Thank you for listening to our presentation in the showcase.
Yes, definitely! But I think this is something that happens a lot not only in the Philippines but in many parts of the world.
We experienced (and still experiencing) challenges on various levels:
Especially in the beginning of the project, we are a relatively young team (around 20s) and introducing a relatively ‘new technology’ has its initial barriers. There were still spaces’ which are not welcoming to young people interfering in ‘serious’ matters such as monitoring government contracts. Breaking this initial bias was challenging. We had some people telling us things like : “I’ve been working on this for xx years and who are you to tell me that what I’m doing is wrong?” And how do you argue with that? Especially in some local cultures where seniority is a big and serious thing?
Since we are technically ‘flagging’ contracts and transactions, the initial response of some people was to question the scientific credibility of the findings. How do you explain to them that what the AI flagged was reliable?
It was initially difficult to engage with the concerned local governments and national government agencies, by ourselves, since we are primarily an R&D tech organization and not so much an expert on the engagement and policy side.
However, we were fortunate to have received support from various transparency champions, very open and active local governments, and we were supported by Hivos under their Open Up Contracting Programme sometime 2018-2020, which then lead us to closely engage with different concerned government offices, stakeholders, and other champions working on open government and transparency. That really got the ball rolling, and now, we are cosely engaging with various partners and even volunteers.
Our strategy was to engage the ‘low hanging fruits’ first, that’s why we really focused on willing local government units (LGUs). From there, we scale to other willing organizations, institutions and LGUs. Slowly but surely.
It was also helpful that we have the support of business organizations, since they are also naturally interested in the analysis of procurement data. And, to a certain extent, they have a powerful voice in local government decision making.
And as for the ‘scientific credibility’ we started working closely with researchers, universities, and we published peer-reviewed reports and findings to ensure scientific accuracy of our calculations and solutions.
Finally, we are investing in information dissemination campaigns on the use of Data Analytics for inclusive and effective decision making. As ambitious as this may sound, we really want our partners to understand what we are doing instead of just being fascinated by tech terms like ‘Machine Learning’ and ‘Data Analytics.’ We are always engaging local governments, National Government Agencies, and try to present to them the benefits of using tech tools in their operations. We have a lot of joint webinars on these!
These little steps and elements really helped strengthen the project and our engagement arm. Having all these partners on-board, is what I think, really made the project impactful.
That said, platforms like OGP actually bring stakeholders together for a more inclusive dialogue, so we really make it a point to be as active as we could with these platforms.
Thank you and please feel free to look at our published/pre-print reports and findings!