Omidyar Network puts $2.4 million into government transparency abroad

Omidyar Network, the philanthropic fund created by eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, just invested $2.4 million in Global Integrity, a non-profit firm that researches corruption and transparency in developing countries.

Global Integrity has academics, journalists and local contacts on the ground in about 100 countries feeding information on the government and business climate for policy makers and investors. A non-profit since its inception in 1999, Global Integrity is launching a paid subscription service for investors looking for information in developing economies.

“We wanted to fill an information gap in the field of good governance,” said Nathaniel Heller, a co-founder and managing director. ” These reforms matter and they empower businesses in the developed world. But the data has been — to put it imprecisely — pretty squishy and crummy.”

Heller said other government accountability and risk management research firms have people come up with quantitative rankings based on local polls and they usually work from New York or D.C. — far from first-hand information. That doesn’t fit an investor’s or policy maker’s need for in-depth analysis or real-time news. Global Integrity built a technical infrastructure that allows its contributors to submit research and content quickly if they can find a secure Internet connection. You can check out some of their research here, evaluating countries on areas like press freedom, taxes and political fundraising.

“We’re very interested in the global use of technology to disseminate information about government transparency, so citizens can hold their governments accountable,” said Stacy Donohue, who is the director of investments at Omidyar Network. “We’re particularly interested in organizations that use scalable technology platforms.”

Omidyar Network is part of a cohort of investment firms and philanthropic organizations that think in terms of the “double bottom-line” — that is, can an investment not only produce a traditional financial return but have a positive social impact as well?

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