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“21st Century Town Meetings” was a deliberative democracy format developed by AmericaSpeaks, an NGO that aims to bring citizen voices to the table. These town meetings bring together between 500 and 5,000 people, to discuss local, regional or national issues. They have been used in the U.S. to create recommendations around a number of different issues, including: the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site in New York and the rebuilding of New Orleans following hurricane Katrina. The meetings combine face-to-face interaction with technology. The participants, normally selected to be demographically representative of the whole population, are split into groups of 10–12 people, where they take part in facilitated small-group discussions. Each facilitator uses a computer to instantly collate ideas and votes from the table. This information is sent to a central point where a team summarises comments from all tables into themes that can be presented back to the room for comment or votes. Each participant also has a keypad which allows them to vote individually on themes or questions. The results of these votes are presented in real time on large screens for instant feedback from participants. The computers and voting pads generate volumes of useful and demographically-sortable data. This information is often quickly edited into a report which is printed and given to participants, decision-makers and journalists at the end of the event.
The Philippines is ‘one of the most corrupt countries in South-East Asia’ and it is listed 101st in Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index. In an attempt to bolster its credentials as an accountable and transparent government, the Aquino government launched Open Data Philippines (ODP) in 2014, an online portal seeking to centralise all open government datasets. The objective of the portal is to surface public sector datasets and centralise their publication through the data.gov.ph website. Upon launch, 400 datasets were released on public sector information such as budget, transportation, education, and procurement. Furthermore, the portal is highly engaging, comprised of dashboards, infographics, and other creative applications.
The Australian Government created the Business Consultation website with the purpose of enabling dialogue between government agencies and business about business-related policies. The website unites all public consultations, and notifies businesses and government agencies of consultations in areas of registered interest. Interested parties can start a public consultation or comment on an existing one. The website also allows businesses or government agencies to start a direct consultation with a particular set of registered parties.
In December 2015, the Mexican government launched the Prospera Digital pilot project, a two-way messaging channel for mothers. It uses a platform called RapidPro to send personalised messages giving advice on babies’ health and appropriate care, analyse responses, and reply. Prospera Digital is designed to offer a user-centred experience for mothers. Indeed, the platform addresses the specific needs of mothers and sends personalised, timely messages to them. The trial has been very successful, with over 60% of users responding during pregnancy, and with mothers even texting the service back to thank it. The Mexican government is due to launch misalud – a national programme based on Prospera Digital by the end of 2018.
Barcelona has drafted a new strategy to restrict traffic to big roads and turning secondary streets into ‘citizen spaces’. Currently faced with excessive pollution and noise levels, the city aims to reduce traffic by 21% and free up nearly 60% of streets currently used by cars to turn them into public spaces. The plan is based on the idea of superilles (superblocks) – mini neighbourhoods around which traffic will flow, and in which spaces will be repurposed for culture, leisure and community use. Superblocks are meant to be smaller than neighbourhoods, but bigger than actual blocks and they will be complemented by the introduction of new cycling lanes. The main idea behind superblocks is that the city should be able to breathe, not only for health reasons (air pollution is the cause of 3,500 premature deaths in Barcelona’s metropolitan area) but also for ideological reasons. The introduction of the superblocks has faced some degree of popular resistance, but only from those areas where they have not been built yet. Instead, in the three mature superblocks, the advantages have sunk in and resistance has evaporated.
In 2012, the government of New Zealand has launched Better Public Services, a reform agenda aimed to improving the quality of public services. Core to this initiative is the development of ten priority outcomes. These include areas such as welfare dependence and vulnerable children, but also population skills and government interaction. Outcome 10 states that New Zealanders should feel comfortable completing their transactions with the government in a digital environment and the target is for 20 of the identified most common public services to have 80% digital update by 2021. Progress is constantly measured against performance targets and a Chief Executive and a Minister have been appointed to track each of the outcomes. Another core objective of the Better Public Services initiative is to encourage cross-agency collaboration and provide an experience tailored to the service users. For instance, the government of New Zealand imagines public services around life events such as the birth of a child, in order to provide an individual platform for people to access relevant information.
