Empowering local communities in Belarus to control local authorities through mapping

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Empowering local communities in Belarus to control local authorities through mapping

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We are creating a pool of self-sustainable experts who will assist the Belarusian civic society in making the issues transparent

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Belarus is the country characterized by two rends: absence of control of the authorities by the people and comparatively well-developed and cheap Internet access (5000 000 of 10 mln people having access to the broadband 3G or landline Internet). At the same moment, the local communities have no influence on the authorities using established institutions: the parliamentary, presidential and local elections are recognized as falsified by the international community, the independent MPs almost never make into the parliament or the local authorities, the MPs who make into these institutions are avoiding reporting and holding account in front of their constituencies. The official way of communication to the "elected" authorities - through the official letters - is very slow and he answers frequently turn out to be too formal and uniformative. The courts are known to the human rights defenders to pass politically-biased judgements, with at least 40 political prisoners serving their terms. The quantity of acquitive verdicts is less than 1% while i other countries this share may be as high as 20%; the civil society as no control over the courts, prisons, appointed MPs and mayors.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The authorities in Belarus are afraid of publicity. E.g. the desire of the Ministry of Justice to suspend the licenses of lawyers protecting the independent candidates for presidency had been averted to by the public reaction to the news after four other lawyers protecting people imprisoned for political reasons have had their licenses void. The mapping of the electoral violations using Ushahidi-based platform electby.org in 2010 has contributed to understanding the scope of violations and to recognizing these elections as falsified by the international community. The public reaction to the police building barricades using the cars with people in it to stop the speeding drivers has led to the guilty verdict for the policemen having endangered the lives of people in this form. The report of Ales Michalevic, the former candidate to the presidential elections-2010, about the tortures in the KGB prison, has resulted in the suspension of the tortures. The report of the human rights defenders that the equipments confiscated from the independent media and activists are not being returned for a year and more has resulted in police starting returning the equipment. The negative publicity about moving the residents of one of the central streets to the city outskirts for the reasons of the street reconstruction without public discussion made the authorities dismiss these plans Thus, once the violations of the uncontrollable authorities in Belarus are brought to the public attention, thee violations are being stopped.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Belarusian citizens have no access to the public space in order to communicate their issues properly, nor there is dialogue with the Belarusian authorities for the reasons explained above. Internet remains the only free space which is comparatively uncontrolled, although sporadic attempts to ban certain services are undertaken in the days public events (demonstrations) are due. There are more than 1400 000 broadband connections in the country, with more than 5000 000 people, or 54% of the population, having access to it. Mapping using Ushahidi or Google Maps API permits collecting the agregated information on certain issues which scope otherwise is difficult to measure. E.g. the electby.org platform created for the past elections has permitted to aggregate more than 600 cases of election legislature violations by the authorities; the evidence submitted has supported the notion that the election committees in Belarus has in 80-90% of cases permitted no observation over counting the submitted ballots; in five cases, an evidence had been submitted that the ballots had not been counted at all and prearranged figures in favour of the acting president had been put into the commission protocols. This has not influenced the authorities and the election results had not been reconsidered - however this has contributed towards acknowledging these elections as falsified and unfair ad contributed towards taking the decision to impose sanctions on the regime acting personalia. The opposition people understood the scope of falsifications and the fact that they are not a marginal group.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We offer to: 1. create a task force of Belarusian technical and social media specialists who will be able to deploy mapping tools and promote them and received information through the social networks to gain the maximum impact; 2. to promote this task force as the group of specialists which can quickly deploy an Ushahidi-based platform to map 1. the electoral violations on regional and national level; 2. the violations of the citizen's rights by the local authorities; 3. the violations by courts in dealing with criminal and administrative offences. As mapping is the best way to aggregate the data and show the scope of he problem (and mostly we will be using maps to show the scope of electoral violations and the violations of the people's rights in the Belarusian courts), this will serve towards providing additional publicity to the human rights violations scope in Belarus. The presence of the qualified task force able to deploy and promote these mapping tools will guarantee that in Belarus with its developed access to the Internet the mapping tools deployed will get the maximum publicity and visiting and contributing rate. There are no competitors to the project in Belarus.
About You
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About Your Organization
Organization Name

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Organization Country

, MI

Country where this project is creating social impact

, XX

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Scaling (the next step will be growing impact on a regional or even global scale)

