Showing posts with label government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label government. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Legal Plundering

The late economist, historian and libertarian philosopher, Murray Rothbard, was right on the mark when he wrote:

"The great German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer pointed out that there are two mutually exclusive ways of acquiring wealth; one...production and exchange, he called the 'economic means.' The other way is simpler in that it does not require productivity; it is the way of seizure of another's goods or services by the use of force and violence. This is the method of one-sided confiscation, of theft of the property of others.

"This is the method which Oppenheimer termed 'the political means' to wealth. It should be clear that the peaceful use of reason and energy in production is the 'natural' path for man: the means for his survival and prosperity on this earth. It should be equally clear that the coercive, exploitative means is contrary to natural law; it is parasitic, for instead of adding to production, it subtracts from it.

"The 'political means' siphons production off to a parasitic and destructive individual or group; and this siphoning not only subtracts from the number producing, but also lowers the producer's incentive to produce beyond his own subsistence. In the long run, the robber destroys his own subsistence by dwindling or eliminating the source of his own supply."

The sooner the people "overthrow" the political means and reestablish the economic means of acquiring wealth, the sooner we will be rid of political corruption, high taxes, runaway government spending and onerous regulations. Until that day arrives, expect more bribes, shakedowns, and "waste, fraud and abuse."

the international community is struggling to find a way to stifle corruption in Afghanistan but too high stakes to take an objective look into the issue and the answer is very clear. less money for government and humanitarian organisations who are not answerable to redistribute through corrupt entities they have established. solution number one for the situation is; limiting government to a few well defined functions would liberate Afghans from self-serving, incompetent, and dishonest public officials. solution number two is making developmental organisations answerable. none of the Aid organisations such as IRD, UN agencies, ARD, Chomonics, and dozens others which receives more than 200 million dollar each every year to spend on developing afghanistan could be held accountable. the most transparent of all is UNDP which has over half a century experience in development and governance in over 160 countries. in theory they have a transparency and audit office i know of a series of corruption cases in the UNDP and it was brought to their attention yet they have done little to look into it. all these developmental organisations are dealing with sums of money that they never want to give up and any serious look into their conduct might compromise the flow of money.

We need to end "legal plunder," as Frederic Bastiat called for more than 150 years ago. He wrote: See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

the institutions of the state and the structures of large international development organisations are plundering tool for a few Afghans to benefit at the expense of others in the society.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SMS government: District Government registers client via cellphone

We are trying to promote the idea that district level government in Afghanistan need to engage population more proactively in the face of general disillusionment.

We work with a few district governments in southern Afghanistan to facilitate constituencies who are visiting the district offices to use government services. We have recruited and trained a few constituency caseworkers in the provinces of Wardak, Paktika, Nangarhar and Kunar; we are placing them inside the district governor offices. The candidate was briefed that the role is not to initiate a broad array of actions resulting in a speedy, favourable outcome. When performing casework, the scribe cannot force an agency to expedite a case or act in favour of a client. Scribe role is to intervene to facilitate the appropriate administrative processes. The scribes have a form which they fill out with details of each client/constituent visiting district government office. The form has three copies and one goes to the client.

Local governments (both district and provincial) should try to stay engaged with the public. Keeping continuous and systematic communication with them is a tool to gauge their mood and needs. The challenge in Afghanistan is lack of security, geographically dispersed villages, corruption and public reluctance to engage with the government; under such circumstances it is impossible for local governments to remained informed about public need and raise awareness of government efforts.

Using cellphone local governments can easily gather citizen input via voice platforms and SMS, grouping constituent interests by keywords. Then, based on those keywords, informing them of government actions in their interests.

we are working to use frontline sms to automate the system. this idea came to me when working with telephone operators; there is alot of neglect on the part of staff in a place like Afghanistan. they are not serious about details and cannot be bothered to be accurate.

Project Description and Technical Workflow

The idea is to make the inprocess form available via cellphone, so scribe can use client – or his cellphone when they don’t have – to directly input their detail into the database. we can automate the process this way. Client will be promoted to give regular feedback. District governor and related staff will be reminded about client status and scribe will be tasked to follow up on issues when hitting a barrier. The digitization of bureaucracy on an easy to use medium not only streamlines process but also makes up for lack of physical interaction as a result of worsening security situation.

We can make the form for data entry available via phones without using java enabled features. That we it can be available on all phones. The telephone which receives the form can send a simple hand-written SMS and our dB sms software can receive it. the data is not interpreted, validated or written in a database by FrontlineSMS. For this purpose we can develop a MySQL or MS Access database system to host the SMS data and to provide validation on the data received and to send an automatic reply to follow up with the sender, relate the problem to other stakeholders. For instance a client sends in form with a petition for Tazkira (birth certificate), the sender will receive an sms back, giving him the contact information for the Tazkira manager and working hours of the dept. the dB will also send a message to Tazkira manager informing him about the petition and any unusual notes.

For the functioning of the system we need two dBs, one at the front end and another at the back. The front-end database is the system that performs the validation and the queries would require adaptation for porting to another system.

We have received some money and currently working on a short-codes to toll-free SMS lines, to lower the barrier to entry for ordinary citizens who may not be able to afford a multiple SMS ‘conversation’ based on a menu tree.

There are a few other features that we could add to the casket: I am interested to look into geo-tagging, to give additional geographic context and trends analysis of citizen feedback and information requests.

So far we are only building this text based but we would like to bring in the voice; by using text to speech technology we can trigger recorded audio call-backs for those instances where audio is more appropriate than text.