Brazil has long suffered from corruption. The country is ranked 69 among 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, which also reports that the country’s legal system is “plagued with inefficiencies and corrupt judges”. Brazilian elections are also believed to be infiltrated by corruption and, despite public outrage, politicians with prior convictions are often voted back to office. In 2004, the Brazilian Office of the Comptroller General (CGU) created the Transparency Portal, a tool that aims to increase fiscal transparency of the Brazilian Federal Government through open budget data. Developed in partnership with the Federal Data Processing Service, the Transparency Portal relies on the collaboration of diverse ministries and bodies of the Federal Public Administration to advance transparency and to offer a tool that stimulates citizen participation. As the quality and quantity of data on the portal have improved over the past decade, the Transparency Portal is now one of the country’s primary anti-corruption tools, registering an average of 900,000 unique visitors each month. The project is regarded as one of the most important e-government initiatives with regard to control over public spending. Local governments throughout Brazil and three other Latin American countries have modelled similar financial transparency initiatives after Brazil’s Transparency Portal.
Apptivism, a new London-based startup, has been busy building bridges between government, voters and not-for-profits by building chatbots. Chatbots are AI powered tools that enable people to have automated conversations with a machine. One of Apptivism’s pilot projects has taken place in the British island of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. The project involved building a chatbot that would connect Jersey residents with their government through Facebook Messenger. The system has been used by the government on four consultations (environment, community living, parental benefits and tax policy) and it has proven very effective, reaching four times as many people as a typical consultation, with strong levels of re-engagement between chats. Users of the chatbot are given feedback on their opinion compared with others on the platform and they are told through a website how the government responded to citizens’ feedback. Over 85% of those who tested the platform in the trial have said they want to use it again to share their thoughts on the future of Jersey.
In the late 1990s, the Slovakian government embarked on a set of economic reforms, which included pension reforms. The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family (MOLSAF) – the agency responsible for implementing the reforms – was aware that it was essential to secure political will for such radical public changes. So, MOLSAF launched a comprehensive communication and influence campaign aimed at winning the support of the MPs and other decision-makers. Activities such as the following were conducted: (1) Analysis of the key political groups to address them separately with specific messages; (2) Preparation of an “influence pack”—a set of arguments and information about the forthcoming pension reform tailored to different target groups; (3) Regular workshops and seminars with the media, opinion leaders and MPs. Following the campaign, approximately 1.7 million Slovaks, or close to 30 percent of the population, subscribed to the pension reform, thereby locking it into the financial system. Slovakia’s pension system became rated among the most progressive in Europe in the late 1990s.
Medellín, a city ruled by crime, drug trafficking and domestic war for 20 years has undergone a radical transformation. The Government has launched strategic reforms, including the community at all stages of the process. Among other things, the reforms aim to increase access to public transportation, construct multi-purpose public spaces, and assist small businesses – objectives that resonate well with the public. Mayor Fajardo also created a reform strategy known as ‘Social Urbanism’, through which Medellín began to work on a network of public library parks, improved transportation and infrastructure and better housing in informal settlements. The guiding principle of the urban makeover was: ‘the best projects for the poorest, most violent areas’. Reform has proven largely successful, as Medellín has seen a large reduction in violence and was recently named City of the Year by the Urban Land Institute and The Wall Street Journal.
In 2006 the Netherlands national government published a white paper setting out plans for the expansion of Schiphol airport. This quickly came under heavy criticism from local and regional voices who were opposed to the growth of the airport. So in 2008 a permanent consultative body known as the Alders Table was created, with the aim of advising government on how to achieve a balance between the growth of Schiphol, disturbance limitation and the quality of the living environment. It brings together local residents, unions, government officials and the aviation industry. The recommendations produced by the body have largely been adopted by government, including capping the number of flights per year and limiting night-time activity. In 2008, the Alders Table recommended that Schiphol be allowed to expand, but did not provoke the unhappy response of two years previously.
