The transition from open data to open government can often be a slow process in countries without a history of healthy civic engagement. As a response to this challenge, Internews and the United Nations Development Program in Ukraine joined their efforts in helping local municipalities present budgets in a user-friendly format.
In June, UNDP announced a competition for developing the open budget visualization software tool. Since then, a team of IT developers have been working hard on the project, with participating municipalities prototyping tools that will visualize budgets and engage citizens. The open source tool will include the following modules:
- A visualization of city budget revenues and expenditures (categories and sub-categories);
- A searchable archive of budget transactions;
- An interactive budget calendar (with individual notifications so that citizens can become more involved in the process and track it in real time).
While the platform is still under development, significant progress has been made. The calendar is made in a timeline format, showing important events regarding the local budget process. The calendar also provides information for citizens on how they can interact with local authorities, when they can submit their proposals, and when it is time for reporting, so that they can follow and influence the budget allocation process. The calendar is already updated and will be uploaded hopefully this week.
The developers have also presented variants for income and expense visualization. UNDP is consulting with a specialist on local budgets to build the workflow for creating visualizations from budget files. For this part, the goal is understanding how it will work, rather than how it will look. UNDP is actively developing the logic of automatic processing of budget files, but there have been some delays as two municipalities use the same automatic budgeting system, and the third municipality uses another type.
The tool is intended to be free of charge, and every municipality in Ukraine will have a chance to use it. If the pilot works, the Ukraine team would like to expand it beyond the three pilot municipalities. With new laws being introduced that will decentralize budget controls in Uraine and introduce eGovernance initiatives, the timing is really good for this initiative. The team is hopeful that they will get a finished product soon to show other donors.
You can follow the developments of the platform here.