRS. SP editor then prepares the material for (a) results of the debate in form of main issues that should be addressed to politicians, media, and wider public as topics to be debated & question asked within the public debate and (b) case-study that can be used to explain problems coming with such Projects. Structure and functionality: see the attached file with the chart. Data processed by the Web tool editors will be kept in databases freely accessible. Results will be under the public control and discussable at the Forum, which will be the basis for any Project-related discussions.

    What country will this operate in?: Czech Republic

    Who are you?:

    I am an independent lawyer running a law firm (see www.kuceralegal.cz). As a side activity, I provide consultations on fundraising and other legal issues to NGOs (for instance www.nett.aid.cz, www.nadacevia.cz ,etc.). My idea on the organization of the project is that NGO that deals with city environment and city transportation would manage the day-to-day work (Auto-Mat) and I will become a part of a board of non-paid professionals to supervise the work i.e. to consult editors of individual pages and discuss management issues & development plan on regular project meetings. The Project Partners: IT/Site building, maintenance and development: Nexus (www.nexus.cz).Project
    implementation and development: Auto-Mat (www.auto-mat.cz)