In October 2015, the Chilean President made a nationwide announcement to inaugurate the Constituent Process that would lead to a new Constitution replacing the one introduced in the Pinochet era. For the first time, the government decided to make the citizens the main actors of the process by encouraging their participation prior to any high level discussion on the new Constitution due to happen in 2017. Firstly, Chileans from all parts of the country were encouraged to hold debates on their vision for a new constitution as part of local meetings and citizens’ assemblies. By the end of June 2016, more than 8,500 Self-Organized Local Dialogues had already taken place, in Chile as well as among Chilean nationals living elsewhere. Secondly, the government appointed a Citizen Council of Observers, a group of 15 people responsible for overseeing the constituent process in its entirety. The CCO includes persons from different political and social backgrounds, from lawyers and scholars, to former athletes and singers, all of whom are committed to social, economic or political causes.
UK citizens can create or sign an online petition asking for a change to the law or to government policy. After 10,000 signatures, petitions get a response from the government. After 100,000 signatures, petitions are considered for debate in Parliament. The e-petitions service was launched in 2011 and proved instantly popular with 2,860 active petitions being set up in the first six months. In 2015 a Petitions Committee was created, with the role of overseeing petitions submitted to Parliament. The committee can press government or other bodies for action on a petition and it maintains a website which tracks the status of all active petitions. Examples of recent petitions that were discussed in parliament include the possibility of a second referendum on Brexit, blocking Trump from UK entry and the abolishment of TV licence.
In 1995, the government of El Salvador implemented successful education reforms thanks to a well-designed government communication plan. The reforms were aimed at solving the serious issues faced by the country’s education sector, including low enrolment, high dropout and repetition rates, inefficient management and low fiscal allocations. They consisted of giving control of the administration of the schools to trained local school-based parent associations. To address the lack of popular consensus, El Salvador’s Ministry of Education launched a communication campaign to build consensus for the reforms amongst the wider population. The campaign consisted of an integrated media and outreach strategy with programming in print but also radio and television in order to make it accessible to the illiterate sector of the population. To address opposition to the reforms from teacher unions and guerrillas, the Ministry held negotiations and bilateral meetings with their representatives.
The Bangladeshi Government established Access to Innovation (a2i) Public Service Innovation Lab+ to ensure easy, affordable, inclusive and reliable access to quality public services which harness the power of digital. To understand and prioritise areas for improvement, senior civil servants acted as “secret shoppers” to better understand what life is like for citizens accessing services outside of their ministry or area of expertise. Following this experience, they encouraged staff in their departments to develop bold, innovative solutions that improve the service experience for the public. In order to communicate about these initiatives, and garner feedback from the public, the Prime Minister’s Office maintains a website providing updates on pilots, success and failures. The website also provides access to policy briefs, infographics and any external publications about a2i.
Aiming to increase citizen participation in the process of becoming “the most functional city in the world”, service designers and civil servants in the City of Helsinki developed a new approach to engagement. They developed a game that city service teams, for example in libraries or hospitals, play in order to explore and plan client participation. The game helps employees to embed participatory methods into their day to day work, leading to greater uptake and support. The game is facilitated by a designer who ensures that the ideas produced in the game translate into practice. So far, plenty of new ideas have been put into action. Art lovers, for example, can now adopt statues in their local parks and participate in maintenance and upkeep. Increasing citizens’ participation is not the only purpose of the game: it also helps civil servants to better understand how citizens use their service and how important these are to their lives.
The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) was established in 1973 and advises the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) on strategic policy issues relating to sustainable economic, social and environmental development in Ireland. The members of the Council are appointed by the Taoiseach, for a three year term and meet on a quarterly basis. These members are representatives of business and employers’ organisations, trade unions, agricultural and farming organisations, community and voluntary organisations, and environmental organisations; as well as heads of Government departments and independent experts. The composition of the NESC Council means that it plays an important and unique role in bringing different perspectives from civil society together with Government. This helps NESC to analyse the challenges facing Irish society and to develop a shared understanding among its members of how to tackle these challenges.
