The New Zealand Herald has come up with and interesting experiment – transparency by crowd-sourcing. They want to use ordinary New Zealanders to trawl through the donation records for all the candidates in the last two elections and expenses for 2014. The Electoral Commission issued the relevant statistics in the form of over 900 PDF documents which makes computer analysis difficult. This amounts to censorship by obfuscation while maintaining an illusion of transparency. Issuing the data in machine readable spreadsheets and / or XML data sets would be preferable instead of or parallel to the published PDFs.
This is an admirable project and should be lauded by Pirates at home and abroad. It relieves hard pressed journalists from having to spend time doing this to expose the, sometimes, underhanded way politicians behave. If there is one thing New Zealand needs, it is more transparency from the state. Starting with the election records is a good place to start.
Harkanwal Singh, the Herald’s data editor said;
The purpose of this project is to make the data available and reusable. Also, having 2011 and 2014 returns means we can track donations and spending by each candidate. It gives a clearer picture of the role money plays in New Zealand democracy.
For every document for every electoral candidate, users of the site will be able to:
• Help create a structured database
• Highlight donations and expenses of interest
• Explain why that return is interesting and provide a context
The Herald does not say if the resulting database will be made available to the public or if there will be any access restrictions by other news media but the Pirate Party of New Zealand hopes they will do so in the spirit of publicly sourced data belongs to the public domain. If not it would be worthwhile looking at getting an open access organisation or to investigate the setting up of an organisation that would openly publish such data and expand the scope.
PPNZ encourages all New Zealanders to take part and make our #dirtypolitics a little cleaner. Go to Money in Politics and dig a little dirt.
Featured image: CC BY-NC-SA adesigna