I recently got back from three days of intensive brainstorming in Bitola with some of the country’s leading whizz kids to come up with new ways of using social media to increase accountability in local government.
And I’m sure everyone who took part would agree that this event took participation in governance to a new level.
GovCamp is the first think-tank of its kind in the country and a model of how citizen participation can go beyond consultation to active involvement in generating solutions to improve local services.
The idea behind it is quite simple—in the best sense of the word. First an open invitation was issued to non governmental organizations (NGOs) to propose ideas for using technology to improve communication and cooperation between citizens and local government.
The four teams whose ideas were considered most feasible and effective were then brought together to develop their plans with help and advice from experts in social media and social accountability and representatives from the State Commission for the Prevention of Corruption and UNDP.
At the end of the three-day session, the four projects were subject to a final appraisal and those judged most useful by the organizers and experts were selected for funding and implementation.
Simple. But highly effective.
All four of the prototypes developed at GovCamp were given the go-ahead for funding at the end of the session:
- Green Box (in Macedonian) from Skopje is proposing to improve energy efficiency in local government by developing a website and an Android app that will allow citizens to monitor the consumption of energy by public institutions in their municipalities.
- Focus (from Veles) wants to increase public access to information on local government. The team is now set to develop a website where citizens will be able to find all the official decisions of the municipality, information about all public hearings in the municipality, and the agenda of local government. This could make a considerable contribution to ensuring democratic governance by facilitating greater openness and citizen participation in decision-making at local level.
- The European Link Center from Gostivar will introduce a new way to gather feedback from citizens on the accountability of local government. A website will not only enable citizens to voice their views on local issues but provide comprehensive information about the services of the municipality and the rights and obligations of citizens. By detailing tax rates and public costs and publicly presenting the outcomes of requests submitted by citizens to the municipality, the project will significantly increase transparency at the local level.
- Youth Entrepreneurial Service Foundation proposed to improve the responsiveness of local government. Once the team’s web and mobile apps have been developed, citizens will be able to give direct feedback on local services. The first app will allow people to report any damage to local roads that the municipality needs to repair, as well as enabling feedback on the status of the maintenance work.
So, plenty of cool stuff coming our way soon: stay tuned for updates!
Do you interact with your local government through the web or mobile apps?