The government of Jamaica has developed “Vision 2030” – a strategic road map to guide the country to achieve its goals of sustainable development and prosperity by 2030. The roadmap is guided by seven principles that firmly place the people of the country at the forefront of the nation’s development strategy. These include equity, social cohesion and sustainability (economic, social and environmental).
The strategy has four long term goals: a healthy and stable population, world-class education and training, effective social protection, and authentic and transformational culture. Each of these can be tracked on a dashboard available online and each government project is linked to one of the four long term goals. Implementation is in three year strategic programmes and at the end of each three year cycle, progress in the achievement of the goals and outcomes is measured, and public, private, civil society, and academia are invited to re-evaluate where they are on the journey. The Jamaican government has also invested in making the Development Plan available to the wider public by publishing a popular version of the report as well as making material available in video form and on social media platforms.
To build stronger relationships with citizens, Kansas City, Missouri launched a data-driven, public-facing initiative focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of city services. KCStat allows the city to connect to citizens about services that affect them most in their day to day lives. To demonstrate how they plan to address these issues, the City Government publishes clear objectives and metrics online and updates them on a weekly basis, allowing citizens to scrutinise the government’s work. The City Government has chosen an open communications approach whereby all citizens are invited to join the KCStat meetings over the phone, thereby increasing access to individuals without internet connectivity. As a result of KCStat, there has been an increase in citywide customer satisfaction and reduced lead time for code enforcements. Residents engaged well in the conversation about improving the city’services through social media and felt part of the decision making process.
The 2003 Rwandan constitution states that at least 30 per cent of posts in decision-making organs must be held by women. The 80 members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected as follows: 53 members elected by direct universal suffrage through a secret ballot using closed list proportional representation, of which at least 30% must be seats reserved for women; 24 women (2 elected from each province and from the city of Kigali by an electoral college with a women-only ballot); 2 members elected by the National Youth Council; and 1 member elected by the Federation of the Associations of the Disabled (Constitution, Article 76). Moreover, in 2007, the Law on Political Organizations and Politicians was amended, establishing that party lists for all elective offices must contain at least 30 per cent women candidates. Following this amendment and in combination with the 24 reserved seats for women, the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies reached a worldwide record in the 2008 legislative elections, as 56.25 per cent of the elected deputies were women. This positive record was repeated in the 2013 legislative elections, when women constituted 63.75 per cent of the total number of elected deputies.
In their role of making strategic planning decisions for London, the Mayor may occasionally take over an application, therefore becoming the local planning authority. In particular, the Mayor takes over urban development plans that would have significant effects that are likely to affect more than one London borough. If the Mayor is confirmed to be the planning authority, they must then hold a public hearing before deciding whether or not to grant planning permission. Public hearings are normally announced at least one week in advance. They are held in the Chamber at City Hall, unless otherwise advertised. At the hearings, people or organisations can apply to speak and express their opinion on the planning permission of the site. In the past, public hearings were held for the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium and Hale Wharf and will shortly be held for the National Institute for Medical Research and Bishopsgate Goodsyard.
Decide Madrid is an online platform for public participation launched by Madrid City Council in 2015. It covers participatory budgeting, public consultations and policy recommendation. Any resident can propose a new local law, which other residents can vote to support. If a proposal gets the support of 1% of the registered Madrid citizens over the age of 16 (that is, 27,064 citizens), it gets to the final voting stage. Users of the platform can also open and contribute to debates, vote for or against motions, or provide additional comments. In 2017 the participatory budgeting scheme allocated 100 million Euros.
In 2009 a project was launched in Mali to democratise agricultural research. Before 2009, food and agricultural research was largely thought of as the domain of scientific experts, with farmers at the receiving end of the research outputs. The new project aimed to bring both parties together and turn agricultural research into a service for farmers. Following a series of informal discussion between the two groups, two citizens’ juries were appointed. The juries were designed as safe spaces in which experts and experiential knowledge were put under public scrutiny. Two topics were discussed by the juries: the kind of knowledge and agricultural research that small scale producers and food processors want and how it could be democratised. Over 100 recommendations to transform food and agriculture research were made and subsequently adopted. A full report of the outcomes of the discussions was made available and the project received great visibility after the UN special rapporteur Oliver De Schutter published a report on it.
