Marko Rakar, a Don Quixote vision about the power of transparency

((photo: Marko Rakar)

Some are just really talented at making waves! Believe it or not, vigilantes, modern Cervante’s Don Quixote still exist today. However, their adventures aren’t in knight-errantry, but more about data transparency. In true democracies, information belongs to the public. More often than not, the only remedies to democratic defects comes from determined citizens taking the initiative to do something that serves the public interest.

Marko Rakar, a well known data transparency and open governance activist, made a stir in his country on several occasions. He runs Croatia’s largest blog, He is recognized by World eGovernment forum as one of the “Top 10 who are changing the world of politics on the Internet”.

In 2009, with a group of people, Marko published a Croatian fraud-ridden voter registry files. Marko’s group created a simple search engine, which showed number of registered voters on particular adress so anyone was able to check for his household or his neighbours how many registered voters are there. This triggered a constitution crisis and reform effort in Croatia.

He recently published an enormous database of government procurements, pointing to detecting corruption and fraud. “It is easy to track and identify “winners” in the public procurement field and it is really easy to spot highly unusual contractors,” explained Marko.

Read more about Marko

Hi Lyne, hi Marko,

Thanks for

Hi Lyne, hi Marko,

Thanks for this, wow! the registry stuff Marko pioneered in 2009 would really reduce voter fraud, right? Are there any concrete results of your project in that area, Marko?  I wonder how the initiative came up, and if it was done in partnership with the government…

In Romania, we have a great neccessity and request from our people in diaspora to enable online voting so that they don’t have to travel miles to the polls established in embassies, and stand in line for hours and with thousands to be able to vote. But the discussion has been around for 2 years now and nothing… so we have such a long way to go before any infrastructure (be it data interogation, or public participation online) will be set up on the web, making our lives so much easier.

Good job and congratulations for being in the “Top 10 who are changing the world of politics on the Internet”!!

It is hard to say. The main result of our action is widespread understanding on how and where voter list fraud is executed and why. Nobody questions that anymore and everything is known. It is now just a question of political will and time to resolve that in full, it is a long-term process simply because people who at one point received government document with a particular adress (regardless if they actually live there or not; and we have people “living” on the adresses of schools, police stations, or hospitals) - it is not so simple to just delete them, it is a question of sometimes lenghty procedure.

Croatia does not have online voting simply because we do not have any kind of widespread online identity.

Another open data job?

Hello Marko and all,

I attended your talk at PDF Europe, and have been a fan of that story ever since. I am so glad to see you on Edgeryders!

I am guessing this is another area where open data might help. You have been skillful and brave, but not everybody can do the same. If the records were public, though, anybody could spot inconsistencies and frauds and blow the whistle. The European Commission is pushing hard on open public sector data; a directive for member states to disclose voters lists in open form would do the trick, since Member States have relly no choic but to adopt. At this point, I’m betting it would just get too embarassing and they would have to clean up their act.

brave or not?

It is not a question of bravery…

The point is that I want to have fair government and you can not have that without fair elections and in order to have that you need to have clean situation with voters list.

But, the true problem is not even parliament elections - it is muncipal elections because we have situation where winner of election is elected by the people who are not living in the area or, in some cases, even live in different country. That is true and major problem.

In my opinion, elections, including those in Croatia, are in general quite fair; but there are cases (and I know for a few) where this is simply too big to be ignored.