Shreya Basu, Lead for Asia Pacific, Open Government Partnership

By Medha Basu

Women in GovTech 2018 Special Report.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

The Open Government Partnership works with reformers inside and outside of government to make sure that citizens have a role in their democracy beyond the ballot box. We accomplish this by bringing civil society and governments together at the same table to co-create action plans. These plans include a range of actions from fighting corruption to including marginalised voices in policy decisions.

As Lead for Asia Pacific at the Open Government Partnership, I support stakeholders in the region in shaping these action plans and to ensure that they make a real difference in people’s lives. Right now, we are seeing many exciting developments that leverage smart policy and technology.

For example, in Mongolia, citizens now fill out community scorecards, many using a mobile application, to rate their schools, water delivery, and trash collection. Citizens can also use the app to reach out to service providers and local officials to ensure issues are resolved or services improved.

In Armenia, the government is publishing draft legislation online and organising public discussions to engage citizens in the lawmaking process. In Georgia, the State Audit Office has enlisted citizens in the fight for accountability - by building an online platform for budget information, which hosts information on public debt, major infrastructure projects, and municipal budgets. Citizens can also use a “citizen” tab on the platform to identify projects that aren’t being completed, report cases of corruption, and suggest projects for government agencies to audit.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2018?

The 2018 OGP Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting hosted in Seoul, South Korea in November was a major highlight this year. At the event, government ministers and officials and representatives of civil society shared stories on how countries are opening up their procurement processes to make them fairer and more transparent. They discussed how technology can improve electoral processes, and how citizens can play a role in how public services are delivered.

This year, 11 countries and three local governments in Asia Pacific worked with citizens to develop new plans, which include commitments to making public transportation more accessible in Seoul, addressing election financing transparency in the Kyrgyz Republic, and fostering transparency around how algorithms are used in New Zealand.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2018, what would it be?

We need to create the space for informed public debate and collective action, and these spaces must be open to all voices. It is on us to ensure we do what it takes to create inclusion and value diversity.

For example, at the Seoul Regional Summit, we had an equal number of male and female speakers. This didn’t happen by itself; we carefully recruited our speakers to ensure balance.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2019?

With technology becoming ubiquitous, it is imperative that we protect the rights of citizens and ensure equal access. We are beginning to have conversations about this within the OGP community, particularly on the use of Artificial Intelligence and digital rights.

What are your priorities for 2019?

In 2019, OGP will launch a new effort on gender and inclusion, specifically enhancing the voice of women in politics and policy. What is especially exciting about this work is that we aren’t just looking at how women participate, but also how meaningful that participation is, and how it impacts outcomes.

What is one skill that has helped you the most throughout the course of your career?

Be serious about the work you do, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

What advancements do you predict will happen in your field in the next ten years?

No one would have predicted ten years ago where we are today, so predictions can be tricky. What I am encouraged by is how citizens across the globe are pushing back on corruption and the consolidation of power in the hands of so few.

This movement is still nascent, but I hope and expect it will continue to grow.

Coffee, yoga, music… what powers you through your day?

Coffee and music – and good intentions about yoga.