In 2014, the Melbourne council commissioned a citizens’ jury of residents and business owners to make recommendations on a $5 billion financial plan for the council. 43 randomly-selected citizens met for a period of six weekends to set the long-term direction of the city’s fiscal policy in what became known as the “Melbourne People’s Panel”. They were given open access to information and financial data by the council, along with briefings by experts, senior bureaucrats and councillors. Like a jury, they deliberated and delivered a verdict in the form of a report covering priority projects, services, revenue and spending. Nearly all of their recommendations were subsequently adopted by the city government, including allowing debt ratings to fall to AA, selling off non-core assets, and lifting developer contributions.
Portugal has announced the world’s first participatory budget on a national scale. Whilst cities around the world, including Lisbon, have adopted participatory budgeting, this is the first attempt of a nation-wide initiative. The project invites people to submit ideas for what the government should spend its money on, and then votes on which ideas are adopted. Proposals can be made in the areas of science, culture, agriculture and lifelong learning. In order to ensure access to all sectors of the population, Portugal is exploring the possibility of letting people cast their votes via ATM machines. Participatory budgeting can drastically improve the quality of public services by directing them to where they are most needed and ensuring that government’s priorities are in line with people’s expectations and needs. The ministers responsible for the implementation of the project are hoping to restore closer contact between government and citizens.
Floods are a major issue in Jakarta, with thousands of people forced to abandon their homes every year. The Jakarta provincial government developed a smart city platform which consists of (1) an issue–reporting app known as Qlue; (2) a flood map that crowdsources citizen flood reports from Twitter, called PetaJakarta; (3) and a crowdsourced traffic management tool based on Waze, Google’s navigation app. The platform was set up by researchers at the University of Wollongong in Australia in collaboration with the Jakarta Emergency Management Agency (BPBD). If a resident of Jakarta tweets the wordJakartaTwitter will send them a message asking for verification. If the person confirms they were trying to report a flood, the message will be geolocated on to the crowdsourced map.
In 2015, Nepal was devastated by a powerful earthquake that killed thousands and flattened homes and historic sites across the country. The damage was estimated at the equivalent of US$7 billion. Since then, the Nepali government and the international community have spent vast sums on relief and reconstruction efforts. Through the National Reconstruction Authority, the government allocated US$1.3 billion for rebuilding activities in the 2016/2017 fiscal year. With so much aid and public funds being spent on reconstruction, a transparent, accountable and efficient procurement process was needed. For this reason, in July 2017, the government’s centralized e-procurement system has become mandatory for all agencies to use. It publishes data that is compliant with the Open Contracting Data Standard, making more contracting data available for others to reuse. The e-procurement system is expected to help deliver much-needed infrastructure, goods and services more effectively as the transparent and accountable procurement process produces better outcomes at better prices. Citizens can also track contracts through a transparency portal.
Oregon’s Kitchen Table helps to connect elected officials and the public in Oregon in joint projects at nearly every scale (state, regional, local, and even individual) through public consultations, in-person events, civic crowdfunding, and Oregonian-to-Oregonian micro-lending. It was created in 2010 by a group of non-profit organisations and former officials. The aims of the projects are: (1) to create simple, easy-to-use platforms (online and in person) for state-wide public engagement; (2) to promote in-depth public engagement with the tough trade-offs and challenges decision makers confront in governing our state; (3) to provide leaders with high-quality feedback on issues that matter to Oregonians; (4) to increase Oregonians’ interest in participating in local, regional, and state-wide decision making; (5) to empower citizens and decision-makers to communicate and work together in a fact-based, civil, and creative way.
