As most of you already know, our national, regional and local governments have so far failed to fully exploit the collaborative potential of the Internet. The most celebrated e-Democracy experiences have been modest experiments with little real effect and almost no continuity or scalability. e-Participation poses serious conflicts of interests to political elites and civil servants, who would like to have more legitimacy because of citizen participation… but nevertheless want to retain their discretionary decisional power. These e-Participation experiences have cost too much and have brought too few change and benefits.
In order to stimulate citizens’ trust in e-Participation, it is necessary to promote experiences coming from Civil Society, which while still granting authorities the privileged role they deserve regarding participation, withdraw from them an “absolute” power and control.
Our spanish-based association, the “Asociación Ciudades Kyosei”, aims to provide a free non-partisan environment to foster municipal civic participation. NGOs, citizens, civil servants, politicians & media will be provided with tools to communicate, discuss, carry out participatory processes, coordinate internal work, etc. This environment, whose name is Kyosei-Polis, will provide e-Participation tools to any organization -first of all: public authorities- willing to involve citizens to work for the “common good”. It will also help concerned citizens to find each other and facilitate their mobilization and action, thus enabling them to exert pressure on local authorities to take participation seriously and to act accordingly. This may be the best strategy to expand e-participation’s reach and depth.
Our environment will be a FOS (Free and Open Source) System, and our aim is to make it sustainable both in developed and developing countries. The research, design and construction of the system is being planned with an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach, incorporating socio-political, technical and participative components. Because this is not just software, but software for (political) development, we have taken a very innovative approach: we are extending the collaborative practices of Open Source to include the design phase. This way, we are creating processes which allow representatives from all systems’s future stake-holders to easily contribute with their knowledge and expertise, to create a system that fully addresses its necessities and concerns.
We are placing an utmost attention on the sustainability of the system (technical, institutional and financial). Sustainability is attained when the different system’s users and stake-holders perceive it as “useful”, which will happen when the benefits they obtain with the system are worth the effort they invest using it. This may sound “obvious”, but no eParticipation system created so far has been able to address it satisfactorily.
Experts coming from various disciplines are contributing to the project on an voluntary basis, under the coordination of the Association and with the support of the University of Alcalá (Spain). We have lately applied for a grant from the spanish Ministry of Industry, to complete our system’s first alpha release and carry out several pilot experiences.
We hope that, by becoming an associated member of PEP-Net, we will be able to learn a lot from the perspectives of its various members, and contribute to the difussion of an open-minded view of e-Participation.
For more information please visit: www.ckyosei.org