Participa en Andalucía (CFRPA)

Published on: 10/06/2009
Document

Participa en Andalucía is an e-Democracy platform promoted by the Regional Ministry of Innovation, Science and Enterprise of Andalusia (CICE), aimed at increasing digital participation of citizens, local authorities and local associations of all kinds. Digital participation intends to encourage citizen participation in all aspects of the political and civil spheres through the use of information and communication technologies, generating self regulated local decision making systems. Freeware and new technologies offer a wide range of tools for intercommunication that allow citizens to communicate, express opinions, debate on current issues, form associations or cooperate for cultural, social or political goals.

The aim of this project in to ease the incorporation of the Andalusian society to the Information and Knowledge Society, as set by the Information Society Plan for Andalusia in its digital participation strategic line, the framework for several similar actions including this project.

Managed by the Fernando de los Ríos Consortium since May 2008, and currently in application, this project was started with the aim of providing the Andalusian society with active means for citizen participation, creating a more constructive and caring society through e-Government and through an administration that act transparently and is open to dialogue. Administrations, individual citizens, associations and political groups all find in the project a space for deciding and expressing their opinions, in a fashion that clearly reflects the actual situation of Andalusian towns. This project promotes a common space for the cohesion and integration of the social and public life of our towns.

With over 25 % of the Andalusian towns being associated to the project, and by means of an easy system for the creation and voting of proposals, the project makes the reality of towns closer and available to citizens in an efficient way. It also gives them the chance to change such reality through their opinions and initiatives and provides public  administrations with an opportunity to generate policies that are close to the citizens and promote the development of their towns.

Policy Context

Information Society Plan for Andalusia

By means of this initiative, the Andalusian Government adopts an active role in the continuous and increasing process of economic globalisation, through its support to innovation policies, equal opportunities, the fight against social exclusion, e-Government, knowledge of foreign languages and the basic skills required to participate in knowledge society.

The full incorporation of the autonomous community of Andalusia into the information and knowledge society is a priority strategic objective of the Andalusian regional government (Junta de Andalucía). The development of this plan has been a joint effort of all the Andalusian regional ministries.

Information and Communication Technologies not only have a technological impact, but also an important effect on the economic development of communities.

the i2010 initiative is the continuation of the eEurope action plan which seeks to make Europe the strongest knowledge based economy in the world. It is a global European information society strategy for economic growth and employment creation. The set of political measures proposed by i2010 are defined in three priority lines, known as the three “I”s: creation of a single European (I)nformation space; increase in the (I)nvestment in Information and Communication Technologies research; and the promotion of social (I)nclusion via quality digital public services.

Human development and technological advances are mutually reinforced, creating a “virtuous” circle that opens a wide range of possibilities for a developing information society. In the field of telecommunications, the diversity of existing technologies and those being developed will allow ubiquitous communications networks to be rolled out throughout Andalusia, at an affordable price, and with unlimited transmission capacity. Furthermore, the phenomenon of technological convergence enables a natural evolution towards unified fixed and mobile telephony and content convergence from a user’s perspective.

In short, the aim is to create an information society with solid foundations on which a genuine knowledge based economy can be built, and a knowledge society in the widest sense of the word. This is the context in which Andalusia is focussing its efforts to increase the competitiveness of its companies and to maintain growth, contributing to increasing the standard of living and creating more (and better quality) employment.

Description of target users and groups

The following groups of interest have been identified:

Individuals, social and cultural agents. The aim is to generate sustainable social and economic development through innovation, the value of human resources, integration in the knowledge society and interrelation with the new global society.

Several different models are devised for the use of Participa en Andalucia, according to the particular needs and features of each region, promoting the interest of individuals to become an active agent.

Enterprises, economic agents and employers. The aim is to encourage initiatives, creativity and business innovation.

To this end, specific services are devised for enterprises, economic agents and employers, providing them with advantages and benefits in their particular fields of interest.

Administrations. The aim is to help administrations commit to provide citizens with more and better services, easing social changes and guaranteeing their levels of service.

Public administrations find in Participa en Andalucia an ideal tool for planning and coordinating their policies, reaching globally and transversally to every administration.

Other priority sectors are:

-          Socially excluded groups:

The aim is to extend the use of information and communication technologies to people who lack access for social, cultural or financial reasons. This includes groups that find themselves in a position of disadvantage such as socially excluded groups, migrants associations, youth shelters and hospitalised adults and children.

