TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | May 21, 2018

By TAI (Role at TAI)


  • New Zealand experiments with machine-readable laws
  • Community-led solutions to address big data risks
  • New proposals on how tax could result in economic development
  • Corruption investigations threaten Latin American democracy
  • OSF moving out of Budapest
  • Ideas on how the philanthropic sector can better support social movements


In case you missed it…

Openness and digitalization combined – must be transformational, right? So hope the New Zealand government with an experiment to turn legislation into software code. Why have machines read the law? It could allow for better service delivery, including more effective testing of legislation impacts before passage. As Pia Andrews of the NZ government insists, “If you don’t have your legislation as machine-readable code, it is almost impossible to ensure traceable and accountable decision making.”

Algorithms interpreting/testing laws will surely raise alarm bells for some – another case for algorithmic transparency? How do you mitigate the harms associated with such big data approaches? Community-led solutions, according to Ben Bradford. Citing Amnesty International’s report on London police’s “dirty data”, the author suggests three ways to make data collection lawful and ethical: 1) use of independent watchdogs to ensure policing toe the line, 2) demand greater transparency on how data and technology are used and 3) working with the community for intelligence work.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


We’ve had open government scandals aplenty, but mostly focused on the government side. Does civil society in open government require a code of ethics? Join the discussion.

Elsewhere in the open government world, Transparency International Ireland released its first National Integrity Index, specifically looking at how well-prepared Irish laws and institutions (including local authorities) are in promoting transparency and accountability and curbing corruption. The OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism found positive developments in Kenya’s plan towards opening government, specifically citing the transformative impact of its laws on access to information and beneficial ownership.

Calling all tax nerds – dive deep into tax policy measures in advanced and emerging economies through this new comprehensive database by the IMF. Curious about how tax could result in development? We’ve picked up four recommendations this week. In their new publication on taxing Africa, Mick Moore, Wilson Prichard, and Odd-Helge Fjeldstad argue that cultural and political change need to happen within countries in Africa before taxation can result in growth. Perhaps an alternative set of tax instruments would be useful? US Senator Sherrod Brown urges “freeloader” taxes on corporations who aren’t paying their employees enough. Eric Zolt and Jason Oh propose wealth tax add-ons – taxing specific forms of wealth attached to the existing tax system, rather than a new comprehensive wealth tax instrument. For a contrasting radical take, consider Posner and Weyl’s proposal for a wealth tax on steroids as part of a broader market rethink.

Long read of the week: Corruption that Kills: Why Mexico Needs an International Mechanism to Combat Impunity

Report by Open Society Justice Initiative with five other Mexican organizations

Turning our attention to Asia-Pacific, civil society organizations are calling on the UN ESCAP to adopt the mandate of curbing illicit financial flows. In a letter delivered ahead of the High-Level Dialogue on Inequality at the 74th Session of ESCAP, signatories state that “the curtailment of illicit financial flows is crucial for all countries, especially developing countries, and is significant within the mandate of reducing inequality, achieving progressive domestic resource mobilization and financing for development”.  Meanwhile, Eric Guttierez asks – do illicit economies in poor communities, often affected/displaced by violence, count as illicit financial flows? He flags the perennial definitional challenge that has hindered action among the development community. 

We’ve covered anticorruption efforts a lot of late as government heads have rolled, but Lindsay Mayka and Amy Erica Smith offer a warning of unintended consequences. Could corruption investigations threaten Latin America’s democracy? They see a trend to weaponize corruption investigations to serve partisan interests, so inconveniencing opponents in the short run and benefiting the corrupt long-term, assuming investigators lose public trust.

You may see some evidence to back their hypothesis in our scan of this week’s corruption stories. In Malaysia, police raided former Prime Minister Najib Raza’s residence, as part of a corruption probe, barely a week after his electoral defeat. Bosnian tycoon-turned-politician Fahrudin Radonic, was cleared of corruption charges, which he claims was “politically fabricated”. Transparency International Portugal expressed disappointment over the recent turn of events involving the bribery case slapped against Angola’s former vice president Manuel Vicente. In Azerbaijan, a recent report claims that that the “Azerbaijani laundromat” and “Caviar diplomacy” scandals barely scratch the surface. Laos’ Prime Minister declared a crackdown on corruption in 2016. So why hasn’t it worked? David Hutt claims it was more rhetoric and hardly any transparency as he breaks down where the government got it wrong.

Podcast of the week: Leveraging Innovations that Transform Data

FedScoop interviews John Karagozian on new technologies that government agencies can use to deal with assembling and organizing big data sets

Emerson Sykes of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law’s Emerson testified before the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on increasing legal restrictions on civil society and set forth five recommendations, including more funds for civil society legal reform.

In a stark example of hounding of civil society, TAI member Open Society Foundations (OSF), will be moving out of its Budapest office but continue to support work in Hungary from its new location in Berlin (click here to learn more about the portfolio).

According to Patrick Gaspard, OSF president, “The government of Hungary has denigrated and misrepresented our work and repressed civil society for the sake of political gain, using tactics unprecedented in the history of the European Union.” But how did OSF find itself at the center of the Orban administration’s ire? The Foundations’ work supporting refugees and migrants went against the anti-immigration sentiment of the right-wing and far right, according to The Economist (although Patrick Strickland claims there’s more).

On a more positive note, Nina-Kathrin Wienkoop and Eloïse Bertrand explain how mobilizations stopped the authoritarian consolidation in Burkina Faso.  Which reminds us of the challenge TAI members face in determining how best to support social movements? The Innovation Network detail the unique support that social movements require from funders.

We are always excited to read about the work that partners of our global learning collaborative on transparency, accountability and participation are doing! Walter Flores and Alison Hernandez of CEGSS Guatemala argue that the essence of accountability interventions is the process by which service users are able to use evidence to confront unequal power relations at different governance levels.

Still more on the learning front – a checklist (and a warning) on scaling social impact programs, reflections on ten years’ experience in providing operating support grant, tips on how to craft compelling stories that cut through complex, systemic challenges and humanize abstract concepts, and a new model for financing non-profits.


TAI spotlight

Meet Ford Foundation’s newest Tech Fellows and learn how they plan to address some of today’s tech challenges

Aadhaar, is the world’s largest biometric ID system, which has been exposed for security, fraud and low data quality concerns. CV Madhukar provides recommendations on how to address data quality and exclusion

Fay Twersky of the Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group talks about measurement as a three-legged stool- evaluation, monitoring and feedback

Omidyar Network invests for the expansion of reader-funded news publisher De Correspondent. An innovative way of rebuilding public trust in media?


Read our blogs

Read about this new global learning collaborative on transparency, accountability and participation funded by Ford Foundation and Hewlett Foundation

Our spring intern from Singapore reflects on how we facilitate donor collaboration


Of potential interest

Large tech companies have started to become more transparent about their processes to fight misinformation, disinformation and hate speech. But Courtney Radsch argues there is still a long way to go

Online fact-checking does not need to be a heavy lift, as this cartoon demonstrates

OGP CEO Sanjay Pradhan makes the case on why open contracting should be the global norm

A few months before the Carillon’s collapse, it was praised by the UK’s Financial Reporting Council as a model of good accounting practice

Apolitical’s new feature talks about how data and technology change the way we scale social impact

Speech by Joe Abah of Nigeria (part of recent TAI conversations on data collaborations)


Calls: Proposals, Courses 


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