How long have you been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

Before the 2010 elections, a group of volunteers from Belarus has established an Ushahidi-based platform called electby.org. This platform had been the first of this kind really developed in terms of submitting information to it: people could submit info through emails, twitter and facebook posts, and smses; the latter recalling the record of the Belarusian government in blocking access to the Internet media in the "critical days" had been he alternative way of getting the info which has proved really helpful when access to electby.org had been closed from Belarus: people still could submit info and the moderators could post it onto the website. This all info has become visible after the authorities have lifted the ban on the site access later this day. Although it hasn't changed anything in terms of elections results, it had permitted the people disagreeing with the state policy understand that they are not alone - and contributed to the decision on imposing sanctions on the Belarusian authorities.
We understood that we can use this tool wider to illustrate the scope of the human rights violations in Belarus - including registering violations of the citizens rights by courts.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

The electby.org has helped to show the scope of the electoral violations to the public; our project will aim at popularizing Ushahidi and creating a task force which will be available on demand for any initiative willing to install Ushahidi to map certain issues. However it is yet in the stage of an idea - and yet we have 46 people on the team willing to become technical and social media specialists in this task force.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

The character of the idea is to make Ushahidi a popular solution in Belarus to map and thus publicize the scope of human rights violations in Belarus. The idea is that all organizations will be able to use the task force to install Ushahidi-based solution in a couple of days to map any issue, and use the task force expertise to promote the platform to potential contributors. This will guarantee replicability of Ushahidi-based solutions for virtually any organizations in Belarus.
The technical specialists will also be able to provide advice on guaranteeing the installed platforms security (against DDoS attacks and similar)

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Number of spoecialists trained; the scope of visibility through the social media

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Train 15 technical specialists and 30 social media specialists in Ushaihidi

Task 2

Become known to the Belarusian civic society through establishing the social media communities with min 2000 subscribers

Task 3
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Number of platforms established; number of contributions and contributors

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

To have at least 2 platforms developed for two different issues mapping: the violations by courts and in parliament elections

Task 2

To have at least 500 contributions to each platform

Task 3

To have at least 30 000 unique monthly visits to each of the platforms

How many people have been impacted by your project?

101 - 1,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured


What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

The project is yet in the idea stage. However we anticipate the following issues:

1. the IT security of the Ushahidi-based platforms developed by he task force specialists (DDoS attacks and blockade of access to those resources)
2. the personal security of the task force people as they will be working in Belarus which is the country with one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

We will be working with the people expert in IT security to protect our sites and users.

The financial sustainabiity after the project support is over will be guaranteed by advertising. we will use it to fund hostings and domains. The task force people will be working as volunteers, however the knowlede they will receive in the trainings may be used to seek another employment.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

There will be more Internet users in Belarus and mostly all people in e country will have access to Internet. Due to the deepening economic crisis these people will be more involved into political life. There will be less independent media as the pressure on the media will continue, and Internet will remain the main free environment. Most people will be using mobile phones to access Internet, the costs of access will be getting lower.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

We will explore other mapping tools as well as the power of the social networks to get in touch with people; we will use sms solutions and twitter to publish all violations under certain hashtag which will easily be seacrhable.

In any case, the team trained will be able to support the Belarusian civic society in terms of mapping, social media, and IT security even if direct application won't be as we have planned.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

we have personal contributions which amount to 200 USD monthly which is enough to sustain the hosting and domain costs as well as to cover certain communication costs. We will place ads from Google and from partner sites to be able to cover the communication costs for the management of the project, the domain and the hosting costs. The task force specialists after having been trained ill be available on call for the NGOs and media to offer them consulting at a small fee which will add up to their motivation to work on the project. We will also apply with other funders.

Tell us about your partnerships

Te specialists on our project are known as new media experts for most civic society organizations and have worked with Internews, PACT, Tachtical Tech, are serving as technical experts for the Belarusian civil sector.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

People willing to learn, having basic technical and/or journalism education, gathered with the assumption that of the people gathered, only 10% will actually be working as the job will be the volunteer one. These will mostly be young people aware and actively using mobile technologies, proactive in travelling, freelancers mostly - as the freelancers will be willing to get new knowledge to use it later.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Human resources or talent, Collaboration or networking.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Research or information, Collaboration or networking.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Building the technical, social media, marketing, and IT security expertise of the Belarusian experts to help the civic sector