Mr. Michael Canares, Step Up Consulting’s strategy advisor was invited by the Indonesian Ministry of Home Affairs to speak at their workshop on “Leading Innovation in a Digital World”. The workshop was held online, attended by more than 200 participants – leaders of MOHA across Indonesia, last 24 November 2021.
Mr. Canares spoke about data-driven governance. He was invited through the Ford Foundation, once a partner of the Open Data Lab Jakarta where he was the Senior Research Manager for digital citizenship for almost three years. Mr. Canares spoke about concrete examples were governments across the world use data to improve public service delivery, strengthen effective public management, increase accountability mechanisms for public officials, and enhance citizen participation in governance.
Step Up Consulting has recently published three research papers on open contracting and its role during the COVID 19 pandemic. The research conducted in 2020 covers two countries, Guatemala and the Philippines.
Hivos, a non-government organization based in the Netherlands, commissioned the research to provide evidence that can be used by local actors and donors in the design, implementation, and advocacy for inclusive crisis response and recovery.
The research highlights at least four key findings:
During during times of emergencies, it is easy to ignore differences in context, needs, and vulnerabilities.
Poor inclusion outcomes in COVID-19 response are a result of the lack of participation of people outside government in the design, implementation, and monitoring of initiatives to contain the virus and cushion the population against adverse economic impacts.
Data and information is a critical component in a more effective and inclusive emergency response. When information is provided, it opens up spaces for discussion, contestation, and productive collaboration.
The role of intermediaries can not be overemphasised in ensuring that procurement during the times of crisis is transparent and accountable. Without intermediaries, like media, watchdogs, or social accountability advocates and organisations, to scrutinise procurement records including those indicating the receipt of goods and services, as well as its consequent distribution and/or utilisation, a more accountable procurement process can not be achieved.
The full paper for the Philippines is available here while that of Guatemala can be accessed via this link.
A total of 62 participants attended the training from different national government agencies as well as electric cooperatives. Among those who attended were representatives from the Department of Budget and Management, Civil Service Commission, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Insurance Commission of the Department of Finance. Officials from electric cooperatives of Zambales, Cagayan, La Union, Palawan, Pampanga, San Jose, and Sorsogon were also present.
Topics discussed include data revolution and data justice, data governance and management, analytics and algorithmic bias, as well as data culture. The training was delivered by Mr. Canares using a mix of lectures, case studies, as well as tech-enabled audience engagement strategies.
Step Up Consulting works with Goethe Institute in a research project that looks into environmental data in four key cities in Southeast Asia, namely, Manila, Hanoi, Bangkok, and Jakarta.
The research project is part of the “Visual Unearthing Project” implemeted by Goethe Institut, the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The regional project “visual unearthing”, will use Open Access Data (AQI, etc.) to analyze the interactions of air-water quality and other indicators (groundwater level, etc.) that are important especially in climate change in very specific environments (cities, regions, ecosystems). The purpose of this research is to assess available data based and initiate the process of undertaking data visualization on available data based on the results of the mapping process.
Step Up strategy advisor Michael Canares leads the regional team of researchers from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand to accomplish the project. Results will be made available by June this year.
Step Up Consulting signed a contract with Soil and Water Conservation to conduct the end-of-project evaluation of its project implemented in Bohol, Philippines.
The project entitled the project “Strengthening the Capacity of a Farmers Federation and their Communities to Address Climate Change in Bohol, Philippines”, was implemented in the Province of Bohol with funding support from Misereor. The project aimed to continue to address the institutional strengthening of a farmer’s federation by providing (1) organizational management and technical training/workshops, monitoring, and evaluation; (2) further capacity building for members of the federation; (3) assistance for sustainable management and conservation of the environment including climate change adaptation, DRRM, biodiversity conservation and protection while strengthening environmental ethics in the local community, especially the youth; and (4) facilitation in formulating implementable Disaster Risk Reduction Management and Contingency Plan of the barangays.
The project is implemented benefitting the farmers federation composed of more than 10 cooperatives and farmers associations located in several towns in central Bohol, 15 Barangay Local Government Units (BLGUs) in the municipality of Batuan, selected elementary or secondary school students and teachers in the project municipalities, and community residents in barangay Bahi, Albuquerque, where the SWCF office is located.
Project evaluation is part of Step Up Consulting’s primary expertise. The team at Step Up will be lead by its Research Lead, Ms. Jean Celeste Paredes.
Step Up Consulting just recently completed a research project entitled “Analysing Social Media Use and Preferences of Young People in Mindanao” that sought to better understand social media use and preference amongst young people in the region as input into the design of initiatives that use technology and social media in engaging with young people. The research was commissioned by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
The research, implemented from December 2020 to January 2021, was designed to collect basic information about the target users in four regions in Mindanao to test assumptions onuser attitudes regarding social media use. It underwent three phases as illustrated in Figure 1 below.
Phase 1 – Exploring was about getting a preliminary understanding of the users that the program would like to reach out to, generating necessary demographics to have a better sense of who target users are, where they live, what their preferences, are how they use technology, and what their experiences in using internet and social media have been like. This phase of the research is largely quantitative made possible through an online survey.
Phase 2 – Focusing was about initiating conversations with key personal, or fictional character types that represent user needs, feelings, and behaviors, that arose from the exploring phase. This phase sought to have a deeper understanding of key users to inform the design of the use of technology in engaging with young people. Because of limitations in mobility due to COVID-19, the conversations were held online.
