Through digital platforms and tools, citizens can be more easily informed, participate and get involved in solving certain problems and thus increase their own trust in institutions.
This, among other things, was said at the session “e-Participation and e-engagement: Regional Perspective – Local Actions”, within the 17th International Conference “e-Society.mk” organized by “Metamorphosis”, which was addressed by representatives of civil society from RNM, the region and Europe, on how they have developed digital platforms and tools that citizens can use to inform or communicate directly with all levels of government to solve their problems.
“Digital innovation can radically transform the provision of public services, but also democratic decision-making and citizen participation in social change. As witnesses to the Covid-19 global pandemic, we can see public administrations in the region and in the EU increasingly experimenting with creating Internet platforms or digital tools to give citizens access to the relevant public information they need, but also to participate in state processes more easily through the Internet,” said Mila Josifovska Danilovska, program manager at the Metamorphosis Foundation, who also moderated the session.
It has been proven that the citizens gain trust when the officials from their municipality give them answers, which they would not have if they did not report the problem, said in her speech, the project manager at the Center for Social Innovation BLINK 42-21 from North Macedonia, Marija Vasilevska. She talked about the platform “MCommunity.mk” used by the municipalities of Karpoš, Valandovo and Kočani. The citizens of these municipalities through this platform have the opportunity to communicate directly about their problems with the relevant municipal officials.
“The platform can be used on the web and on mobile devices with Android and iOS. The platform is directly connected to the municipal sectors so that all employees in the municipality have direct contact. Every citizen can open a profile and can report a problem by selecting the appropriate sector for the given problem. The sector, on the other hand, receives a notification and then responds. The process of giving an answer is not one-time, so there are cases when sometimes they communicate several times and offer solutions such as pictures to show how was before and how is it now,” said Vasilevska.
Deborah Perči, Field Coordinator at Democracy Plus, Kosovo, spoke about the Ndreqe.com platform, which allows Kosovo citizens to report their complaints about problems in the areas of public services, waste, lighting, lack of traffic signs, etc. The citizens have submitted 3,733 complaints so far, while 1,600 have been resolved.
“This is working, but there are real cases when problems are not solved. One of the aspects that we definitely had to keep in mind is that citizens appreciate the opportunity to report the problem anonymously because we are a small society and almost all of us know each other. One of the main problems is that the citizens do not trust these platforms, because they think that they are not so effective, but we tried to prove that we give legitimacy to their applications. Every application that goes to the platform is submitted and gets a response within a certain time,” Perči stressed.
Slovenia’s “Today is a New Day” grant manager, Maja Zimmermann, spoke about several platforms and digital campaigns aimed at increasing civic participation. “Parlameter” is a digital platform, which allows citizens to be as informed as possible about the work of the Parliament of Slovenia, because the state website, as she stressed, does not provide enough information and does not encourage participation.
“It creates frustration, instead of increasing political participation. Therefore, we collect all the data from the Internet and present it in the best way. We enable users to compare data, voting results, speeches and participation of MPs. This is interesting not only for citizens but also for researchers and journalists. The user can write a name and get a card from “Parlameter” for that particular MP,” Zimmerman said.
Mark Cridge, Executive Director of MySociety in the United Kingdom, spoke about the several platforms they have created and are used in over 40 countries (mostly in Europe) by over 11 million users. Their digital solutions are focused on fostering and strengthening democracy through digital skills.
“Our role is to promote and strengthen democracy through the use of digital skills, to expand our influence and to help citizens have and use data. We want to encourage people to get involved and show them how to use their power in society. If there are open institutions, the participation of the citizens will be higher. If an institution or government is more open, it will listen to the citizens’ recommendations more often.”
This year’s edition of the conference “e-Society.mk” will last 4 days and consists of 7 sessions, 2 lightning talks, 2 trainings and 1 workshop, and will mainly discuss the state of democracy today, as well as how technology shapes the definition of good governance and civic engagement in today’s conditions. The challenges of the digital age with a particular focus on disinformation and cyber security will also be discussed. Activists, experts, journalists, civil servants and supporters from the Western Balkans region and beyond will share their views and opinions on “Democracy in the Digital Age: Challenges and Opportunities”.
The event will be in a hybrid format and the first and last day of the conference (30 November and 3 December) will be held at the hotel – Panoramika in Skopje. Some participants will have the opportunity to attend sessions with a physical presence, and the rest participants can follow them online through the Zoom platform and the live stream on the Metamorphosis Foundation’s Facebook page.
The agenda for the conference e-Society.mk can be accessed here: Agenda-e-Society.mk-2021