 -          Senior  and disabled citizens:

Specific actions are carried out to show the usefulness and benefits of information and communication technologies in daily life, communication tools and the use of information and communication technologies for entertainment purposes.

Programmes aimed at showing dependent persons the benefits of information and communication technologies are currently under development, taking into account their particular characteristics and needs.

Actions include training for the use of devices, platforms and services specifically conceived to increase their level of independence and their quality of life, providing incentives for the purchase of technical aids.

-         Women:

Specific training actions are implemented for women, giving priority to those who belong to socially and digitally excluded groups. The aim is not only training them in the use of new technologies, but also to help them integrate in work and society, thus improving their quality of life.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Promoted by the Andalusian regional government (Junta de Andalucía) and managed by the Fernando de los Ríos Consortium, the Participa en Andalucía project is developed according to a strategic plan that directs a set of actions aimed at its implementation. Through the institutional leadership of the Regional Ministry of Innovation, Science and Enterprise (CICE), this plan combines general management aspects with a certain degree of autonomy for its implementation in each Andalusian town, through the established local institutions and authorities.

The strategic plan is based on five main lines:

1. Increasing participation:

                -Increasing the number of associated towns

                -Increasing the number of active agents

                -Ensuring territorial equality

2. Consolidation of quality participation:

                 -Increasing the number of proposals debated in decision organs and the number of initiatives implemented

                -Making proposals received by means of new technologies count in the public sphere

                -Involving local agents from associated towns

3. Implementing a plan for continuous improvement:

                -Ensuring maximum availability, reliability and technological innovation

                -Continuously updating the information provided by the platform with innovative content about citizens’ participation and e-Democracy

                -Reinforcing the role of the monitoring committees

                -Continuously updating and reviewing the rules for participation

                -Putting the project at the level of other supra-regional initiatives on e-Democracy and e-Participation

4. Promoting and disseminating the project

                -Raising awareness at the local level

                -Ensuring the involvement of all agents

                -Ensuring recognition

                -Developing measures at the regional, national and international scales

5. Developing alliances

                -Identifying potential allies

                -Signing cooperation agreements with potential allies

                -Implementing cooperation agreements with allies


The project will be participated by several different agents:

                Institutional leadership of the project: Regional Ministry of Innovation, Science and Enterprise (CICE).              

                Technical management: Fernando de los Ríos Consortium. Manages the Participa platform in Andalusia, which is the technological application that allows to implement the project

                Town councils: Mayors are the highest authority in the local application of the plan.

                Guadalinfo centres: In cooperation with this project, centres offer a way to approach new technologies to every citizen, providing direct access to the Participa platform and to e-Democracy in Andalusia.


Regarding resources, needs and requirements for the project, two levels must be considered:

                Human: Outsourcing is employed for the development and implementation of the Information and Communication Technologies tool, and inside staff for the management, administration, operation and maintenance of the services and applications. Contents of the proposals are submitted to postmoderation in order to ensure compliance with the platform regulations. To this end, a supervision chain is devised, from the local coordinator (delegate of the Mayor for the platform), to the administration itself. Centralised monitoring is applied to the dynamics of the project as well as to the detection of needs. Statistical assessment is applied and used for the issuing of appraisal reports and for the dissemination and social communication of the project to the community (regarding contents, activities, etc.)

                Technological: A platform of servers is used for the hosting of contents and the running of applications, with a statistical query module. Basic logistics is required from towns for computer use (terminal, Internet access) and other resources.

Technology solution

The technological solutions for Participa en Andalucía are based on the ZOPE/PLONE content management system:

 l  GNU/Linux as operating system.

l  Apache web server acting as web server /proxy cache.

l  Zope as application server.

l  Plone as content management system.

l  PostgreSQL as database management system complementing the object-oriented database of Zope/Plone.

Technological choices are based on the compliance of most of the technical requirements:

1.      Freeware technology and products in all cases.

2.      The ZOPE/Plone system allows to run high-productivity web-based platforms that comply exactly with the requirements of Participa en Andalucía.

3.      Plone is an already working content management system that was customised according to requirements. It is clearly oriented to content publishing and is a landmark in the current market of freeware content management systems. Plone offers a wide range of content types (documents, links, articles, news, events) that were adapted to improve the data model.

4.      The Python programming language allows the easy integration of other applications, frameworks, languages and databases.

5.      It is a standard-based system, which ensures maximum compatibility and interoperability with potential future tools. A platform based on the Zope/Plone content management system is easily integrated in distributed environments through its native XML-RPC functionality.

