Transparency, Accountability, and Governance (TAG)

Pulse on the Principles Series

The Principles for Digital Development community recognizes that digital development work inherently involves those with power acting in ways that impact people who hold less power. As such, development actors should be answerable for their actions, and they have a duty to act visibly, predictably, and understandably to promote participation and accountability. This includes making relevant, timely, and accurate information about their actions and allegiances available in easily digestible and accessible ways so that those who are affected by their actions can hold them accountable. There should be redress and other consequences when they do not meet their duties and commitments.

Transparency is the principled duty for those in power to act visibly, predictably, and understandably in order to promote participation and accountability. It is not sufficient to make information available. Information should be relevant, accessible, timely, and accurate as well.

Accountability is an institutionalized relationship between a set of people or organizations held to account (accountees) and another set who are holding them to account (accounters). This ensures accountees are answerable for actions and decisions, and that there is appropriate reparation when duties and commitments are not met.

Governance encompasses the determination of who has power, who makes decisions, how others make their voice heard, and how accountability is rendered.

Transparency and accountability are mutually reinforcing concepts. In the digital development space, the two work together to enable citizens to have a say about issues that matter to them and to have opportunities for influencing decision-making. In so doing, citizens can directly affect development outcomes and hold those in governance to account.

Digital development work routinely includes accountability mechanisms such as monitoring and evaluation, which usually sets up vertical accountability for donors and grantor implementing partners.3 Frameworks and standards like the Digital Principles can be a form of formal accountability, particularly if there is some consequence for not meeting them.

In the digital development space, it’s also important to document the outcomes of interventions carried out for public benefit or using public funds. By sharing our learnings and documenting the evidence
of the impact of our work, we can improve our practice and make our work more valuable for those we are trying to help.

This paper sets out some of the areas where TAG does and does not come into play regarding the Principles and makes some proposals for broadening our understanding of transparency, accountability, and governance.

To read more on this topic, download the full resource above.

The Pulse on the Principles series applies the nine Principles to different ethical considerations to help practitioners ensure that their work takes these critical areas into account and to encourage community conversations about the future development and improvement of the Principles.

See other resources in this series on Leave No One Behind (LNOB) and Responsible Data (RD).