Transparency through social media and apps

One thing that keeps coming up in conversations I have with people doing business in Latvia is transparency. Simply put: there is too little of it, and the government does not have the bandwidth at this moment to do something about that. Even though a growing contingent of people in Latvia think it is a highly important issue. Should we leave it, then?

Another recurring topic is the talent that is available in Latvia and the other Baltic states. Talent that has the capability to create value, but is not used enough for just that. Did you know that Skype was made by Estonians? And that one of the more popular applications in the Apple Mac App store was made by Lithuanians that generated 1 million Euros of revenue in the first 20 days their application was available?

Is there a way to combine these seemingly unrelated statements? I believe there is. The fact that there is no legal framework obliging companies to be more transparent, doesn’t mean we don’t have to be. And it certainly doesn’t mean that citizens/consumers cannot take action themselves. First of all, a lot of data is available on the internet, or in non-governmental organisation. This data is only often hidden in unusable databases or website. The challenge is to come with a nice tool to unlock this treasure trove. And that’s where the local talent can chip in. This social media and technology savvy crowd should be able to mine the data and present it in a user-friendly way. On blogs, websites, mobile phone apps, whatever. One amazing example of how this can be done is Good Guide (http://www.goodguide.com/). Just have a look at it and see for yourself.

Social media, mobile access to internet and technology talent can make transparency happen in Latvia. And with increasing numbers of Latvians on sites like Facebook and Twitter, it would be wise for companies to start considering transparency. Because messages can spread fast, these days. Just have a look at the Greenpeace campaign against the palm oil use by Nestlé in their KitKat product. If consumers set their mind to it, helped by ngos, the can initiate change. For business there’s a choice to respond to that now, or when you’re a target and it’s too late.

This post was published earlier in the May newsletter of AmCham.

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