My friend Ory Okolloh – the Kenyan Pundit – has been hard at work launching a new project – Mzalendo: An Eye on Parliament. Along with “M” from Thinker’s Room, Ory is trying to encourage fellow Kenyan bloggers to keep a close eye on the goings-on in their government. Mzalendo makes this easier by scanning the Hansard (the record of the goings-on in the Parliament) and publishing excerpts of it online.
Longer-term, Mzalendo seeks to provide a Congresspedia-like reference to the inner workings of Kenyan government. The goal is, ultimately, a better-informed citizenry, and in the shorter term, opportunities for Kenyan bloggers and journalists to write about excesses and omissions committed by Kenyan parliamentarians.
Kenya’s a great place to launch such a project. It’s got a robust local blogosphere, a track record of helping bring scandals to light, and a government that features equally heaping measures of hope and entrenched corruption. I’ve got high hopes for Mzalendo, and the fond hope that Ory and M’s efforts might be replicated by other bloggers across the continent.
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While I’m all in favor of getting citizens involved in keeping track of their government — sunshine is the best disinfectant — I can’t help but think of the policy that Wikipedia recently implemented for US politicians’ entries (see Wikipedia’s own entry on the policy). Upon discovering that some Congressional staffers were editing their bosses’ entries to add positive spin or delete embarassing information, Wikipedia is now investigating all edits from IP addresses assigned to the US Congress, and has blocked at least one address from further edits. Kenya is obviously a long way from having to worry about political bias of this degree of subtlety, but it’s still worth learning from the US experience.