US Embassy celebrates launch of Restart Romania Project "Bani Pierduti"
On May 23, 2012, the United States Embassy in Romania’s Deputy Chief of Mission Duane Butcher spoke at the launch of the TechSoup Restart Romania project "Bani Pierduti.” Restart Romania is a partnership between the United States Embassy and the NetSquared pillar of TechSoup in Romania.
Good morning. I think anyone will understand my Ambassador’s apologies. He cannot miss an opportunity to thank the troops in Afghanistan personally and he has just arrived from his third trip there.
As it is often the case, the Ambassador’s loss is the Deputy’s gain and it’s a great pleasure for me to be here today.
It’s a particular honor to witness the launch of another excellent project that emerged from TechSoup Romania’s Restart Challenge – “Bani pierduti,” or “Lost Money.”
My Ambassador remarks all the time that the Restart Romania project is one of the highlights of his time in Romania. It provides tools that any Romanian can use – the internet and social media applications – to enact very real and visible change to improve the lives of every citizen in this country.
The American Embassy partnered with TechSoup Romania in 2010 with a grant to support the Restart Romania project. We received proposals from 144 people with ideas on how to harness social media to tackle social challenges like corruption and improve governance. These were ideas to “restart” Romania.
Last summer, these ideas went through a public debate and on-line voting process, in which nearly 1,000 Romanians cast their vote for the best proposals. Five winners were chosen through a live SMS vote from an audience of more than 200 people. The winners each received grants from TechSoup to continue their projects.
That brings us to our latest project to launch, “Bani pierduti”. During these challenging economic times, the subject of “lost money” is certainly one everyone can relate to. And more importantly, Romanians -- like everyone -- want to know how their hard-earned taxes are being spent by the government.
The project will track exactly how public authorities are using public money – your money! The website will centralize public financial information, such as budgets and annual balance sheets for projects funded by tax revenues, and the map the spending in a way that will be easily understood, without the need for an accounting degree.
Not only will Romanian citizens be able to track where their money goes, but this platform can be a useful tool for government officials to show voters exactly how their money is helping in their community. This could be spending for a school renovation in Prahova County, construction of a new medical clinic in Moroeni, a new community center in Iasi or the re-pavement of a potholed road in Bistrita.
No one facing tough economic times would fail to keep track of where their money is spent. Not only that, if you have scare resources, you want to make sure that the money you do have is spent wisely. That’s why “Bani pierduti” could be such a useful tool for the government. Not only does it raise the bar of transparency for and accountability of public spending, it could also facilitate a dialogue between citizens and government to determine community spending priorities.
Restart Romania has demonstrated that online platforms can lead to offline change, and I believe this project will be no different. It’s important to recognize the important partners helping to bring this project from concept to online reality; Elena Calistru’s team was supported by Microsoft, NextRoot and the Grey Group. They are also extremely pleased we were able to bring on board my colleagues as additional partners; Ambassador Beaulne, along with the support of the Austrian, British, and German Embassies.
Thank you very much and all the best!
(Photo courtesy of Alexandru Tudor)