Estonia’s e-Government is based on a single digital ID, now assigned at birth. Using this ID, Estonians can access 99 percent of public services through the e-Estonia portal. They can file taxes, start businesses or vote, to give a few examples. Digital signatures are equal in value to handwritten ones. Estonia has adopted a ’once-only’ principle, according to which citizens are never asked the same information twice when online. This means that a citizen can log on with their secure ID – and once logged on they won’t have to repeat the process. More than 14,000 citizens log on daily on the portal. In case of a cyber attack, the data would be protected.
In 2011, New York City has introduced a large-scale, city-wide participatory budgeting scheme. Here, residents have the opportunity to input their own spending ideas onto an interactive map. Projects in the past have included improvements to schools, parks, libraries, public housing, and other public or community spaces. In a second stage of the process, community volunteers, also called Budget Delegates, expand the proposed ideas into concrete proposals. After rounds of Project Expos, the proposals are up for a community-wide vote, which decides the proposals that will receive the funding. Up to $1 million from each participating council district is allocated in this way.
In 2015, the Swedish mining city of Falun started a programme to increase citizens’ involvement in decision-making. The initiative was triggered by news that Falun would host the FIS Nordic world ski championships in 2015. However, much of the town’s 37,291 population wasn’t happy to be not given the chance to vote on the decision. Thus, the Democracy commission came up with proposals for making Falun the most democratic municipality in the country. The ‘Democracy Plan’ has five objectives:
- to build democracy centres in libraries where people can hold meetings;
- to introduce ‘democracy navigators’, people who can advise residents on how to bring their idea forward;
- to open a democracy website;
- to get more young people involved in democracy;
- to build networks to push active participation. A particular focus of the programme has been to help members of underprivileged groups (specifically immigrants and the unemployed) to exercise their civil rights.
Throughout Pakistan, there has been a problem with corruption in the civil service. In early 2008, Zubair Bhatti, administrative head of the Jhang district in Pakistan’s Punjab province, recognised the need to reduce petty corruption in the local civil service. He started collecting the phone numbers of citizens who used the civil service and randomly called some of them to ask for feedback about their experience. This grew into the Citizen Feedback Monitoring Programme (CFMP) which aims to bridge the gap between the state and the citizens in particular by curbing corruption, monitoring public service delivery and enhancing citizen engagement. It has achieved great outreach: 178,160 citizens have reported corruption [or made] complaints and 11,200 actions have been taken by various government departments on the basis of negative feedback received via CFMP.
The resource economy is very important for Canada and government projects can have great impact on the environment and the lives of indigenous communities. For this reason, Canada is undertaking a review of the decision-making process it uses for environmental impact assessments. The goal is to ‘regain public trust’ by consulting closely with and encouraging the participation of local and indigenous communities. The government has split jurisdiction for many of its infrastructure issues in order to be able to work in partnership with indigenous communities and consult the general public at all stages of the process. All records and reports produced, which include scientific evidence and indigenous knowledge, are made available online to the wider public.
Better Reykjavik is an online citizen engagement platform used by more than half of the city’s population. The open-source software ‘Your Priorities’ relays policy suggestions from citizens to policymakers. Policies are proposed, voted upon by platform users and eventually submitted to city councillors. Examples of policy proposals that have been included in legislation include tougher sanctions on political figures accepting illicit donations and better support for the city’s homeless. Over $2.2 million has been spent developing over 200 citizen-suggested policies so far. The site has helped to repair the city’s confidence in its elected politicians following the 2008 financial crisis, which saw all three of Iceland’s largest privately-owned banks default at the end of the year.
In 2008, the Colombian government launched the Citizen’s Visible Audits (CVA) programme, an initiative aimed at involving citizens in the monitoring of public projects and in reducing corruption. To ensure public works such as sanitation, water, and school-building projects, benefit the local communities, local governments organise public gatherings where citizens can scrutinise projects directly. In these meetings, the community has the opportunity to voice its concerns and ask the firm responsible for implementation questions. The CVA programme builds citizens’ capacity to monitor and audit and it holds local governments and contracting firms accountable for honouring commitments, improving the chances of projects finishing in a timely and efficient manner. The CVA programme has enabled local authorities to improve their delivery of public investment projects.
