ePaństwo Foundation is one of the non-governmental organizations working for an open and transparent government and civic engagement, using the new technologies as their main tool in providing access to public information and encouraging citizens for civil engagement.
In the conversation with Asia Przybylska, the representative of the ePaństwo, Kinga Jaromin the EST Ambassador to Poland talks about the importance of the access to public information in fighting corruption and building the transparent society and about the tools that can make this fight easier and more effective.
Q. In your project you use broadly new technologies, for example Internet or mobile applications to bring closer to the citizens the knowledge about the country and the government. What inspired you to act on this issue, and why you believe it is important?
A. The Internet provides many opportunities for the modern activist, so we have prepared a number of tools that will help him/her in their fight and reduce the time spent on each activity. We proceed from the simple assumption that nowadays all issues concerning public life should be available over the Internet, to save time of the citizens.
Q. How important is easy access to public information? Is it a panacea for corruption and nepotism in public space?
A. Public information is very important to us. It means we can ask the public institutions to provide information about its activities. It is worth noting that most of this information is further processed and serves the objectives of individual applicants. Of course it can also serve as a panacea for corruption and nepotism. It seems to us that the government should always remember that we observing its activities.
Q. Is there a lot of interest in the Polish society about your mobile applications? Are people looking for access to public information, and they want to know more about their surroundings, for example what is happening in their municipalities?
A. Our website, mojepanstwo.pl has currently over half a million visitors a month. These are people who are looking for different pieces of information and we are pleased that they can just find them on our website. Its usefulness is visible also on a number of meetings with non-governmental organizations that we conduct. As part of the feedback we get a lot of information relating to the improvement of activities of people who become familiar with the tools available on the website.
Q. Your actions are also directed to other NGOs in the framework of the project “Technologies at the service of the NGO”. What is the cooperation based on and what other NGOs can gain from participation in this project?
A. Today, each of us, in particular NGO activists appreciate the time they spend on various activities. The idea, which portal Moje Państwo (My Country) is based on, can be described by two nouns – integration and personalization. The integration involves collecting 1 terabyte of data in one place, which will allow for the creation of “one stop shop” for the public information data. Personalization is based on the assumption that everyone else understands the word “state” in a different way – the portal allows for the selection of functionality, which allows the use of public data according to your preferences. At mojepanstwo.pl can be found, among others, base with a graphical portrayal of relationships between members of the Management and the Board of companies and NGOs. Additionally, in one place you can keep track of all the activities of non-governmental organizations, view their reports, support their operations and view competitions dedicated to them. Using the portal, one can also create and send requests for access to public information, petitions or other requests and publish the answers. The key functionality are also notifications of new documents or the activities in the relevant areas. That is the set of tools that can be extremely useful to any NGO.
Q. Another project of your organization is aimed at bloggers and journalists. You teach them how to search for and provide information? What is the key in being well-informed?
A. It is important that journalists have proven tools by which they can later create reliable materials. Nowadays, they are somewhat responsible for what, and in what form shall provide the society. Some people live in a bubble of information and only the information from different sources can be an antidote to this condition.
How do you assess Polish people – are we a civil society? Do we engage in public life? If not, what are we missing?
A. I think that slowly we become a civil society. Unfortunately, too often we are focused on great politics, and we cannot give account to what is equally important for us, that is an action in local communities and the willingness to change them. That is the area where we can have greatest impact, it is enough to get interested.