Phase 3 – The Harvesting phase was about generating insights from both quantitative and qualitative data to inform the GIZ, as it embarks on the process of using technology to reach out to young people, and the designers of the proposed initiatives on how to best approach the systems development process.
The project team was led by Step Up’s strategy advisor, Mr. Michael Canares. Frei Sangil and Ica Fernandez are team members. The team is also supported by Hedz Paredes and Tet Pepito.
Michael Canares, Step Up’s Strategy Adviser, speaks at the annual Datafest Tbilisi on the topic “Data Empowerment”. As can be recalled, Canares is one of the authors of the blog Data Empowerment hosted at Medium (see https://medium.com/data-empowerment).
DataFest Tbilisi 2020 is the 4th edition of the annual conference in Georgia about data, science, communications and technology. Due to the pandemic, the conference is moved online and was held on 15 to 17 December 2020. The goal of the conference is to connect professionals working with data from different industries in order to encourage cross-sector collaboration. Conference attendees usually come from the media, civil society, business, and public agencies from around the world.
The conference has 5 parallel tracks: (1) Communication (Journalism, Design, Art); (2) Activism (Human Rights, Politics, Elections, Open data); (3) Technology (Data Science, AI, Tools); (4) Business (Analytics, Finance, Products, Policies); and (5) Life (Healthcare, Mobility, Education, etc.). Mr. Canares spoke at the main stage on 15 December 2020.
The tool, developed with funding support from HIVOS, is used to assess whether the conditions within an agency are appropriate for FOI mechanisms to be effective. It assesses whether the agency possesses the critical elements that will enable it to perform proactive disclosure of agency data. For purposes of the assessment, the AID-FOI Tool draws heavily from the work of the Carter Center’s Rule of Law Program that specifies a set of indicators to assess FOI implementation. These indicators revolve around five essential components, namely, leadership, rules, systems, resources, and monitoring.
Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan of the FOI Project Management Office (FOI) was able to champion the use of the tool across national government agencies when he promoted the tool during the Freedom of Information (FOI) Annual Summit. A total of 200 agencies were able to use the tool to assess their information disclosure practices. As a result, of these initiatives, the AID-FOI tool was included as part of the Compendium on the Innovation and Productivity Initiatives in the Public Sector, which aims to provide an inventory of best practices on public service delivery in the Asia- Pacific region.
Step Up strategy advisor, Michael Canares, works with Konsil LSM Indonesia (Indonesian NGO Council) on a systems mapping research together with Open Data Lab Jakarta to develop a deep understanding of the systemic challenges in affecting gender-inclusive development in the cities of Jakarta, Banda Aceh, Bandung, and Pontianak in Indonesia.
The system mapping research consist of three main components: 1) desk research, 2) interviews with key civil society and government stakeholders in each of the target cities, and 3) system mapping workshops. Mr. Canares was engaged by the project implementation team to design the online workshop using different online tools.
Mr. Canares designed the different workshops aimed at (a) identifying and validating priority issues related to gender-inclusive development in each city; (b) recommending strategies or solutions to gender-inclusive development issues in each city and identify ways in which open data can be part of the solution; (c) identifying and prioritizing skills gaps and data gaps needed in implementing the solutions; and (d) identifying key actors and validating coalitions between actors within and inter-city, including support needed to strengthen the collaboration.
The workshops started in June 2020 and will wrap up in the next three weeks.
Transparency in the procurement process and in the implementation of procurement contracts is one of the principles enshrined in Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) alongside the principles of competitiveness, public monitoring, accountability, and streamlined procurement process. In promoting transparency in government procurement activities, government agencies are mandated to publish all bid opportunities and post all awards and contracts in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS).
However, public access to contracting information from planning up to implementation is limited. Most contracting documents are not published online and are being kept internally by agencies. The current version of the PhilGEPS does not have information on the planning and implementation stage. This situation makes tracking and monitoring of government projects difficult, which in turn makes government procurement activities susceptible to fraud, collusion, and corruption.
With support from HIVOS, the https://southcotabato.gov.ph/Provincial Government of South Cotabato in partnership with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines implemented an open contracting program in order strengthen transparency and accountability in local procurement systems in the province of South Cotabato. This culminated with the publication of local procurement activities in a centralized portal in compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).
To cultivate use of open contracting data, ECCP desires to build capacity of prospective users in understanding public procurement as well in using contracting data for various purposes, including research. ECCP partnered with the Notre Dame of Marbel University (NDMU) to cultivate awareness and appreciation of teachers and students on the importance of public procurement and in using contracting data in academic research.
Two training programs were conducted to prepare proponents for the open contracting research thinking through research topics. The first one conducted last 2 February 2020 and focused on the discussion of open contracting and its value in promoting transparency and accountability, as well as improving public service delivery. The second training, conducted on 15 February 2020, focused on cultivating use cases and enabling the participants to start thinking about potential research projects on open contracting.
After the two trainings, participants we asked to submit proposals for the 1st South Cotabato Open Contracting Challenge. Three proposals were received were the following:
Forecasting Contractor Performance Using Non-Parametric Models by Cubort Bulanon and Chucky Marie Fernandez
Citizen’s Project Monitoring Management System by Rodulfo Dorado and Elisha Susana Alvarico
Cost-Efficiency of Procurement by Lot by Michelle Capistrano, Jennifer Era, and Rean May Galang
On March 11-13 2020, the proponents were invited to a BootCamp designed by Step Up Consulting’s strategy advisor, Michael Canares. He was joined by mentors and facilitators Ben Hur, Frei Sangil, and Vien Suerte to help polish and finalize the research proposals for implementation. The research outputs will be presented in June 2020.