Friday 17 January 2014

Hudson Hollister is changing the world one byte at a time


Today my friend Hudson Hollister turns 32. No big deal about turning 32, you say. Sure, I agree.

Hudson too would agree. But it is for us, all of us in the world who are counting on his leadership to make this world a better place. 7 billion of us and counting. Because I do not know too many that have packed as much in their short life as Hudson has. In the 9 years since he graduated with a law degree, he has done more than people do in 90 or even 900. No hyperbole this.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, it is said, in the context of ushering in transparency in government and the private sector as well. Would you not want to know how the company you have invested in is doing and what they have done with the money you have invested in them; or know what the government does with its tax revenues, or, how much they spent on the road in front of your house or on salaries of school teachers in your neighbourhood. Governments all over the world do put out some information, as do companies, but they do so in a manner which is not easily understood and in a manner meant to obfuscate than reveal the true picture.

It was a few years ago when Hudson was working at the SEC that the importance of data standards struck him. ever since then, he has made it his life mission. So Hudson started an outfit called the Data Transparency Coalition to help make federal s[pending accountable, to get the data on utilisation reported in a format which allows citizens to consume it easily, to feed online mohalla sabhas as India's Arvind Kejriwal would call it. In a world where lobbying is a dirty word, Hudson's lobbying is meant to clean the world of dirt.

In 2013, Hudson got the US Congress and the Senate to pass something called the Data Act, to achieve this objective. Data transparency strengthens democratic accountability, as the website proclaims. The effect of this will be felt through out the world over the next few years. Everybody who receives funding from any agency in the USA would have to fall in line, this includes beneficiaries of USAID funding, that would include those in the health sector, for example. Don't be surprised if the World Bank soon follows suit, at the prodding of the US, with all World Bank funded projects getting a dose of accountability like never before. Once the multilateral agencies put the systems in place, every country would have to follow suit.

Now imagine what this transparency will do to India where we have heard how only 15% of the funds go to intended beneficiaries. just imagine if, following this enactment, the number creeps up to 20, 30 and 50, the country will be transformed. Primary health centres will be well stocked with medicines, schools will have infrastructure, roads wont get washed away, life will be better.

Do you still want to know why turning 32 is a big deal? Thank you Hudson, thank you for everything and thank you for your efforts to make this world a better place.


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