Seoul is commonly known as one of the world’s smartest cities, a city where technology has been used successfully for smart city development. In 2016, the government published its vision to become the world’s leading digital city by 2020 and the strategic plan of how to achieve it. A core component of the plan is to empower residents to be connected to technology and engage with government activities. To this end, the city of Seoul distributed second-hand smart devices to low-income families and created 3,590 free public Wi-Fi spots across the city. Furthermore,the city developed its mVoting system as well as an app called Oasis where people can submit proposals on issues affecting the city.
On Aug. 25, 2015, Phoenix voters approved Transportation 2050 and made a strong statement about the importance of expanding investment in Phoenix for bus service, light rail construction and street improvements in light of the city’s expanding population. The Transportation 2050 plan was developed by the Citizens Committee on the Future of Phoenix Transportation, a council-appointed committee of transportation experts and community advocates. The committee addressed a wide array of concerns expressed by residents. The plan places additional emphasis on street needs including; street maintenance, new pavement, bike lanes, sidewalks and ADA accessibility which will all compliment the increase in transit services. PhoenixT2050 became effective in 2016 and it will triple the number of light rail miles in Phoenix by adding 42 miles of across the city, provide late night bus and Dial-a-Ride service citywide, and will directly and indirectly benefit every street in Phoenix. To ensure accountability, a 15-member Citizens Transportation Commission, representing various facets of the community oversees the development of the plan.
The government of Ghana is boosting civic engagement by working with the startup Transgov to share data on civic works projects with the public. Research showed that people were very passionate and interested in development projects that directly affect them, such as schools, roads and so on. However, Ghanaians had little or no information about them and before the project began in 2015, over 80% of the Ghanaians TransGov surveyed did not know who their local assembly representative was. So, the government started funnelling information to Transgov and making them available to the wider public.
Local staff visit localities and inform communities of local projects, triggering their feedback. To ensure accessibility of the platform to the illiterate and those without access to technology, TransGov provides information on government-funded infrastructure projects via its website, app, voice response technology and text message and in person. In two years, TransGov uploaded 25 public projects onto its platform and engaged 400,000 Ghanaians both online and offline.
With four consequent e-Government masterplans (last one being eGov 2015), the Singapore government seeks to involve both citizens and public sector organisations in a collaborative process that benefits from advances in digital technology and the emerging principles of open data. The idea is to shift from a “government-to-you” approach to a “government-with-you” approach in the delivery of e-government services. For example, the REACH portal (Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry@Home) invites public feedback via electronic channels. Since 2009, REACH has been the Government’s official e-engagement platform, tapping on new media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to engage the public on national issues. A wide array of e-participation tools such as discussion forums, web chats, and blogs is also available on the REACH website and citizens are invited and informed of public consultation topics via alerts sent through mobile and social media applications.
In 2012, the city of Lahore, Pakistan, found an innovative solution to prevent outbreaks of dengue fever, a mosquito-transmitted disease. Researchers working for the Pakistani government developed an early epidemic detection system for their region that looked for signs of a serious outbreak. The data was collected by government employees, who were given smart phones to track the location and timing of confirmed dengue cases. When the system’s algorithms spotted an impending outbreak, government employees would then go to the region to clear mosquito breeding grounds and kill larvae. The data was plotted on a publicly-available map, so that predictions could be made on the next likely locations of mosquitos. In 2011, the mosquito-transmitted disease had infected some 16,000 people and took 352 lives. After the new system was put in place in 2012, there were only 234 confirmed infections and no deaths.
South Australia’s Better Together program, seeks to widen participation in decision-making through a variety of methods implemented simultaneously. These include citizens’ juries, participatory budgeting schemes, and opportunities to meet cabinet ministers one-on-one. The idea behind the strategy is to embed good engagement practice as an integral part of the way the South Australian government operates. As part of the program, South Australia undertook extensive consultation with young people on how to better engage them in the policy process. This resulted in a youth engagement guide for government, NGOs, communities, and so on, stating best practice.To coordinate action across the different engagement programs, Better Together has developed eight principles of engagement, which include “knowing why we engage” and “knowing who we engage”.
