Empowering Citizen Monitors in Uganda

Hey all!  My name is Justin DeShazor and this summer I’ll be working with Transparency International – Uganda as part of a joint partnership with the AidData Center for Development Policy, where I currently supervise a team of undergraduates who track and geocode development projects according to their purpose and geographic location.  I’ve been with AidData for almost two years, helping them produce an extensive database which provides this project-level geospatial information in a publicly-available format.  During this time, I also spent a semester with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C. utilizing AidData’s research products to inform the committee on foreign aid distributions in priority countries.  These experiences, which complement my double major in government and economics, have helped me to gain an immense appreciation for both the scale of the challenges in international development and the potential for policymakers and implementing partners to bring about meaningful progress when armed with accurate and accessible information.  Because Transparency International – Uganda has striven for over a decade to support such transparency and accountability, I am so excited to travel to Kampala (in my first trip outside of the United States) and participate in their work.

Founded in 1993, Transparency International – Uganda focuses its efforts on anti-corruption monitoring and promoting good governance reforms, with a particular emphasis on social services, extractive industries, and political corruption.   For my part, I hope to leverage my geospatial experience with AidData to incorporate geocoded aid information into their Action for Transparency program, which has developed an anti-corruption mobile phone application that will enable a network of citizen monitors, activists, and journalists to see geocoded project locations and provide feedback on health and education projects.  The idea is that the users of this application would then be able to report on the management of development funds and the subsequent development project outcomes in their local communities.  I will also be training Transparency International – Uganda staff on the use of ESRI’s ArcGIS software so that they will be able to analyze this feedback, produce compelling data visualizations, and provide policymakers with the information and resources that they need to make more informed decisions.

Assisting such an innovative effort to provide real-time feedback on the progress and effectiveness of development project is both an exhilarating and daunting challenge.  Because my experience has been in studying, standardizing, and visualizing projects that are not in flux, and from the relative comfort of Williamsburg, Virginia or Washington, D.C., no less, these are uncharted waters for me.  I look forward to sharing what I know will be an illuminating, fulfilling experience.