6.      A sophisticated role-based security system for the protection of contents. Plone’s sandbox architecture ensures that even in the event of the system being compromised, intruders would not be able to access the server or network.

7.      Intelligent folders and updates. Plone automatically generates RSS news from folders and search results in  order to provide customised delivery of information.

8.      It complies with the accessibility standards of section 508 of the U.S. Government and WAI-AA of W3C for users with mobility impairment of reading limitations. Its Javascript alternative mode works in every browser.

9.      Fully compliant XHTML and CSS keep a high level of compatibility with search engines and browsers.

Technology choice: Standards-based technology, Mainly (or only) open standards, Accessibility-compliant (minimum WAI AA), Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The main results of the project must be measured according to two different types of impact:

Political impact refers to the primary goal of the platform, increasing political participation in direct democracy systems of the agents involved in the project: citizens and people in public offices, as individuals and collectively, through citizens’ associations and political parties. Statistical data show that a total of 275 towns are associated to the project, which amount to more than 35% of Andalusian towns, mostly below 10,000 inhabitants, with a variety of political parties in power. Of the 8 million people living in Andalusia, about 1 million already can participate in local political decisions. The platform includes 21 different political groups, and 18 associations have requested becoming active agents. Another of its goals is to serve a an account of citizen participation in politics, at the local, regional and national levels, providing an actual portrait of the efficacy of the project in terms of citizen participation.

Social impact is an indirect measure related to the particulars of this project. Since it is aimed at towns below 10,000 inhabitants (rural environment), another of its goals is to reduce the digital divide and allowing citizens to take part in political decisions trough digital means. The following data may help assess its social impact:

A total of 250 proposals have been made during the length of the project, distributed as follows per provinces:

Jaén                            43
Granada                     76
Córdoba                     27
Cádiz                          12
Sevilla                         51
Huelva                         15
Almería                       7
Málaga                       26

There are currently 173 active proposals, being voted by all agents. This system has generated over 500 interventions during its time of application.

A comparison with the data on the impact of new technologies in the Andalusian population would offer useful perspectives on the rates of access and use of the platform, allowing for interpreting data according to the particular social features of each town. There are currently 1800 registered users in the platform.

As an example of the impact produced in some of the towns associated to the project, the town of Nerva, in Huelva, offers the following figures:

The total number of registered inhabitants is 4,889, of which 55.98 took part in the last 2008 national elections. The number of registered users of the platform is 236, amounting to 4.8% of the population.

The application of the project and the active use of the platform offer great possibilities and benefits for empowering the population and giving them real opportunities of creating and practising e-Democracy.

 

Track record of sharing

Participa en Andalucía is carrying out several actions to this end:

-       Sharing of best practices with other national participation networks from regions where similar actions are taking place, as the region of Madrid.

-       Meetings have been held in several locations in Spain to share experiences on e-Participation, participatory budget making (Córdoba) and citizens participation in democratic processes (Granada).

-       Contacts and meetings have taken place with sevreal representatives from public and private entities that work with innovative techniques in the promotion of citizens participation (Catalonia, Madrid).

-       Several associated town councils, like those of Abla, Jun or Nerva, are carrying out several actions related to participation and acting like pioneers in Andalusia and beyond. Their workgroups and networks are using Participa en Andalucía to implement e-Participation actions.

-       The joining of efforts with other European projects like Europetition will make of Participa en Andalucía a channel for cooperation, where proposals can become actual policies through voting, at the regional and European levels.

Lessons learnt

The analysis of the results obtained so far shows some conclusions:

-The project offers a very powerful tool at the political and administration levels for the dissemination of local policies.

-Administrations joining the project must be fully aware of the relevance of the participation generated by this initiative, and must give answers to every proposal made, regardless of their perceived value for local management, evaluating their potential impact on local  decisions.

-The Participa en Andalucía platform offers citizens the possibility of taking part in local decision making beyond the mere casting of votes every four years or the local strategies applied by local citizen participation offices. Such participation is linked to the use of new technologies, not only in the obtaining of access but also as an advance in their right and duties as citizens.

-Any community may implement a similar project, since it helps in organising political structures in any region or area, empowering the population in a practical and tangible way.

-Such an initiative may be implemented by means of gradual investments, which allows for viability in conditions of limited resources. Acquiring technological solutions is the highest initial cost and success will depend on the efficacy of dissemination, awareness-raising of agents and strategies related to the development of e-Government.

 

Scope: Local (city or municipality), Regional (sub-national)