Four billion people, over half of humanity, connect to the Internet every day. We google 40,000 questions in a second. We share 27 million images, audio files and videos daily. We can explore a city that we have never visited through a drone.
Information travels thousands of kilometres in moments and lands in the palms of our hands shortly after. Often, we are unaware of how many times we connect, how we get to tell true information apart from fake news, and how we can convert information into a tool for development.
The broadcasting of information carries an emotional undertone. Many times, information becoming viral without anyone checking if it’s true, is really contributing to distant causes from the support of the person broadcasting it.
The truthfulness of information goes hand in hand with building trust. Trust is an indispensable footstep to reach credibility in what you do, and, almost as word-play, what you do has legitimacy if you are trustworthy. Navigating our new everyday world, filled with technology, forces us to take on the individual responsibility of abstaining from broadcasting fake news, if we want to be relevant. Citizens rely on us to provide effective solutions.
In fact, today, citizens unite, organize themselves and separate under changing mottos at a hashtag distance, and without the intermediation of classic civil society organizations. If projects for improving people’s lives aim to be sustainable, their implementation needs to build trust, in addition to good design and transparency. A fundamental step in building trust is the broadcasting of true information.
Apparently innocent gestures considered to have no consequences, such as sending or broadcasting unverified information, can make us involuntary accomplices of waves of fake news. Faced with this, as an antidote, in our team we use the slogan: “get the facts & get the skills:” Finding out first-hand what the problem is, what position the people affected have on it, and training them to learn how to be part of the solution.
With this motto in mind, we decided to deepen our good practices with regards to information in large-scale projects. Because of their size, they affect the lives of lots of people, and this is paradoxically where untruthful information has the potential to negatively affect those communities we guide. Thus, isolating them from new opportunities to access the business market.
An example that can highlight the importance of producing trustworthy information occurred during the participatory monitoring of water quality in Guerrero, Mexico. In 2016, fishermen from Nuevo Balsas (Guerrero) informed the Torex Gold company their concerns about the state of the water in the Balsas river. This is the main supply of water to the town and is where the company’s gold mine “El Limón-Guajes” would pour its detonation residues into. Following this complaint, Torex Gold signed an agreement with the University of Guerrero to analyze the quality of the water, employing a framework that included the participation of municipal authorities and the fishing co-operatives to benefit from their expertise. They taught workshops open to the community about monitoring procedures to guarantee the transparency of the results.
In projects as big as these, we have seen how frequent the stampede of fake news is on topics of common interest, like our example about the quality of water. In the case of Nuevo Balsas, if information had gone viral and was incorrect, none of the good results that were achieved would have taken place. Adhering to the creation and dissemination of truthful information, it is crucial for stakeholders and possibly for people in other geographical locations who wish to support the communities with a “truthful click” to verify information, in favor of the regional development of localities that wish to win a space on the map.
Being informed, and also providing information on good practices is a good way to position the organization itself. Get the facts and get the skills!
To know more about civic participation in large-scale projects, check our public consultation tools and training opportunities. To know how we found out about this, check our Civil Society Engagement Strategy.
Senior Operations Specialist and adviser to the Vice President for Countries in citizen participation and civil society engagement. Expert in citizen participation topics, and lead in the creation of the new IDB Group-Civil Society Engagement Strategy.