Sri Lankan Communities Use Tablets to Rebuild War-Torn Provinces
December 5, 2012
The end of a three-decade-long conflict in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in Sri Lanka is finally ushering in peace, security, and stability for millions in these affected communities. Alongside the daunting challenge of integrating thousands of returning internally displaced people, estimated to be more than 300,000 at the time the conflict ended in May 2009, local governments are also struggling to restore the severely damaged or destroyed social and economic infrastructure, and services like rural roads, health clinics, schools, drinking water, and food markets. The major challenge is therefore not only to return those who have been displaced to their homes, but also to restore and sustain infrastructure and services for them to resume their livelihood.
Realizing the conflict-induced backlog of needed local-level infrastructure facilities and services in these provinces, Sri Lanka’s government, with financial support from the World Bank, launched the North-East Local Services Improvement Program (NELSIP) in 2010. The program, later renamed Pura Neguma, puts citizens in charge of monitoring whether infrastructure projects are being carried out transparently and are actually completed. Given the huge inflow of funds to local governments, especially in the provision of public services and infrastructure, it is hoped that citizen monitoring and oversight will drastically reduce opportunities of corruption.
Since the program started, over 429 infrastructure projects have launched across the two provinces; a majority of which have been construction of roads that were destroyed during the war. A key part of the project’s success has been the mandatory Social Audit Committees (SACs) that were established to engage the public to help monitor the construction of infrastructure projects. This is a radical break from past practices where monitoring of local infrastructure was carried out by the technical audit teams from local governments with a focus more on compliance with technical parameters and much less on actual outcomes. The SACs are made up of local community members who provide oversight and monitoring of the construction works. Without their endorsement, the contractors cannot be paid for the work they have done. While this helped improve the transparency of the projects, the members expressed the need for a way to compile the data so that it could be used more effectively for future projects.
Realizing this, in May 2012, The Asia Foundation, with support from the World Bank in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Development, developed a new social audit framework using Android-based tablets which feature a user-friendly application to collect community feedback in the form of a simple questionnaire, a GPS utility that locates data coordinates to ensure diverse representation, and a back-end program that generates customized, straight forward reports in which to present the data. A specially designed software will integrate the data sets at different tiers of governments – local, district, and provincial – in real time. Information generated would include community feedback on the relevance and quality of the infrastructure at local levels, the transparency of the contract, and the effectiveness of oversight and monitoring entities. It will also allow local governments to analyze data on satisfaction with infrastructure created and services delivered in real time. Though social audits are now quite common in South Asia, this is perhaps the first instance of such a large scale use of ICT tools in social audits.
We also provided the SACs with simple protocols to help them track infrastructure development, such as the quality and quantity of raw materials purchased by the contractors like cement, sand, and stone aggregates, and also to track the quality of ongoing and completed construction work of roads, drains, buildings and culverts. And, in the coming months, Community Development Officers (CDOs) affiliated with the local government will begin using the tablets to conduct Community Report Cards (CRC) which will elicit objective and subjective feedback from local residents and beneficiaries of the infrastructure, which will result in generating a simple but effective rating system.
To ensure that these social audits continue beyond the lifecycle of Pura Neguma and beyond, we have developed a CRC on local government services that will be implemented annually by CDOs and will assess the delivery of 12 services like, water supply, sewerage, solid waste management, roads, street lights, trade licenses, and building permits provided by local authorities using touchscreen tablets and smiley faces to rate the services. According to Mr. M. Jegu, the Commissioner of Local Government for the Northern Province, this information could provide him very useful evidence to allocate budgets and prioritize investments.
We tested the framework and tools in four local governments and the results have generated a lot of buzz at both the community and high government levels. The World Bank and the Government of Sri Lanka are now preparing to expand the social audit program to all 79 local governments in the North and East.
Gita Sabharwal is The Asia Foundation’s deputy country representative in Sri Lanka and Gopakumar Thampi is a social accountability expert working across developing countries in Asia and Africa, and provides technical support to the Foundation in Sri Lanka. Sabharwal can be reached at email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation.
About our blog, InAsiaInAsia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia\’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, InAsia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.
InAsia is posted and distributed every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ContactFor questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to email@example.com.
The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223
HIGHLIGHTS ACROSS ASIA
Philippines: Tourism Industry Training in Senior High Schools
May 30, 2018
Asia Foundation Chairman Dr. David M. Lampton Honored by Committee of 100 for Advancing U.S.-China Relations
May 30, 2018
Uncovering the Impact of
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS
China passed a crucial Anti-Domestic Violence Law, but they need hard data to implement it. Our survey uncovers the real human, societal, and business costs.