Nigeria currently has a population of approximately 140 million people (2006 Census Report) with significant mobile phone coverage with over 90 million active subscribers (NCC, July 2011). Unfortunately, according to GSM Association, Nigeria has a financial inclusion index of 15% with the large proportion of country having no formal financial literacy.
In a democratic society such as Nigeria, BudgIT believes simulating interest of Nigerians in public governance is critical to benchmarking governance, understanding government’s allocation to specific sectors and how it trickles down to citizens. The budget as a public document needs to be communicated in a more interactive format that citizens can relate to in spite of literacy level. A project committed to transparency and sound governance, BudgIT wants to bridge the gulf of ignorance through the use of ubiquitous tools such as mobile phone and Internet to increase Nigerians’ access to and understanding of the budget.
BudgIT was conceptualised and developed at Tech-In–Governance (www.tech-in.org), a 48-hour gathering of ideas, people and digital tools aimed at creating novel web & mobile solutions to transform citizen participation in governance in Nigeria run by the Co-Creation Hub (www.cchubnigeria.com) in March 2011.
As 2nd place winner at Tech-In Governance, BudgIT was given a prize of $2,000 from the Indigo Trust, a part of the Sainsbury Family Trust in the United Kingdom, which the team applied towards delivering the website which is now live at www.yourbudgit.com.
BudgIT is a tool that aims to redefine participatory governance. Many Nigerians, with little or no knowledge of accounting and public financial management, are lost when they see (if they ever get the chance to) the budgets of the different arms of government. The maze of millions and billions in the “thick” budget documents tend to confuse and it is difficult to put clear context on how public funds are actually spent.
BudgIT serves as the bridge by using creative methods such as info-graphic displays on mobile and web pages to deliver Nigeria’s budgets to larger sections of the populace. We believe that in a democracy, every responsible tax payer has the right to know how his/her taxes are expended in the delivery of efficient public infrastructure and services.
With the budget delivered through mobile and online tools we can trigger discussions and debates amongst the citizenry while allowing those in government know that their actions will be up to more scrutiny.
The key goals for this project are summarized mainly to:
1. Strengthen civic participation in public governance.
2. Use customized data representation tools to revolutionize engagement with Nigerians
3. Ensure mass literacy on public financial allocation and expenditure
4. Initiate robust discussions across individual and social networks that results in effective budget monitoring
Participatory governance is a key pillar in the social contract between the electorates and their elected leaders. Taking the knowledge of the budget away from the realm of just experts to that of the common man should initiate a more transparent and open society.
Next Steps for BudgIT
The team behind BudgIT has released the current version of the website to give members of the public a first look at their budget in visual form. We will be working to improve and update the contents of the site as we get more data from other arms of government. Ahead of the 2012 budgets, we hope to launch a new version of the website as well as application for a variety of mobile platforms. We sincerely appreciate feedback from users which we hope to incorporate into future versions of the website.