Following the election of South Korea President Moon Jae, a 100-day government program called the “Gwanghwamoon 1st Street” was launched. To establish a more open dialogue with citizens, President Moon invited people to submit suggestions to the newly created People’s Transition Office (PTO), either in person at one of the local branches, or through the Gwanghwamoon 1st Street website. In just 49 days, 180,705 suggestions for the new government were submitted. Of these, over 1,700 of the very best proposals were integrated into government policies. These include building of public libraries, fire stations and police stations in more easy to reach areas. Alongside the open call for policy suggestions, the PTO conducted a series of public debates on controversial and previously undiscussed topics, including the agreement made with Japan on rehabilitating “comfort women”, or women and girls forced into sexual slavery during World War II.
Switzerland’s semi-direct democracy requires that citizens express their views by voting more frequently than in any other country. At all levels (municipalities, cantons and state), citizens can propose changes to the constitution through ‘popular initiatives’. These need 100,000 signatures to be considered. Swiss citizens can also start petitions on any law passed at all political levels, thus triggering optional referendums when signed by at least 50,000 people. Moreover, Switzerland holds compulsory referendums on certain types of decisions such as when parliament amends the Federal Constitution. The Swiss government’s website keeps track of the status and content of all referendums and petitions. In some cantons it is possible to vote electronically and there are plans to extend this practice to the national level.
The city of Palermo in Sicily reached a crisis moment in the 1990s, when the mafia took over control of the city. Many thought Palermo had reached a point of no return, but instead it was able to bounce back and transform the mafia battlefield into a cultural capital. Mayor Orland decided to take a firm stance against the mafia. Special laws were passed, penalties and prison conditions were made more harsh, encouraging former gangsters to collaborate with the police and become informers. This led to a large number of arrests, including the head of the Sicilian mafia and many of his collaborators. But this was not enough to make citizens of Palermo feel safe. The wounds inflicted by the mafia were visible in the city’s architecture. Hundreds of desolate, block-like and grey apartment buildings scarred the suburbs and areas previously owned by the mafia were left deserted. This encouraged the council to provide public funding to bring old buildings and public spaces to their former splendour. As a result, in 25 years, more than 60% of the city’s historic buildings have been renovated. An undisclosed portion of the seizure of goods and property from Sicilian mafia bosses, worth an estimated total of €30bn (£25bn), was invested in new social, environmental and cultural spaces in the city. For example, a villa in the countryside once used as a meeting place and business hub for local gangsters has been repurposed into a local Scout movement headquarter. Although the city still has a long way to go in terms of toppling the mafia completely, the urban developments that followed its crisis made the city a much better place to live in.
Youth aged 18–30 are an important segment of Toronto’s population. In some parts of the city, they are the fastest-growing demographic group, and they are often drivers of economic and employment growth. To ensure that the voices of the youth are involved in Toronto’s planning processes, the city developed a Youth Engagement Strategy. The Strategy itself was created by a group of young people – the Youth Research Team (YRT) – a talented and diverse group of ten Torontonians aged 18-29 passionate about developing their city. The YRT connected with other young people to understand what issues were most important to them, and how they could best be involved in conversations about urban development. The Team facilitated engagement activities with over 400 of their peers across more than 15 Toronto neighbourhoods, resulting in over 150 pages of documentation. This process led to higher levels of support of young people for city development processes.
The Anti-Corruption Action Centre launched a website which offers a registry of officials designated as “Politically Exposed Persons” (PEP) in Ukraine. The site also identifies close associates and family members of “Politically Exposed Persons”. In an effort to curb international money laundering financial institutions are required to check the transactions of PEPs. They are required to determine the identity of their clients and the origin of their funds. The Anti-Corruption Action Centre’s initiative aims to facilitate these checks by financial institutions and thereby to contribute to eradicating money-laundering and, by extension, corruption.