Good Ideas for Government 2.0 (Part Two)
This is the second post of a series in which we highlight trends we’ve identified through the different stories published at YoGobierno, along with Latin American examples that are worth noticing and from which we can all get ideas worth replicating.
6. Citizen Participation
Citizen participation is one of the largest trends in digital government, but also one of the biggest challenges. To achieve effective and representative participation, we need the right incentives, but also to establish an appropriate infrastructure, a strong communication component and an informed population able to make decisions based trustworthy information. While participation has increased rapidly, we still have a long way to go to achieve true participatory democracies.
In our region, various governments have developed web portals that aim to centralize online participation to one site, allowing different government agencies to branch out their own initiatives from one starting point. Examples of this took place in 2013 through the Citizen Participation Platform in Chile, which allows an agency to explain what citizen participation means and provide spaces for citizens to participate accordingly. Uruguay also experimented with this in 2013, with the platform Realizar 2013, which allowed citizens to cast online votes to decide on infrastructure projects.
A different type of citizen participation can be exemplified through events such as Sumar (To Add Up, or Adding Up), where a group of citizens represents the population by issuing opinions known as “citizen’s view”.
Lastly, as part of a trend that can allow for massive participation, are crowdsourcing platforms that allow for huge number of users to contribute with small, low-effort contributions that can replace big investments of resources. In 2013, YoGobierno contributor Alejandro Barros reported on Premise, an app that uses crowdsourced data to report on consumer good prices and markets across countries in our region and globally.
7. Smart Cities
The idea of developing smart cities, using digital technologies to enhance cities performance and wellbeing, has continued to grow as a trend throughout 2014, and Latin America has been a part of this development. Last year, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was chosen as the Best Smart City of 2013 by the Smart City Expo World Congress, emphasizing the Operating Center of Rio (COR) and 1746 Central, platforms from which the city activities are monitored.
Considering the newness, and sometimes ambiguity of the term, several initiatives in Latin America took off that can be included in this category. As part of the plan to involve citizens through digital technologies, Colombia developed a platform in which citizens could contribute their ideas to develop Smart Cities in their country around specific themes. In Chile, the Foundation País Digital (Digital Country) was founded through the collaboration of civil society and the private sector with the aim of developing the concept in the Chilean society and coming up with an action plan to follow.
In Argentina, and applying the concepts of Smart Cities, the Coordination and Unified Control Center (CUCC, Centro de Coordinación y Control Unico) uses digital technology to monitor public spaces and roads in order to improve public response to emergency situations.
8. Social Media
The existence of social media may not be new in itself, but that does not mean there is no room for innovative uses of social media by public agencies and officials. Citizens in Latin America spend more time on social media than the average internet user globally, so they continue to be a tool worth exploring.
Over the past few years, Latin American governments started using social media; Brazil, for example, set out a social media strategy to react to the protests that set out through this media<http://yogobierno.org/la-estrategia-de-la-presidencia-de-brasil-en-facebook/>. Many regional leaders use these platforms to touch base with their constituents, and globally, the term “Twiplomacy” was coined to examine the way in which these tools are used by officials to communicate in the public sphere, taking into account their benefits and threats.
9. Open Software
Open Software and Public Software are terms that can go together but do not mean the same. Public software can be open, but open software isn’t necessarily public.
Several countries in the region began migrating, partially or completely, to open software, including Argentina Bolivia, Venezuela and Uruguay. Argentina has stood out through the development of the International Open Software Conference 2013 and the development of the operating system Huayra Linux.
In terms of public software, we refer specifically to cases in which software is developed or financed by the state, and whose licensing can vary; it may well be open to the wider public, or just to other government agencies (or other countries). Brazil led the region over the past few years with their public software portal, but Uruguay followed closely, also offering a repository of open software that can be accessed by their citizens.
10. Civic Technology / Civic Hackers
Civic technology has been growing importantly over the past few years, as has its impact and its investment. A report written by the Knight Foundation establishes that up to 430 million dollars were invested in civic technology until the end of 2013. This sum includes investments to technologies that may not be considered exclusively “civic”, but that are so to some extent.
In Latin America, organized, tech-savvy civil society has been growing and networking throughout the region. Several important events were developed, including Desarrollando América Latina, Open Data Week, and ABRE LATAM, as well as local events across countries.
Civil society has also collaborated with governments across the region through different dynamics. In Mexico, the organization Codeando México (Coding Mexico), on its own initiative, led a project to develop an application for which the Mexican government was ready to pay over 9 million dollars, demonstrating that civil society can solve problems in more flexible and innovative ways than expected. These examples also show that civic tech attracts investments and business models that can lead to interesting ways to transform governments from the outside.